08 January 2011

Photobook Showdown: Picaboo vs. Blurb

A few years ago, upon my return from a trip to Italy, I found it difficult to find exactly the right book to store my photos. Worse, everything I kind of liked was expensive, and that didn't count the money I had already spent to print the pictures. I was at a standstill.

I had heard about photo books, and seen the ones from the likes of Ofoto and Shutterfly and didn't much care for them. But, soon I read about more sophisticated tools from various companies -- the one I liked the most was Blurb.

The layouts were very professional, and there is a ton of flexibility in how I can format, add text, fonts, and the like. The final product, consisting of my Spanish/Portugal pictures*, looks like something you could purchase in a store. Blurb also has the option of selling your books, so if that is something you fancy, a user can easily monetize their creation. I was hooked.

Recently, there was a Groupon promotion for a new company -- Picaboo. Knowing I had a backlog of photos just waiting for their moment to shine in print, this was an offer I could not pass up (and the price...it was a steal). I sat down to put together my book from my Northern European travels last year and was excited to show them off.

Unfortunately, I wasn't too thrilled with the program. The layout options were not as plentiful, nor were they very flexible. The text section was very limiting, and it was lacking -- from what I could tell -- some of the more professional options that Blurb has. There may be ways to do some of the things I wanted to do, but there wasn't an apparent/intuitive way to get that done. I am fairly tech-savvy, and still had a few issues with layouts and text. I couldn't write on the write on the spine, and I didn't see an option for a glossy wrap cover. In the end, I do like the book I made, at least the way it looks electronically; hopefully the print version won't disappoint.

For both companies, you need to download a software program that allows you to format the books.

As for pricing...For Blurb: For a standard size book (10x8) with custom wrap cover (dustcover is also an option), prices start at 31.95$ for up to 40 pages, and 37.95$ for up to 80 pages. For Picabo: A similar size book (8.5x11), prices start at 39.99$ for up to 20 pages, plus 1.99$ for each additional page. This pricing disparity is striking to me...I wonder if the paper for Picabo is better or something?

Verdict? I would go with Blurb. I'd be willing to try another site, as well, so please share any suggestions!

*No, I still have not made my Italian book. I'm saving up...the pictures from that trip are so lovely, I want to make sure I can do them justice!


Amy G H said...

Dear Annie,

Have you thought about using Viovio (http://viovio.com) to publish your photo book? We do have a Press Corps program for bloggers and would be able to offer you a gift certificate to try it in exchange for an honest review on your blog. Email me at marketing at viovio dot com for info.

I hope to hear from you!


Unknown said...

Hi Annie,

I'm sorry to learn that you didn't have a great first experience with Picaboo. I'd be interested in hearing more about the book you made and the final product and I'd be happy to explain why our books are slightly higher in price than Blurb's. Please feel free to email me directly at macy@picaboo.com.

Thank you, Macy

annie said...

Thank you both for your comments.
@Amy: I will send you an email. I have more books to be made and as long as I can be honest in my review, I am happy to try new things!

@Macy: I would just say my overall experience with Blurb was better, but it's not a dig at Picaboo. The book was fine -- I didn't realize there was a glossy cover, but that's ok. I didn't see any real difference in quality between the two.

Pernilla said...

I love my Blurb book. Making two more right now. Don't know if Picaboo ships to Sweden but oh well. Sticking to Blurb I think. Thanks for trying out the market for me. :)

Pernilla said...

My Blurb is from our trip to Spain in 2008. I was so slow to finish it...

Unknown said...

Hi Annie.
I never received an email from you regarding another review of Picaboo. Can you email me at macy@picaboo.com? I have some good news regarding a new, lower price change starting tomorrow! Thanks, Macy

Anonymous said...

I know I'm WAY late on this conversation but have you ever tried MIXBOOK? I've used them a couple of times and LOVED them. I also bought the Picaboo groupon and am just trying to use it and am very frustrated with thier services. I've decided to just order prints from them as they are not near the same level as Mixbook, but even this is proving to be a challenge. I will never use Picaboo again.

If you still have some photo projects definitely try MIXBOOK, I am thrilled with them.


yenaver said...

I am even later in finding this tidbit!
I have used all three: Blurb, then Picaboo and finally Mixbook.
I love Blurb! I love that I can work on it offline and I love the prices. I loved my finished product as well. What I didn't like, and the reason I moved on to Picaboo, was the simple fact that I couldn't turn my photos on an angle! At the time, maybe it's changed, you also couldn't use your own photos as a background.
I was seriously bummed out to have to switch, but I did. Picaboo had a glossy wrap cover, but the text boxes suck. It's tricky to work with and if you like to type lots of stuff, then it's jsut frustrating... but you can add pics and txt randomly and create your own layouts and ANGLE the pics - which I did like.
The results were good and I made a few books with them ----- when there was a coupon ONLY!
Then came Mixbook! I was making a small book to hand out to my baseball team and there was NO WAY I was going to spend the money Picaboo wanted! I found this company called Mixbook and I am telling you - it's WAY great. Good interface, easy to use and navigate. Thumbnails of the pages, in order, are right there to see. It's just EASY PEASY. Too bad I can't work off line, but that is my ONLY complaint so far. The quality is good - at least as good as Picaboo. The customer service is fantastic. FANTASTIC!
So there you go.
My two bits.