After my latest photobook review, in which I proclaimed Adoramapix my new favorite among the several services, the folks at Picaboo, which was my “winner” of an earlier review, got into action. I was contacted by a nice lady from Picaboo, who informed me of some of the new features of the Picaboo X product, including availability of lay-flat book style, which I so happily used at Adoramapix. After a brief email exchange, I elicited an offer of a free tryout book. Obviously, I then had to try and see how the two services compared.
Picaboo X still offers three hundred or so predefined page layouts, but you are no longer limited to them. Similarly to Adoramapix, you can place as many photos as you like and arrange them however you prefer on a given page. Resizing, rotating and moving up or down layer-wise is available for any picture. In other words, predefined layouts give you a start if you need it, but then it’s up to your creativity.
Picaboo does not go as far as Adoramapix, though. The front cover, for instance, can only accept one single photo taking the full size of the cover. The back cover is not available for any photo manipulations.
Furthermore, Picaboo lacks functionality to place photographs to span the page spread. Official instructions suggest cutting the photograph in two outside of Picaboo app, leaving a bit of overlap, importing them both and positioning them side by side at the seam; with a lay-flat book style, you would not need an overlap, but you’d still need to cut your photo into two images that can be placed side by side. Of course, manipulating those images in the context of book design becomes a highly inconvenient task.
Verdict: Not as bad a disparity as I thought earlier, but still Adoramapix holds a firm lead.
Picaboo offers several thousand backgrounds, which can be conveniently searched via a number of tags. It even remembers the ones that you recently used, allows you to add backgrounds to the photo tray or to mark them as favorites, providing several handy shortcuts to get your selections.
Embellishment-wise, you can only add different corners to your pages – there are 50+ possibilities. Color borders and shadows can be added to pictures. No other additional ornamentation to play with exists.
Verdict: In variety of backgrounds, Picaboo is ahead. Adoramapix gets additional points for “stickers” and picture frames.
Picaboo photo tray remains the least convenient to work with amongst all of the services I tried. A horizontal strip one-image-high with no ability to re-sort is something I struggle with for projects involving hundreds of pictures.
Verdict: None of the services, Adoramapix included, have nailed it, but Picaboo is way behind.
A dedicated page-sorter interface, allowing any page to be moved anywhere in a grid-like display, is a function in Picaboo that I liked from the very beginning.
Verdict: Film-strip page re-ordering available in Adoramapix is not too much of a pain. If I gave advantage to Picaboo here, it would be only by a hair.
40+ fonts in Picaboo, font size from 8 to 72 pixels, length of text is not limited. Different font attributes within the same caption box are not allowed.
Verdict: Slightly fewer different fonts, slightly more restrictive on size – Picaboo is comparable with Adoramapix, but the latter is ahead by a neck.
Picaboo X refused to recognize keystrokes when I switched my keyboard to Translit Russian. Simpler diacritics could be copied in from Character Map, but anything beyond ASCII is apparently no longer recognized.
Verdict: Picaboo on par with Adoramapix.
Picaboo now has an integrated spell-check, which was my biggest problem with it in the past.
Verdict: Picaboo in no contest with Adoramapix.
I don’t edit photographs when building a photo-book. All images are edited in our favorite photo-editing software prior to being used in a book. So there is no real need for me to use any of the “photo tools” that a book creation software may provide. I did notice, however, that in addition to the standard brightness/contrast/saturation adjustment tools, Picaboo X offers a one-click conversion to black-and-white or sepia for any image in the book. That could be a really handy feature for the more artsy types.
Picaboo offers different pricing on different book styles. The cheapest/smallest start with $9.99 for 20 pages with $0.99 for each additional page. Classic Custom Large Hardcover (8.5×11) starts at $39.99 for 20 pages, with $1.99 for each additional page. This is a comparable style/size to what Adoramapix offers. The latter would charge $39.95 for 26 pages and $69.95 for 50 pages. At Picaboo, the cost would be $51.93 or $99.69, respectively. Noticeably more.
Furthermore, remember that Adoramapix books are already bound lay-flat style. Picaboo now offers its own lay-flat product, called Madison. Starting cost is $99.99 for 20 pages, with $1.99 for each extra page. So, 26 pages would come to $111.93. 50 pages would cost $159.69.
Verdict: Picaboo simply can’t compete on price.
Ok, this may sound a bit silly, but I decided against taking Picaboo on their offer of a free book.
I now only want a lay-flat book. Knowing that I’m not going to get perfect layouts in terms of ability to put images atop the seams, I am much less interested in spending time on putting together a book at all. And figuring that I will never pay a full price for a Picaboo book because it comes short when compared to Adoramapix, I consider it a bit in poor taste to demand a $150 freebie.
Picaboo won the the very first round because it appeared the most creatively-open at the time. It no longer is, in my humble opinion. And its cost makes it completely uncompetitive.
Adoramapix remains the best service that I know of today.