Monday, March 21, 2016

Photobook Review: Photobook America Lay Flat Photo Book

Photobook America Lay Flat Photo Book, 8x8

Basic Information

Basic Information
WebsitePhotobook America (link)
ProductLay Flat Photo Book
Size8x8" Small Square
Actual Dimensions
(exterior cover)
20.6 x 20.4 cm (8 1/8 x 8")
Actual Dimensions
(interior pages)
20.0 x 19.8 cm (7 7/8 x 7 3/4 ")
Cover TypeImageWrap Matte Lamination
Spine Printing?Yes (text and image)
Type of Pages/BindingLay flat (seamless)
Type of Paper280gsm E Photo Lustre
# Pages22+2 (See note below)
End pages?No
List Price
(excl. shipping)
$54.99 (pricing info)
Shipping Cost$8.99 (shipping info)
Promotion Used70% off
Total Price Paid
(incl. shipping)
Cashback at time of order?I could not figure out how to get it to work, but 6% on MrRebates (referral link) (see note below)
Date Ordered12/6/2015
Date Shipped12/9/2015 (DHL from Malaysia)
Date Received12/14/2015
Photobook EditorOnline or downloadable (Photobook Designer by Taopix)

Note on cashback: 

If you use the downloadable software, Photobook Designer, when you complete your book and are ready to place the order, it is done through the software. It asks you to review your book, then launches a browser for you to complete checkout, and then switches back to the software to begin uploading your book.

Since normal cash back sites require you to click-through the cash back site, and check out directly, I think the only way to get this to work with Photobook America is to figure out what browser the software will launch during checkout (in my case, it was always Internet Explorer, even though Chrome is my default browser), and click through your cash back site in that browser first before you begin your check out through the software, then order through the software/browser as you normally would. I can confirm that I received the cashback from MrRebates when I tried this with my subsequent Photobook America order! Hope that helps!

Software Review

The downloadable software provided by Photobook America is called Photobook Designer, and I happened to discover that it is developed by Taopix. Here are some screenshots of the software and a few comments.

The software is fairly straightforward

The x,y object position and width and height dimensions are provided! Bleed/trim areas are shown in blue along the edges.

Lots of preloaded stickers, which I didn't use

You can select multiple objects and move them around

Different ways to sort the photos you import

The best feature about this program, though, is the ability to save your own custom layouts and reuse them.  

The program uses all the fonts installed on your computer. Big plus! 

Very easy to swap pictures between boxes

Easy to re-organize spreads (but not individual pages)

Overall, the software is extremely robust, and my favourite photobook software I have tried to date! It's not perfect, but it's very flexible and easy-to-use.

  • Ability to save custom layouts and re-use them easily
  • Position coordinates and dimensions
  • Ability to use all installed fonts on your computer
  • Bleed area is shown
  • Easily re-arrange pictures and spreads
  • Photo sorting options
  • Keyboard shortcuts for common operations

  • There is no preview for the fonts (as a workaround, I used a word processor and typed out some sample text, and used that program to preview the fonts)
  • Cannot rearrange single pages 

Product Pictures

I like the matte cover option. The image can wrap around front, spine, and back cover. 

The first printable page is actually the inside of the front cover. This is what they mean by "22+2" pages. Keep this in mind! 

Example of a full page spread with elements designed across the middle. 

Great for panoramic pictures (same as the one I used for the cover)

The last printable spread; the last page is printed on the inside back cover

Back cover

Bottom view of book

There does appear to be a bit of wear on the front cover already; looks like the matte lamination separating slightly from the printed cover. 

The first printed page is printed on the inside of the front cover, and you can see a raised area where the the paper wraps around the cover. If I had known about this, I would have left my first page blank. 

The paper surface is smooth 

Comparison to 4x6 Prints

The photobook prints are quite close to my ProDPI control 4x6 prints:


As this is a digital press printed product, halftoning/individual dots are visible if you look up close. Here are my unfair macro shots that show what these dots look like. At a normal viewing distance, I find the print quality to be excellent.

Final Thoughts

The pages are slightly thinner than those in the Shutterfly Premium book: Photobook America layflat paper is 280 gsm weight vs Shutterfly Premium's approximately 300 gsm. However, since both are constructed in the same seamless layflat style, that means each page is actually two sheets of paper glued together, so they are double-thick.

Even without photo paper (avoiding the potential sticking together of photo paper), this type of layflat seamless construction results in pages that simply feel too thick for my preferences. At this point, I decided to switch gears, and try some flex-hinge layflat and other non-lay flat photobooks.

For layflat books, the default number of pages provided with the base price is 24 or "22+2", as written in some places. It turns out that the +2 refers to their printing directly on the inside of the front and back covers. I couldn't find this information on the website, unfortunately. It would have been nice to know ahead of time. Hopefully this will help you!

As a minor gripe, I find their marketing strategy of constant promotions and sales (like many other consumer-level photobook companies) to be extremely low brow. I prefer for the price to be more transparent. You can find Groupons and pre-purchase vouchers, which a number of limitations. It can be very confusing. So be vigilant!

  • No company branding (logos, barcodes) whatsoever
  • Very good print quality 
  • Accurate colour reproduction
  • Matte lamination cover is very nice 

  • Cover quality feels slightly cheaper compared to the Shutterfly cover
  • Additional pages can only be added in groups of 4 for layflat
  • No choice in paper quality (still feels thick) - personal preference

Additional Reviews
The only review I could find for the layflat product was Photobook Girl's, here.

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