Monday, March 28, 2016

Photobook Review: MILK Photo Book (Paper)



MILK Photo Book Paper - Medium Landscape


Basic Information

I ordered the MILK Photo Book Paper in Medium Landscape. There was a pre-purchase voucher sale going on around Black Friday last year, and I ordered it after reading a few reviews. I liked how the construction looked, and thought despite there not being any spine printing, it might be nice for my wedding photo book.

Basic Information
WebsiteMILK Books by Moleskine (link)
ProductMILK Photo Book Paper - Medium Landscape
Size9.25 x 7.4"
Actual Dimensions
(exterior cover)
24.1 x 19.4 cm
(9 1/2 x 7 5/8 ")
Actual Dimensions
(interior pages)
23.4 x 18.7 cm
(9 1/4 x 7 3/8 ")
Cover TypeLinen with mounted image print
Spine Printing?No
Type of Pages/BindingCenter stitched (sewn signatures)
Type of Paper157gsm White Matt Acid Free Art Paper
# Pages80
End pages?Yes
Pricing
List Price
(excl. shipping)
$114.00 (pricing info)
Shipping Cost$9.99 (shipping info)
Promotion Used60% off (pre-purchase voucher)
Total Price Paid
(incl. shipping)
$55.59
Cashback at time of order?Not at my usual cashback sites
Shipping
Date Ordered12/13/2015
Date Shipped12/18/2015 (FedEx International Priority)
Date Received12/21/2015
Software
Photobook EditorOnline

Software Review

The design options and layout templates are extremely limited. I cannot stress this enough. Halfway through, I was googling to see if I could get a refund on the voucher (you can't). Also, 80 pages felt like way too many for my wedding (60 would have been perfect). Before you go ahead and buy a voucher, I recommend that you try creating your book in the software first. They offer a sale or pre-purchase voucher sale seemingly every month, so there is no rush to buy!



Here are your five choices for the cover. Really, just 2 options with different text. 

This is about half of all the layouts available. Not even kidding. 

You get to choose your font type for the entire book. Not sure where the colour comes in though.

And you get to choose the linen cover colour.

A couple of examples. You cannot change the spacing width between photos. 
All pages are shown at the bottom of the screen, but blank. You have to mouse over to see a preview.
You can re-arrange spreads and individual pages

The "Quick Create" popup lets you drag and drop layouts and images, but the window is very small

Pros

  • Less choice means (once you accept it), it's less time consuming to complete your book
  • The layouts are clean and look cohesive


Cons

  • In the main design mode, you must click each image box first in order to select the image (instead of drag and drop like other programs)
  • There is no quick way to swap images between boxes
  • The "Quick Create" popup is too small to be used as a viable alternative design mode
  • Difficult to sort through photos due to small thumbnails (especially if you have many similar photos to look through)
  • No preview of pages along the bottom bar (you must mouseover first)
  • No ability to modify layouts whatsoever


Product Pictures

Ok, let's get on with the actual product.

The front cover is a print mounted on the linen cover. You'll want to be careful with the edges of the print. 

Inside front cover 

The end sheets are a very nice, luxe textured paper

First printable page is on the right, and it's a text only page. 

The simple layouts do make for a very streamlined book though.

The center stitched binding shows thread at the center of each signature

The non-center of each signature show some puncture holes where the stitching occurs

The paper is a very nice satin finish

Last printable page on the left, and end sheet on the right

Inside back cover. The sticker is probably removable, but I haven't bothered to try.

The back cover is embossed with "MILK"

Top of book. There is a ribbon keep. You can also see the reinforced spine backing, which is a nice touch.

The spine of the book. No labeling available. 

The "button" on the spine is just a raised sticker, as you can see in this close-up

The binding is actually really lovely - one of my favourite things about this book.


Comparison to 4x6 Prints

Compared to my 4x6 ProDPI control prints, I am really happy with the colour reproduction of my MILK Book. The MILK prints are a tad warmer than the control prints, but overall, I feel it is outstanding.







Macros

The macro section of this review shows that indeed this is a press printed product. I am quite happy with the print quality, though (from a normal viewing distance).







Book vs Album, MILK vs Double White vs Cream?

The photobook products from Moleskine/MILK can be a little confusing, so I will try to clarify. I ordered a MILK Photo Book Paper. Other things they offer:
  • Moleskine vs MILK: The Moleskine photo books are a separate site, and supposedly made using the same materials as a regular Moleskine notebook (cover material, paper, rounded corners, and black elastic band). The MILK books are more traditional photo books, with a linen cover, and no elastic band. 
  • There are three Album types: MILK Paper, MILK Board (Double Whites), and Cream. 
    • MILK Album Paper seem to be the same as a Large Landscape MILK Photo Book Paper but with a max of 200 pages instead of 120, and a presentation box (also listed as $69 separately on the site). 
    • MILK Album Board (Double Whites) are the same cover as MILK Paper, but the book is flush-mount construction (max 26 pages). Can be either Large Landscape or Medium Square.
    • Cream Album has a choice of linen or leather cover with a little window on front, with flush-mount construction (max 40 pages), different paper choice, and 6 colour printing, instead of the standard 4 colour printing.  

Final Thoughts

Despite the excruciating book creation process, I managed to persevere, and in the end, I was really impressed with the final product. This was the first press printed book I received where I felt like press printing could meet my standards. The colour reproduction is excellent and I didn't find the half-toning to be distracting. The book is manufactured in China, and shipped from Hong Kong.

The sewn signature binding (center stitched) also made me reconsider my stance on lay flat pages, since this binding allows the entire page to be viewed, if not completely flat. Based on my web research, though, it looks like only one other company does sewn signature binding (Photobook Press, which has almost no reviews online and an even more limiting software than MILK).

That said, the Medium Landscape size is a bit on the small size, and full bleed images are not available on this size. When you go up a size to Large Landscape (13" x 11"), the binding changes to Perfect Binding instead of sewn signature binding. I'm not sure if their Perfect Binding lays as flat-ish as their sewn signature binding.

If you can work with limited choice with regard to layouts and designs, linen cover, and no spine labeling, I highly recommend MILK Books. I think it is especially nice for wedding, engagement, or baby books. If I had to choose again (for my wedding book), though, I would pick the larger size and an album, as a box would go along way to keeping the book clean (although, would the box get dirty? Hmm).

Personally, as much as I like the quality of this book, I don't plan to create another with MILK due to the lack of spine labeling and limited layouts.


Pros
  • Beautiful colours and press printed quality
  • Wonderful build quality
  • Nice paper weight and finish (my husband says this paper is his favourite out of all the books I've ordered)
Cons
  • No spine printing
  • Only linen cover with image glued on top (gets dirty easily, and there is no presentation box available for this size)
  • No full bleed printing on this size
  • Pages can only be added in groups of 20
  • MILK embossed branding on back cover. There is also a sticker, but it looks to be easily removeable with a little heat from a hair dryer. 
  • Software process is extremely frustrating


Additional Reviews

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for the link!

    I wondered if my expectations were too high about the frustrating creation process, good (?) to know I'm not alone? :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, when I originally read your review, I remember thinking "How bad can it really be?" Then I tried to make my book and thought "OMG she was totally right."

      Delete
  2. I am currently in the process of making my wedding album. I agree the interface is painful. I picked a 120 page album. Even with 3000+ photos I am finding it hard to fill without repeating photos. Should have gone with 60 pages. Thank you for your review

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment! If you really have a hard time filling the book, you may want to consider just printing on every second page (i.e., leaving the left page blank).

      Delete
  3. This company is terrible. Does not honor promotional offers and has nearly non-existent customer service. Very unreliable. I would not waste your time unless you have a lot of it and it isn’t valuable to you.

    My wife and I decided ton Milk as our wedding album supplier since they had offered us a coupon. The coupon is only redeemable at checkout and lasts 21 days. So, we spent many hours making up our album in order to have it ready for ordering before the expiration date.

    Well, the promotional code will not work. Customer service is barely responsive and not helpful. And now we have invested 15-20 hours in creating the album but it will cost us much more than we had expected.

    So yeah. We are not ordering the album we spent all that time creating and will now cost us twice what was advertised. And now, we will not have the album in time for when we will are traveling to see our families.

    Milk, and more specifically, Milks lack of customer service and honorable business practices, have cost us the wedding album experience that we wanted.

    I wish I just selected a more reputable company and ordered for a slightly higher price.

    ReplyDelete