There's a very good article about custom-printed photobooks in the November issue of Popular Photography magazine. The article, by Debbie Grossman, reviews 10 photo book services and gives a few tips and tricks too. Here's a synopsis of their findings:
"Most companies use just one kind of paper, but some--Blurb and Mpix, among them--give you choices." Only 4 companies offered dust jackets. They gave Snapfish the thumbs down for lacking endpapers (inside cover liners) and thought the best endpapers are offered by Aperture. MyPublisher has nice ones too.
"Most services charge a set price for the first 20 or so pages, then add a dollar per page after that. Blurb goes by range, starting with up to 40 pages, and going up in increments of 40 more. In book publishing, two pages equals a single sheet of paper: a 20-page book will have 10 sheets of paper, plus the endpapers, and is therefore surprisingly thin."
In terms of design tips, the article recommends choosing a variety of types... landscapes, portraits, and details and then editing your photos before you begin. They thought Aperture, MyPublisher, and Blurb had the cleanest and most elegant designs; "...Snapfish, Shutterfly, and Kodak Gallery were more biased toward themes for occasions like a new baby, wedding, or holiday." Picaboo is oriented towards digital scrapbookers.
It's difficult to control for color in printing photo books and their test books gave a range of results. They noted that, "Some services, like Kodak's, automatically perform some corrections, adding what looks like contrast, sharpness, and possibly some color correction--we were extremely pleased with the results."
They tried out the various software provided by the services and found MyPublisher's to be "particularly fun to use". Many of the services will automatically populate your pages but they had varying degrees of success with that feature.
Their conclusion: "We'd hoped to find a clear winner, but, while there were standouts, no one company excelled at everything from book creation to binding to print quality. Aperture was one of the best, with a simple creation process and a great binding. Kodak's print quality beat all the books with traditional paper. And Adorama is up there, with good software and beautifully printed images. MyPublisher did well all-around too."
Here's how the 10 photo book services were rated by the folks at Popular Photography magazine:
**** (4 stars)
Aperture, Kodak, MyPublisher
***+ (3.5 stars)
*** (3 stars)
**+ (2.5 stars)
** (2 stars)
*+ (1.5 stars)
For more details, I recommend reading the article in its entirety.
I have a paid subscription to Popular Photography magazine. I was not asked to mention the article or the magazine by Bonnier Corporation of New York, publisher of Popular Photography magazine, nor was I compensated for doing so. I could potentially be compensated by Amazon.com if you were to click on the link in the article and purchase a subscription to the magazine. I have used both Shutterfly and MyPublisher photo book services and was pleased with the results of both. They have not compensated me for my comments either.