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Good quality personalised photo books
Member Name: Deb_C
Advantages: good quality photo book; makes a lovely personalised gift
Disadvantages: expensive; time-consuming
Last Christmas I was looking for an unusual gift for my boyfriend & came across the site www.cewe-photobook.co.uk. It allows you to upload your digital photos & arrange them into a personalised photo book which is then professionally printed & posted to you.
There are lots of different options to choose from, initially with the size of the photo book, the smallest being a small booklet (13cm x 14cm; rather like a CD booklet but with more & thicker pages) - this is the one I chose. The largest size is a 42cm x 30cm album, & there are 7 sizes altogether. The larger the size, the more the album is sturdy & more like a book rather than a booklet.
This is of course reflected in the price; the cheapest booklet is £5.99, & the most expensive album is £79.99! There are plenty of different options for under £20 though & I don't think many people would spend any more than this. An A4 size with a linen cover is £19.99. I think the nicest option is probably the 21cm x 21cm square book with a linen cover which is £15.99. The books each come with 26 pages, & you can pay extra to add more pages (around £2.50 per 8 extra pages). The books come with either a soft, linen or hard cover, or as a booklet. There is also a postage & packing charge, although unfortunately these don't seem to be listed on the website. As an example, a small hard-backed photo book has a £3.99 P&P charge. I think these prices are quite expensive, however I think they're worth it for a special, good quality gift. I wouldn't regularly use it to get my digital photos printed out though.
To start making your photo book you need to click on 'Create Now', which takes you to a download page: you will need to download the software that allows you to create your photo book design. There are some downloads available from the site's partners such as WH Smith, however I chose to download the site's own software which is called 'My Cewe Photo World'. Once I clicked on this, I had to select 'save file', then I clicked on the .exe file that had saved & clicked 'run'. Then you just need to follow the steps in the 'Download Wizard' that appears. The installation took about 5 minutes on my computer & you can then run the application straight away without restarting.
According to the website, to run the software you will need Windowns Vista, XP or 2000, a 1GHz processor & at least 256MB RAM. This seems a bit of a shame as I'm sure quite a few people still use older computers with Windows 98 or 95.
The software does allow you to create some of CeWe's other products such as calendars, mugs & canvases with photos printed on them, however this review will concentrate on the photo books. On the left hand side you need to select the 'My CeWe Photo Book' tab, & across the top you select your chosen size. At this stage there are plenty of pictures showing example photo books to give you an idea of what each size will look like. There are also plenty of examples on the website itself (in the 'Samples' section).
Once you've chosen your size, you're taken to the main design section. You can use the Auto-Fill Assistant which will 'intelligently' arrange your photos for you; however I chose to arrange the photos myself. The assistant would be useful if you wanted to design your photo book quite quickly (it claims your book can be finished within seconds), but I think it's worth spending the time to design it just how you want it.
It's very easy to get your photos into the application (obviously they do need to be saved on your computer first!) - on the left hand side of the screen is a section showing your files & you just click on the ones you want to use, & then drag them into place in the photobook, which is shown in the main part of the screen. You can scroll through all the pages & add pages if necessary. You can add & remove picture boxes & text boxes, & move them around the page as much as you like. If you use the 'layout' tab on the left you can let the software put your photographs into several different layouts (you do one page at a time) & choose the one you like best, or you can have complete control & do it all yourself. The pre-set layouts do look good though. The 'design' tab lets you put in backgrounds of different colours & patterns, & there's also some clip-art. You can put in whatever text you want using text boxes, & you can change the font, colour & size. You also need to choose the type of cover you want (booklet, soft, linen or hard).
You can save your project & come back to it later if you don't have time to do it all in one session, as it can be quite time-consuming to get your photo book just how you want it! Once you've finished you need to click the green 'add to basket' button in the bottom right corner & then pay via the website (once you've pressed the button it takes you through the payment process). Photo books should usually arrive within 6-10 days of ordering.
When my photo book arrived, I was extremely impressed with the quality. It's printed on nicely thick, slightly glossy paper; the photos are clear & the backgrounds are unobtrusive yet smart-looking; & there is only 1 small 'CeWe' logo on the back to show where the book comes from. I imagine the more expensive books would look even smarter. My boyfriend was very pleased with his unusual personalised gift, & I certainly intend to use the website again.
Summary: A nice idea for a personalised gift