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Click Your Way To A Photo Book

Create coffee-table album online and have it shipped to you - printed and bound. Have you been showing off your dinky 4R-sized reprints in generic photograph albums? Or messing around with glue and a pair of scissors, pasting up a storm in your scrapbook? Worse still, are your photos languishing in a shoebox or hibernating in the deep recesses of a hard disk?

Give your precious memories a new home in a coffee-table photo book instead. Various online services have sprung up to cater to the new snapshot warriors who wish to present their pictures in a book format. The earliest of these is a company called MyPublisher, started in 2001, just when digital photography was taking off. Other companies began to follow suit: Now there're Apple iPhoto books, oFoto (since acquired by Kodak), Sharedink and Shutterfly, to name a few.

Designed for the mass consumer in mind, these services feature easy-touse websites or offline software for you to design and upload your book layout. Take MyPublisher for instance. You can download and install its free custom software, which will help you import, organise and edit the images to be used, create the book layout and preview it.

Click "Order", make payment and wait for the book to arrive. The quality of the books ranges from decent to very good. Like real books, the text and pictures are printed on the pages. The paper used is thick enough to withstand frequent flipping without tearing; colors can be quite good, provided your images are correctly exposed. You can choose from a variety of covers, hard and soft, made with materials ranging from simple clear covers to fabric and leather.

Having tried a number of these services, I find the process generally straightforward. It's a matter of learning the software interfaces, which are easy enough for even your computer-neophyte aunt who's just learnt how to file taxes online. Need to spruce up the layout fast? Choose one of the available templates. Due to capped upload speeds of broadband services, your book layout may take a while to upload.

Time to wander away and take a coffee break - or even a meal break. The books I created took at least an hour each to upload with my cable connection. Most of these services are based in the United States, so it would be another two weeks or more before the book reaches your doorstep. The books can be very affordable: Including international shipping costs, prices range from US$38 (S$60) for Shutterfly's Hardcover Photo Book (8.75x11.25 inches, 20 pages, satin cover) to US$90 for a MyPublisher Deluxe Hardcover Book (12x16 inches, 20 pages, linen cover).

In comparison, if you try to handmake an 8 x12 inch album by printing 20 photos, cold-laminating them and mounting them yourself on a decent retail album, the materials cost can easily exceed US$50. Personally, I much prefer such printed books to pasting photos in an album. Friends never fail to get impressed by them. Besides, they are much easier to produce than stick-on albums. I don't have to run to the retail shops, then challenge my fingers' dexterity mounting the prints. Excuse me while I go create. my new photo book layout.

Creating Your Personalised Coffee Book

Here's some photo book ideas:

  • Chronicle of your child, or even your pet, growing up.
  • Honeymoon pictures with your commentary.
  • Commemorative book of your graduating class.
  • Moving house? Take pictures of your old home.
  • Consolidate photos from family albums into a heirloom book.
 

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