An On-Demand Book Service
Photographers want to show and share their work. This can be accomplished though gallery shows, online web galleries as well as print and portfolio sales. But there's something about a book that calls to a lot of photographers as a means of sharing their work with a potential audience.
Also, for some photographers small runs of books can be very worthwhile sources of revenue. This includes wedding photographers, for whom book sales can be a major income producer. Professional photographers use such books as handy portfolios when seeing clients, and for fine art photographers seeking representation they can serve as convenient and impressive portfolios.
Of course the cost of producing and printing offset print runs of necessarily large quantities of photo books is usually prohibitive, though possible as I pointed out in my 2005 article on Private Photographic Book Publishing.
Today there are quite a few sources for on-demand printing of small print runs, as few as a single copy if desired. The most popular of these is the online book printing service offered by Apple for users of iPhoto and Aperture.
Numerous local services are also available in major cities around the world, and when Pikto, a local next-generation digital lab / gallery in Toronto told me that they were going into the demand book printing business, I was pleased to work with them to see how their product would stack up. Regular readers may recall that I have had a one-man show of my photography at the Pikto Gallery each year for the past several years.
Pikto offers books in several different sizes, ranging from 5X7", to 8.5X11" to 12X12". Page count can be anything from 20 pages up to 80. Layout is a breeze, You are provided with a Photoshop page template showing the printing safe area for each page, and facing page, and then the layout is up to you. Pikto says that they will have a page design layout program available soon that should make the task even easier.
Books are available with either linen, leather or leatherette covers and you may have a single image embossed on the cover. Foil text embossing on the spine and cover are also available.
The cost of these books varies according to their size and the number of pages. An 8.5 X 11" book of 20 pages with a hardcover would cost CDN $55. A 12 X 12" linen hardcover book of 20 pages would cost $95. Additional pages, up to a maximum of 80, will cost between $1.25 and $2.75 per page. Therefore, a 12X12" book of 80 pages, such as the one that I ordered, costs about CDN $290.
This is not inexpensive. But on the other hand, neither is it costly given what you get. The printing uses a double-sided, coated, acid-free 100lb stock. The process is an electro-photographic CMYK process with a print resolution of 1200 dpi. Binding of pages is on a floating spine and a choice of linen colours, leather or leatherette is available. Turn-around time is typically less than a week.
From well under $100 a copy to as much as $300 for a book at the largest size with the most pages and fanciest design, these single copy books can be just the thing for a great many photographer's needs. In a conversation with Andre Souroujon, one of Pikto's founders, I learned that they are finding strong acceptance from a range of constituencies, including wedding photographers offering their clients a new forum of album, fine art photographers looking to put together a small run of a special project, and models and their photographer's needing a new eye catching "comp" format.
The question of course needs to be asked – what is the quality of these books like, especially the print quality? I found that presentation, from cover linen to binding is very good. The paper is a heavy stock with a good feel and a high satin gloss. Print quality is very good, on a par with top quality offset printing.
The gamut of the printer and inks used is very broad. When soft proofing files in Adobe RGB using Pikto's provided profile I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the gamut of the inks and paper was a very close match to the wide gamut working space being used.
The final question that needs to be asked is – is the print quality equal to that of output from the best inkjet printers? The answer, to my eye, is a qualified yes. There is some very slight extra visible texturing on the smoothest areas, such as clear skies. But on the other hand, colours are very accurate, and saturated when appropriate, with a broad gamut, and resolution is extraordinary. B&W reproduction is very neutral. Overall I find it totally acceptable for the task.
A 10 Year Retrospective Book
As part of evaluating Pikto's on-demand book printing service I decided to put together a book of my own, a retrospective of my work covering the past 10 years. That book is now available and can be ordered from our online store as part of a special offer together with a gallery-sized print of any image from the book.