Among other family eccentricities, Saundra, Sarah and I (and even Sarah’s husband) are bibliophiles — we absolutely love books. My first job while in high school was at the Murray Hill Branch Library. If you know Sarah, you know that not only did the acorn not fall far from the tree, it’s producing a tree that will soon overshadow its predecessors. Some of my other idiosyncrasies are stream-of-consciousness writing and a propensity for coming up with strange blog titles, so stay with me —
With our graphics background, Saundra and I have always wanted to expand into creating “coffee table” books to complement our photographic and fine art printing. In 2006 we started exploring the idea of creating fine art books on Crane’s Museo II fine art paper. Museo II was 100% cotton, coated on both sides for inkjet printing. We had been printing on Museo fine art fold-over cards for a couple of years when the notion of creating books popped into our heads. We found a company called Art Z in Bozeman, Montana that provided die-cut, scored and punched Museo II pages that could be bound in their scrapbook-style album using Chicago posts. Art Z’s claim to fame was their Italian leather binders which were designed primarily for wedding albums. With paper, binders and ink, the materials alone were going to exceed $75.00 per book. By the time we threw in freight, design, printing, binding and spoilage, the books would have cost at least $200.00 each to produce. They would have lasted for a century or more, but a quick survey of interested customers revealed that we would not have many takers.
We considered offering books printed by traditional offset methods in Asia, but customers would need to order large quantities and we would no longer have control over quality. For a more affordable, high quality option, we needed to find a way to create books using our existing silver halide papers: enter layflat photo books. The benefits of the layflat book is that images can span two pages without losing any of the image in the “gutter.” With Fuji Crystal Archive paper the image quality is outstanding and it’s almost as archival as fine art paper. I had read reviews about an Italian bookbinding machine years earlier, but it was not only expensive, it required more space than we had available. So in the search for more affordable binding systems, I was given the name of a company that, to our surprise and delight, was headquartered in Jacksonville. The company was just getting into creating layflat book equipment when we met. Over the course of the next two years we worked closely, beta testing several variations of layflat book systems.
As you can see by the samples, we made some really nice books, but here’s the rub: forget the designing the book — forget printing the book — the bindery time alone was more than an hour per book and that was with two of us working on it and if we didn’t make any mistakes. There are machines made to do what we were doing by hand, but the really good ones cost well over $100,000. Unfortunately moving from the $200 fine art book to about $100 for a small layflat book could not compete with advertised internet prices, so the layflat project went on hold.
Fast forward to the summer of 2012 when I visited a Fujifilm exhibit at a trade show that was held at the Ponte Vedra Mariott. The Fuji rep told me that Fujifilm was getting into the photo gifting business in a big way and they planned to offer layflat photo books. Since we are longtime Fujifilm customers, they let us in on the ground floor, telling us we could order books similar to our beta test books; our customers could actually order books directly from our website if we set them up in our Photo Factory photo gift application. So in the Spring of 2014 we added the service and created some sample books which we have on display at our front counter. We were blown away by the quality. Rumor has it Fuji’s layflat binding system cost close to a million dollars, so it should be first class.
So now we offer three different size books, all with a minimum of 18 pages, and can be designed with up to 72 pages (in 6-page increments). 8×8 layflat photo books on Glossy Fuji Crystal Archive paper start at $49.99 with additional 6-page blocks for $6.90; 8×11.25 start at $57.99, with additional 6-page blocks for $7.50; and 12×12 start at $89.99 with additional 6-page blocks for $10.50. You can design your own book in the Photo Factory on our website, or if you’d like to select your images and have us design your book, we’ll be glad to create and order it for you for an additional charge. If you would like a tutoring session for the Photo Factory or Photoshop we are available after regular business hours by appointment for $25.00 per hour. After your session we will give you a $25.00 gift card that you can apply toward any of our services.
Customized photo books make great gifts — we hope to help you with one soon.