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Photo books – keeping it simple

The growth of the photo book market has been slowed by perceptions that putting together a book is just too complex and time-consuming, but some players in the US market are using different approaches to reduce the number of abandoned projects.

Shutterfly's TripPix photo books takes five minutes to put together and cost $20, complete with shipping and bamboo display stand.
Shutterfly’s TripPix photo books takes five minutes to put together and cost $20, complete with shipping and bamboo display stand.

This week US online photo services giant Shutterfly released TripPix, a simple, budget-priced photo book maker for iPads and iPhones designed to reduce the time required to make a photo book to about five minutes.

As the name implies, it’s aimed at people who want to put together a photographic souvenir of their travels.

Customers don’t have to create an account at the start of the process. They download the app and then choose from a choice of three travel book styles; ‘grand adventure’, ‘city story’ or ‘great escape’.

Then they select somewhere between 15 and 30 travel photos for the 6×6-inch book. TripPix uses photo location data to include a map next to the photos (optional).

Names of travel companions can be added, along with icons which convey weather conditions or activities – museum visits, sight-seeing, etc. (There is even a marijuana leaf icon for young stoners’!)

Add a title and the order is complete, with the book priced at $19.99 including shipping. Shutterfly even includes a bamboo stand for display of the book.

The Mosaic 7x7-inch photo books have images inset into the  linen cover, and are delivered for $25 in a gift box.
The Mosaic 7×7-inch photo books have images inset into the linen cover, and are delivered for $25 in a gift box.

TripPix is somewhat similar to the more established (circa 2013) Mosaic from online photo services business Mixbook. This is an app which creates a 7×7-inch, 20-page book with a hard cover for $20. The process is even simpler, with none of the icon options offered by TripPix.

The book, with images also inset into the hard cover, is delivered in four days in an attractive gift box for $25.

Yet another US-based business, Smilebooks (owned by European wholesale photo printer CEWE), takes a radically different approach – taking the job off the customers’ hands! (We assume – always dangerous – that CEWE has already rolled out this service in parts of Europe as well.)

While most photo book services talk about how exquisitely easy photo book creation is, Smilebooks lets the cat out of the bag: ‘Designing a classy photo book requires more than just time. It requires skill in album layout, optimisation of your photos, background selection, photo selection, colour balancing and most importantly, story telling.

‘Our design service is ideal for people who want a professionally designed product but who either don´t have the time or the skills to create one by themselves. We all love eating good food but aren´t necessarily the best cooks!’

A sample double page from Smilebook’s remarkably inexpensive Design Service.

The customer chooses the general layout, format (from 8×6 up to 16.5×12-inches), gloss or matte and cover options, and uploads the photos they want the designer to choose from. They can add captions to photos.

The design service is remarkably inexpensive: $10 for the first 26 pages and $2.50 for each set of extra 8 pages.

The flat fee per page is regardless of the number of pictures per page or size and format of the book. and includes all design changes as well.

The draft design goes online for the customer to review. They can either sign off and finalise the order or request changes.

If the customer orders multiple copies they are only charged for design the one time.

Smilebook covers all bases by offering three other alternatives for photo book creation: Downloadable desktop software; a fast and easy online book builder; and via smartphone or device using an app.

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