In a never ending quest to find the best (photo) book publishing solution on a mac, I downloaded BookMaker from mypublisher. It’s a desktop app which was recently released; last week I had resigned myself to using their iPhoto plug in. Overall, the process was easier/better than Blurb/BookSmart app, but not as flexible as Apple/Aperture.
Conveniently, there are numbered buttons across the bottom which indicate the necessary steps as well as the one you’re on; it’s easy to move through the process and back up as needed. The guide on the right provides some useful advice for making the book.
➝ First – as with the other two apps — you must choose a book type. The sample displays are basic, but give some idea of the format of the pages. It’s not clear if a “bestseller” book type implies a guarantee of the success of your book.
➝ Select and import photos. BookMaker displays the folders it knows about, but there’s no clear way to add from another folder, either on the hard drive or network. The QuickStart guide notes that you can choose a menu option to include a folder in list of folders. Once it’s there, you can click on it to see the images it contains, drag them into the bottom section, and proceed. Unfortunately, it does not remove duplicates. Here, I’d exported the book images from Aperture as Jpegs, and imported those.
➝ Once included, the images appear at the top, and once included into the book, they vanish. It’s not clear if it’s possible to see all of the images. Aperture will optionally show all or unplaced; BookSmart shows all, with green check marks on the ones included. The cover page shows a nice textured-like page with a space to drop an image and add some text, if needed. I don’t believe there was a way to add a text box, or to change the size.
➝ Clicking on a text-box zooms out the text-box, but not very smoothly. Cute the first few times, but it got annoying quickly. Various font text controls are displayed, but oddly they apply to all of the text in the box, rather then just the selected text. You can bold all of the text, but not just one word.
➝ Page layouts are easily changed in two ways: selecting the number of images in the drop-down (one, two, three, etc), and by selecting the page layout (with or without captions). It’s not possible to change the orientation or size of the image placeholders or text areas, nor is it possible to delete them, or add more. BookSmart was the same; Aperture had layout templates, but allowed for editing placeholders and text (add, resize, remove).
➝ Clicking a photos zooms it forward (like a text box), and presents the editing features described as ‘extensive,’ which are really just: zoom, rotate and flip, along with auto fit, and some manner of black and white conversion, which I didn’t try. Again, the zooming is fine the first few times, but it got annoying quickly. If you’re editing a photo (zoomed in), then click on another photo to edit, it first zooms out to the normal state, then zooms into the next photo. Better would be just to slide over to the other photo without zooming.
➝ pages with 1, 2, 3 or 4 images have a variety of templates, the other options of 6, 9 and 12 just have a grid, without the option for captions. I did not see an option for an image spread across two pages, which was in Aperture, but not in BookSmart. It’s easier to lay out photos in BookMaker than inBookSmart, but not quite as easy as in Aperture which has more template options, and complete flexibility.
➝ BookMaker templates are not quite as aesthetically pleasing as those from Apple, but are nicer than the “professionally designed” templates in BookSmart. In these pages, it would be nice to see an even boarder around all of the images, which matched across pages.
When the book is complete, you can preview the book and remove empty pages (if any) and then you’re directed to a website to complete the financial details and upload. Mypublisher estimates the date by which the book will have completed printing, and offers a wide variety of delivery options, with costs dependent on the number of copies ordered and delivery speed. Book prices are similar to Apple’s: US $30 for a 20-page hardcover, plus $1 per additional page. However, the selection of book sizes includes a smaller book size, various cover colors, and even leather covers.
Overall it’s a better app than BookSmart, and easier to use than Aperture. But Aperture has much more functionality, and allows easy image editing, which BookSmart and BookMaker do not. The printing options are similar to Blurb’s, and both are better than Apple’s. But the most important thing is quality, and hopefully I’ll see that in a couple of weeks.