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Photobooks again: Picaboo vs Adoramapix

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.

Page layouts

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.

Backgrounds

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.

Image library

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.

Page order

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.

Captions

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.

Unicode

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.

Spell check

Picaboo now has an integrated spell-check, which was my biggest problem with it in the past.

Verdict: Picaboo in no contest with Adoramapix.

Extra features

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.

Cost

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.

Final product

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.

Overall Verdict

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.

Posted in Product Review

6 Comments

  1. Jodi Kriss-Tuanmu

    Thank you so much for the detailed review and comparison!

    I have a question for you: Did you have any photos on the inside front cover or inside back cover of your AdoramaPix book and did they look OK? Since ordering a book, I have heard that the texture left by the cover wrapping around the edge of the book leaves a bevel that shows in the photos. I used a collage of images on the first page (inside front cover) and a single image enlarged to fit 2 pages for the last spread (inside back cover.) It’s too late to change it now, but hoping that it will look OK and the bevel will not be too noticeable.

    Thank you for your help,
    Jodi

  2. Ilya

    Thank you for reading, Jodi!

    I used the inside front/back covers as no different than any other parts of two-page spreads. No collages or large images, but simply a blanket-spread layout of photos in both cases. The spreads did not touch the edges of the pages. I do not see them printed any differently than in any other place in the book, no visible bevels or other unwanted artifacts.

    Please do let me know if you see such artifacts in your finished book.

  3. Robbie Lum

    Aloha Ilya,
    I just came across your site and really love your detailed comparison and comments about some of the photo book publishers I was considering.
    I wanted to create a photo book after my recent trip to Hong Kong/Beijing/Xian last Spring, 2010, which was the first photo book ever that I created. After reading some reviews in May, 2010 I decided to use Picaboo and used their Picaboo X software.
    I was very impressed also like you with their software, and especially their customer support. I just wanted to point out that I was able to put 3 photos on my front cover and one on the back cover and was surprised to read that you said it could only put one. Their support person helped me set my 2 page spread, which as you said had to be cut in half. I sent them my file and they sent it back to me to drop into my photo book to create my 2 page spread.
    I am getting ready to do my 2nd photo book and was thinking of using Picaboo again as I thoroughly enjoyed them. I’ve been chatting with the support team as it seems like they have upgraded their software again. According to the tutorial, you can now drop in a photo and have it do a 2 page spread on the lay flat pages that they now offer in their Classic books. Their lay flat pages are of the ‘hinged’ format and have not seen it yet. They have also dropped their price in Feb 2011 of the additional page from $1.99 to $0.99 to be competitive with other publishers. My first book was their maximum 160 pages and I love it! It was expensive, but I had a Coupon. I also used 2 different fonts int he text box when I wanted numbers to look more readable . . I did that by adding in another text box in the current text box. Their tutorial also shows that they have also improved on their already great software by allowing you to zoom in/out of the picture you dropped in your layout which kind of acts like you’re cropping or resizing the photo.
    I looked at the AdramaPix site and found that their pricing is a little high compared to Picaboo now since Picaboo dropped their add’l page price. I also heard that that My Publisher just came out with an upgrade also which I haven’t looked at yet, which is probably similar to Picaboo now . . the only problem is they only allow 100 pages. I think my Japan book will also be long and I would hate to make it into 2 books.
    I know that it takes a lot of time doing the great reviews that you do and I wasn’t sure if you made any other photo books besides the fantastic one that you shared of your stay in Europe with My Publisher or Shutterfly. If you have, I would love to get any feedback that you or anyone can offer. With the upgrades that Picaboo have done, I’m leaning on doing another book with them again as My Publisher only allows 100 pages. I would love to share my book with you so that you can see what I did, in case you did another update on Picaboo as I still think they have great customer support . . . I forgot to mention that I shared my book back and forth with them to preview and give me comments on pictures that I needed to improve before it went to Final print. Please let me know what email address I can send the link to my photo book . . I would also appreciate your comments on it too. I look forward to hearing back from you . . thanks again for such great work that you do. Robbie

  4. Ilya

    Thanks for reading and responding, Robbie. My evaluations are obviously dated, and it’s been quite a long time since I last worked on any photo-books. The limitations of Picaboo that I mentioned in my review were present then, and may have been addressed since; the pricing comparison is also as of the date my review was written a year ago. Technology improves very quickly – the next time I am looking to put together a photo-book, I will likely do another comparison. Can’t promise when 😉

  5. Robbie Lum

    Thanks Ilya for the reply, I’ll keep an eye on your website and watch for any updates as you gave detailed information.
    @Ilya

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