June 29, 2009

Way back in March I stumbled upon a site called Inkubook, which was set up so that the user could create their own photo book. I immediately hit upon the idea of creating a book about my time in Japan and started uploading photos.

I was very impressed with the site software. You select which type of book you were putting together and are presented with a certain number of layouts and themed backgrounds to use in your project, though I later discovered that you could access all of the available backgrounds and layouts if you so desired.

It took almost three months, working on and off with varying amounts of intensity to get all of the photos I wanted arranged correctly, to add captions and fill in some of the blank space around the photos with excerpts from my journal.

As far as I could see, they were only three drawbacks: No built-in spellcheck, which for me meant getting my very willing dad to proofread (no easy task considering the amount of Japanese place names). The software could occasionally take forever to load and while finishing up on my new netbook I almost developed eyestrain. Finally, the software required a certain quality of image to guarantee a good product, which was fine for my own photos, but a little more problematic when it came to using friends’ photos for events I had no photographic record of. The images looked fine onscreen, but  I had a few nervous moments imagining how they could ruin the final product.

I finished up last week and the book arrived today.

You have to select the size you want before you start, since that affects the photo layouts. This is the 8.5×8.5 size, currently only available in softcover. For sixty-five pages of material, it ran me 23.95 plus about ten dollars flat shipping for the two copies I ordered.

If you want hardcover, the three larger sizes, 8.5×11 portrait, 8.5×11 landscape, and 11×11 square are are all available, with prices varying by page number. You can fill up to 120 pages.

I am very happy with quality of the paper and the photo printing job. My pictures are huge and bright and crisp, and the ones that were of a lower quality still aren’t too bad. They certainly don’t take away from the overall quality.

While there were plenty of cutesy, scrapbook style backgrounds available, they were so European-themed that I went with black matte backgrounds for almost every page. I was trying to fit in as many pictures as possible, so most of the time I stuck with the layouts of the sort visible on the right and put the captions in the back of the book. In some cases, however, I had the slightly more panoramic pictures stand alone on a page with their own caption right there.

In some cases, I used a really nice picture to fill the whole page or picked a color from the palette available to fill in the background. These are the pages I’m really proud of – I almost never get prints bigger than 4×6 and it was awesome to see these huge, high-quality prints of my pictures of the Golden Pavilion.

In some cases, there was enough space on the page that I could include a journal entry from the same day. My journal and Mauri in Japan turned out to be indispensable for adding dates to all of the pictures. This book wouldn’t be nearly as accurate as it is without them.

At the end of the book, I put in a dramatis personae, listing everyone in the book and giving the page numbers for each picture they appear in. There are also captions for every picture that appeared on a page that didn’t have its own caption box.

This was probably my biggest mistake – I spent so much time in the program double-checking that the page numbers were correct and the captions were accurate that I neglected to think about how the page numbers would be printed.

There are no page numbers in my book. The captions are not quite useless, since the go page-by-page in order, but it should be fun to see how easy it is to look up a picture of a person. *sigh*

Overall, I am extremely happy with the book and if this seems like one huge plug for Inkubook, well it kind of is.

Final tip – they send out coupons fairly often, so keep an eye on them if you’re close to finishing the book. I ended up using a 30% off coupon they sent me in a panic after I didn’t work on my book for more than a month, afraid that I had abandoned it permanently.