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19 of the Best Books of 2021
A bookworm is happiest when they’re surrounded by books — both old and new. Undoubtedly, 2021 was a great year for both fiction and nonfiction, with bestsellers like Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters and Second Place by Rachel Cusk. Whether you read memoirs or young-adult (YA) novels, 2021 was a fantastic year for book lovers. While we can’t squeeze in all of our favorites from 2021, we’ve rounded up a stellar sampling of must-reads. Here’s some of the year’s best books.
“Crying in H Mart: A Memoir” by Michelle Zauner
In her profound memoir Crying in H Mart , Michelle Zauner shares an unflinching view of growing up as a Korean American person — all while reflecting on losing her mother to terminal cancer. Author Dani Shapiro notes that the Japanese Breakfast musician “has created a gripping, sensuous portrait of an indelible mother-daughter bond that hits all the notes: love, friction, loyalty, grief.”
“The Prophets” by Robert Jones, Jr.
In Robert Jones, Jr.’s lyrical debut novel, The Prophets , Isaiah and Samuel are two enslaved young men who find refuge in each other — and their love becomes both sustaining and heroic in the face of a vicious world. Entertainment Weekly writes that “While The Prophets’ dreamy realism recalls the work of Toni Morrison… Its penetrating focus on social dynamics stands out more singularly.” Now that’s a compliment.
“The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman
At President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Amanda Gorman read her electrifying poem, “ The Hill We Climb .” Since then, it has been praised for its call for unity and healing. Vogue captures the feeling of reading the poem well, calling it “deeply rousing and uplifting.”
“Beautiful World, Where Are You” by Sally Rooney
New York Times bestselling author Sally Rooney has returned with a sharp, romantic drama, Beautiful World, Where Are You . Two separate relationships are in chaos, threatening to ruin friendships. Vogue declares that the author has “invented a sensibility entirely of her own: Sunny and sharp.”
“Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir” by Ashley C. Ford
Ashley C. Ford’s coming-of-age memoir, Somebody’s Daughter , centers on her childhood. Ford, a Black girl who grew up poor in Indiana, recounts how her family was fragmented by her father’s incarceration. With rich, unflinching writing, Ford has penned a debut for the ages. The memoir’s publisher perhaps puts the core of the book best, noting that Ford “embarks on a powerful journey to find the threads between who she is and what she was born into, and the complicated familial love that often binds them.”
“Last Night at the Telegraph Club” by Malinda Lo
Everyone remembers their first all-consuming love — and for Lily Hu, the teenage protagonist of Malinda Lo’s queer YA novel, that love is Kathleen Miller. Set in the 1950s in San Francisco, Last Night at the Telegraph Club is not just one of the year’s best, but one of Lo’s best. O: The Oprah Magazine notes that the novel is “proof of Lo’s skill at creating darkly romantic tales of love in the face of danger.”
“¡Hola Papi!” by John Paul Brammer
In his memoir, ¡H ola Papi!: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons , advice columnist John Paul Brammer delves into his experiences growing up as a queer, biracial person. The Los Angeles Times writes that “Brammer’s writing is incredibly funny, kind, and gracious to his readers, and deeply vulnerable in a way that makes it feel as if he’s talking to only you” — and we couldn’t agree more.
“Honey Girl” by Morgan Rogers
In Morgan Rogers’ novel Honey Girl , Grace Porter is an overachiever — and certainly not the type of person to marry a stranger in Las Vegas. Or, at least, she didn’t think she was that type of person. As Grace navigates the messiness of adulthood, Rogers takes us on a journey that’s both heartfelt and unflinching, illustrating that love is all about risks — even when it comes to loving ourselves.
“Aftershocks: A Memoir” by Nadia Owusu
Nadia Owusu’s memoir, Aftershocks , reflects on her experience of being abandoned by her parents at a young age. Entertainment Weekly notes that “Owusu dispatches all of this heartache with blistering honesty but does so with prose light enough that it never feels too much to bear.”
“Klara and the Sun” by Kazuo Ishiguro
What if an artificial intelligence (AI) assistant had feelings? In Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest novel, Klara and the Sun , Klara is an Artificial Friend who wonders if friendship is possible. The Financial Times called the Never Let Me Go author’s latest “a deft dystopian fable about the innocence of a robot that asks big questions about existence.”
“100 Boyfriends” by Brontez Purnell
Brontez Purnell’s romantic, intoxicating book, 100 Boyfriends , is a look at the romantic lives of queer men who are striving to find out not just where they belong, but where they can shine. Author Bryan Washington praised the collection, writing that “Each story in 100 Boyfriends is a minor eclipse: stunning in scope, technically blinding, and entirely miraculous.”
“One Last Stop” by Casey McQuiston
In Casey McQuiston’s big-hearted romance novel, One Last Stop , August meets Jane on a New York City subway — but she doesn’t realize just how fateful their chance encounter is at first. New York Magazine called the novel “an earnest reminder that home — whether that means a time, a place, or a person — is worth fighting for,” and we wouldn’t expect anything less from the Red, White & Royal Blue author.
“Afterparties: Stories” by Anthony Veasna So
In Afterparties , Anthony Veasna So weaves together tenderhearted stories about the lives of several Cambodian American characters. Although the stories vary quite a bit in terms of content, author George Saunders writes that they are all “powered by So’s skill with the telling detail,” and are much like “…beams of wry, affectionate light, falling from different directions on a complicated, struggling, beloved American community.”
“Malibu Rising” by Taylor Jenkins Reid
In Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel Malibu Rising , readers meet four famous siblings as they throw their annual end-of-summer party in Malibu. However, over the course of 24 hours, family drama ensues. The Washington Post calls this read “a fast-paced, engaging novel that smoothly transports readers.”
“Let Me Tell You What I Mean” by Joan Didion
Between 1968 and 2000, award-winning journalist and essayist Joan Didion wrote 12 pieces about a variety of well-known figures, ranging from Ernest Hemingway and Nancy Reagan to Martha Stewart. Now, these works have been gathered in the essay collection Let Me Tell You What I Mean . Bret Easton Ellis writes that Didion’s “prose remains peerless,” so, if you’re a fan of the iconic writer, this is a must-read.
“Intimacies” by Katie Kitamura
Intimacies is Katie Kitamura’s fourth novel, following 2017’s critically acclaimed A Separation . In it, an interpreter for the International Court at the Hague gets drawn into a political scandal after agreeing to translate for a former world leader and potential criminal. The novel is a fascinating investigation into the instability of language and how it influences identity. Dana Spiotta describes Intimacies as “a haunting, precise, and morally astute novel that reads like a psychological thriller.”
“Detransition, Baby” by Torrey Peters
In Detransition, Baby , Torrey Peters tells a witty and nuanced story about partnership, parenthood and identity. About the novel, Ginny Hogan from the New York Times states “[Detransition, Baby upends] our traditional, gendered notions of what parenthood can look like.”
“Second Place” by Rachel Cusk
In Rachel Cusk’s novel Second Place , a follow up to her brilliant Outline trilogy, a woman invites an artist she admires to live in her remote guesthouse for the summer. As the stay unfolds, a series of unexpected events spurs revelations about womanhood, marriage and security. About Second Place , Jenny Singer from Glamour writes “there is mayhem; surprising sweetness and brilliant observations tumble from every page.”
“Sellout: The Major-Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo, and Hardcore ” by Dan Ozzi
In Sellout: The Major-Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo, and Hardcore , rock critic Dan Ozzi traces the stories of eleven separate bands that transitioned from the indie scene to achieve mainstream success in the ‘90s. Including interviews and anecdotes from bands like Green Day, Jimmy Eat World and Blink-182, this is a must-read for any music lover.
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Relive joyful moments with a high-quality Photobook. Printed using true to life ink tones and colors with a securely fastened hard or soft cover, these Printable Cover Photo Books will last a lifetime. Each Photobook comes with 20 pages with the option to add more.
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- Sizes 7x9”, 8x8”, 9x12”
- Unique stitching process on hardcover books to prevent loose pages
- Contains 20 pages with option to add more pages
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Create Photo Gift Ideas That Wow Even at the Last Minute
by Norma Gaffin, Staples
Photo gifts are always personal, one-of-a-kind items. And now there are so many options, from custom coasters and playing cards to calendars and photo books some you can order and pick up on the same day (perfect if youre a procrastinator whos always looking for unique personalized gift ideas at the last minute).
But too often, people just upload a photo and call it a day. Were going to help you take these personalized gifts to the next level. Try out these photo gift ideas, whether for a birthday, anniversary, holiday or even a calendar gift, these photogift ideas will help you give a present that wows.
Contrary to popular belief, photo gifts arent just for grandparents, parents and significant others. You can use the photo book format to create unique gifts for children. Use family pictures to create a My Family book, or take pictures of cherished toys for a My Favorite Things book. You can make an AZ book with photos of items representing each letter. Or even tell a story with the childs favorite stuffed toy as the star just take the toy when your child is sleeping, photograph it in different scenes and then write short, simple narration to go with each image.
Whether youre a chef or a hostess, or have a family with a history of tasty eats, you can compile recipes and photos in a photo book or custom calendar to create a very special gift. Spend a day cooking, then pair images of the final products with their recipes. If youve been hosting the best parties all year long and want to compile recipes of the best eats for your friends, pair them with pics from your different gatherings. And of course, if you dont have the time to cook and take photos of each dish, nothing goes better with family recipes than family photos.
Think Big: Wall Art
Enlargements turn photographs into wall art, and you have a number of options here. First, remember that you can use a single photograph or creative image, or some sort of a collage, using one of the other ideas mentioned here. And then you have just as many options for going large: photo enlargements (available in 11 x 14 20 x 30), photo canvases (8 x 10 60 x 20) or even engineering prints (18 x 24 36 x 48). Engineering prints are great for large images you might want to then mount on foam board , and you can be very creative with them. For example, you can make an oversized photo boothstyle strip by taking four photos, cropping them to about the same size and adding a black border to each. Then put the images in an 18x24 file and order it as an engineering print.
Personalized Newspaper or Magazine Covers
Get creative and turn a picture of your child in a superhero costume from Halloween into a newspaper cover. If you have the skills, you can even write a newspaper article to go along with it. Similarly, you could create a magazine cover with your Teen Vogue Girl of the Year. Once you have your assembled graphic, just turn it into a jpeg file so you can use it as you would a photo. Have it printed as a photo enlargement or as an oversized engineering print.
If youve been on any social network lately, youve likely been throwing it back every Thursday with pics from the past. Jump on this trend and create a Throwback Thursday photo gift. Choose pics throughout the school years for good friends, or just pictures from when you were younger to create a cherished present for a friend or family member.
Year in Review
Photo gifts are a great way to capture the year that was. Whether youre creating a photo book, calendar or wall art, you can easily commemorate your favorite memories. On a calendar, choose pictures that correspond with each year in the new year. In a photo book you have more space to tell your years story. If youre thinking of giving someone an enlarged print or photo canvas , opt for a collage or splice together four pics, maybe one from each season. These ideas can even work on a photo mug.
So many people are now familiar with Instagrams perfectly square shots. Get inspired and put images together to create a gift that looks like an Instagram feed. Or surprise a friend with a gift that showcases their most popular Instagram photos. Of course, its a good idea to know your audience and make sure the recipient would appreciate you doing that and would not perceived it as crossing a line.
Not Just Your Photographs
Speaking of Instagram, social networks give you access to a number of photos beyond your own. But as mentioned, exercise caution. It might be great to leverage your sisters Facebook photos or your husbands Instagram account, but cyber-stalking a co-worker may make things uncomfortable. But for those you do know well, a compilation of their favorite personal photos could be an amazing surprise gift.
Other Last-Minute Unique Personalized Gift Ideas
Did you forget about a present, or are you the type of person who always pushes gift shopping to the last possible moment? Get your recipients gifts that look thoughtful and well planned. Calendars, photo enlargements and engineering prints are all available on the same day. And if you dont have a perfect photo, dont worry. With our sports and art prints , you can choose from thousands of images in three sizes, from NFL and NBA to fine art, cityscapes and nature also available on the same day. Just visit a Staples Copy & Print Center location or click on one of the links embedded in this article to get started.
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- Here are the best custom photo book services
- Most user-friendly
- Best for professionals
- Fastest turnaround
- Highest quality
The 5 best custom photo book services to help you preserve your memories
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We've grown accustomed to having nearly every photo we've ever taken at our fingertips and while smartphone and cloud storage is great, there's something wonderful and cozy about reliving memories over a beautiful photo album.
But nostalgia isn't the only benefit of photo books— you can compile photos taken from multiple sources, tell a story, or create a memorable gift. Custom photo books let us layout our favorite pictures to our exact liking. With themed styles, countless cover choices, and customizable designs, we can capture our memories in a beautiful, bound book.
We've chosen five of our favorite custom photo book services you can use to make your own album. They offer a range of products with different levels of customization and quality so you can choose the right service for you whether your priority is printing speed, user-friendliness, quality, design options, or price.
Our picks for the 5 best custom photo book services
Best value: Shutterfly Shutterfly is a major photo service platform where you can get prints, design holiday cards, create home decor, and make photo books. It offers dozens of pre-made themed styles as well as the option to completely customize your book.
Most user-friendly: Mixbook You can start with one of Mixbook's trendy themes or a blank book, choose a landscape, square, or portrait layout, and start adding pictures to its many layout options.
Best for professionals: Blurb Blurb is designed for amateur and professional photographers, so it works with Adobe InDesign, Lightroom, and Photoshop for the highest quality prints and highest design control.
Fastest turnaround: Walgreens Walgreens offers a basic, beginner-friendly, and quick custom photo book service. The editor is simple and very easy to use with an overall "fun" feel.
Highest quality: Printique Printique is a great high-quality photo book option for non-professionals, offering leather and fabric covers and only using professional photo and inkjet paper to ensure your photos are printed at their best.
Best value: Shutterfly
Shutterfly is a major photo service platform where you can get prints, design holiday cards, create home decor, and make photo books. It offers dozens of pre-made themed styles as well as the option to completely customize your book.
Once you choose a size, type of cover, and page type, Shutterfly offers you to "Make it Fast" or "Make it Manually"— either using its shortcuts or a fully customizable layout.
Shutterfly also offers a "Make My Book" free designer service that's still customizable but removes most of the leg work. You can choose your style and photos, include any special requests, and edit or accept the final product that's guaranteed in three business days or less.
Browse Shutterfly's photo books here .
Most user-friendly: Mixbook
Mixbook has been rated as many people's favorite custom photo book service because its design system is extremely intuitive and user-friendly.
You can start with one of their trendy themes or a blank book, choose a landscape, square, or portrait layout, and start adding pictures to its many layout options.
Mixbook has a huge collection of stickers, designs, and fonts but it also lets you upload your own stickers or backgrounds to make it even more personal. Plus, you can invite others to collaborate on your photo book so they can upload and add their own photos or pages.
Browse Mixbook's photo books here .
Best for professionals: Blurb
Blurb is designed for amateur and professional photographers, so it works with Adobe InDesign, Lightroom, and Photoshop for the highest quality prints and highest design control.
It also offers its own downloadable design tool which allows for full creative control but isn't very beginner-friendly if you're looking for a "drag and drop" template.
Blurb is great for professional-looking photo books or high-quality gifts. And if you're looking to self-publish your photography: it'll even help you list your book on Amazon and bulk order your product.
Browse Blurb's photo books here .
Fastest turnaround: Walgreens
Walgreens offers a basic, beginner-friendly, and quick custom photo book service. The editor is simple and very easy to use with an overall "fun" feel.
Walgreen's photo books are almost fully customizable and the tools in its editor are neatly organized, which is great for not overwhelming the designer but can arguably make it a little hard to find exactly what you're looking for.
Though the same-day pick-up is extremely convenient, it does mean quality can be lacking (though it may not be obvious). For example, the fast "flat lay" books aren't bound as a true flatlay but are constructed to give a flat appearance. The photos themselves may also print imperfectly and the quality of your book can heavily depend on your Walgreens location and the experience of the photo team.
Browse Walgreens' photo books here .
Highest quality: Printique
Printique is a great high-quality photo book option for non-professionals, offering leather and fabric covers and only using professional photo and inkjet paper to ensure your photos are printed at their best.
You can choose linen, metallic, or pebble-textured pages in addition to its glossy, matte, and best-selling Luster options. The only things less customizable are the photo layouts themselves: Printique requires the photographs to take center stage rather than stickers, words, or themed designs.
Though all of Printique's options are already high quality, you can upgrade to a Premium album which is built, bound, and printed a little differently so it has a luxurious feel through every page. Premium albums are customized similarly but have different design options available such as a metal album cover and are created with longevity in mind.
Browse all of Printique's photo books here .
Sign up for Insider Reviews' weekly newsletter for more buying advice and great deals. You can purchase logo and accolade licensing to this story here . Disclosure: Written and researched by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our partners. We may receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected] .
Blacks makes photobook creation pretty straightforward, which is great for those who are intimidated by the book-making process or who don’t want too many options. With Blacks you can choose from a few different themes, colours, and sizes and build your book from there. Nice and easy.
Black’s Photobook Highlights:
- Starting price: $12.99 for 20-page, softcover book
- Delivery within Ontario between five and nine business days depending on shipping method
- Photo wallets, magnets, calendars, and ornaments are also available
Update Jan. 2023: Costco’s photo service is transitioning to Shutterfly’s new Canadian site . On January 28, 2023, products and services previously available from Costco Photo Centre will no longer be available. Projects saved on CostcoPhotoCentre.ca will not be available on the new Canadian Shutterfly site . If you’ve started a project at CostcoPhotoCentre.ca or would like extra copies of earlier projects, your order must be placed prior to this January 28th, 2023.
Costco’s online photo centre offers a wide range of products including photo books. Select a cover style and add your own photo(s) and text to be featured on the front. With each option you can choose from a variety of layouts and templates, conveniently drag and drop your photos, and easily add captions.
Costco’s Photobook Highlights:
- Starting price: $25.99
- Delivery in five to 12 business days
- Books start at 30 pages and you can add up to 30 more for a total of 60.
This site offers Canadian-made, affordable, traditional photobook looks. There’s nothing fancy here, but they have some nice, classic options and offer five different book size and cover design options.
Photoinpress Photobook Highlights:
- Available in traditional or square formats with the option to customize the cover and spine of your book
- 20-page softcover books start at $12.99, hard cover at $29.99. Additional pages are extra.
- Free delivery across Canada
This Canadian company designs and manufactures premium photo books in Toronto and offers a design service option for extra cost, which might be worth it if you’d like a team of designers to create your book for you (with your input, of course!)
Pikto Photobook Highlights:
- 10 size options (starting at $9.95), and seven printing material options.
- Design-conscious upgrades include Imagewrap Hardcover (from $30), Textile Hardcover (from $50) and Slipcase (from $95)
- Newsletter sign up gets you a 15% discount on your first order
Photo books are not Vistaprint’s core business so the design options are minimal, but the site is still a good option for those seeking good quality and value for the money. Vista Print also offers fast shipping and has many additional custom photo gifts and ideas to choose from.
- Photo Books starting at $13.
- Seven size options in portrait, square and landscape formats.
- Finishing touches include personalized covers, glossy photo finish, and additional pages (up to 120) for extra cost.
Henry’s is well-known in the Canadian photography industry and they have some decent, but not overly sophisticated, services for photo book creation. They also offer many other services, including prints, cards, calendars, canvas and more, if you’re looking for a one-stop shop for custom photo ideas.
Henry’s Photobook Highlights:
- Books start at 20-pages and come in a variety of sizes along with hardcover, softcover and hardcover leather options, as well as horizontal, square, and vertical orientations.
- 4×4 in softcover books start at $13.99
- Production time is nine-13 business days
It’s no surprise that the makers of the Easy button take a pretty no frills approach to photo books. Staples offers few creative flourishes but a variety of sizes and finishes means you can still create a lovely and customized finished product without breaking the bank.
Staples Photobook Highlights:
- Prices start at $22.49 for a 6×8 in book with a linen or leatherette cover.
- Variety of templates and cover options
- Free shipping on orders of $45 or more.
Walmart Photo Centre
Cheap and cheerful, Walmart Canada’s photo books include soft and hard-cover options, along with an Express Book that can be ready in as little as 2-4 business days. Prices start at less than $10 for 4×4 in soft cover book and go up to $28.97 for a 9×12 in hardcover book.
Walmart’s Photobook Highlights:
- 20 page with more at additional charge
- Room for up to 300 photos in hardcover books and 150 in softcover books
- Available for free in-store pick up or ship to home
- Express Books have room for 20 photos, are printed on Kodak Professional Photo Paper and come in 3 sizes.
U.S. Photobook Options That Offer Great Quality
We couldn’t pass up including a few of these fan favourites. These photobook companies offer great quality as well as more options and variety—but you’ll have to pay the shipping and might get dinged with custom and import duties upon delivery.
Blurb is well known in the photobook scene and has some really sleek, polished, high-quality books. The creation process is user-friendly and Adobe plug-ins are available. Blurb is great for anyone who doesn’t mind paying a little extra for a plethora of options and creative flexibility.
Blurb Photobook Highlights:
- Save 35% on your first book purchase with email sign-up.
- Five book sizes available.
- In addition to photo books, find templates for e-books, cookbooks, children’s books, graphic novels and more.
- Price for a small square, 7×7 in 20-page book starts at $32.99 CAD for 20 pages. Each additional page is $0.35 CAD.
Chatbooks has gorgeous options for covers that are as stylish as they are unique. Chatbooks are affordable and simple to create, and the “Series” option allows you to automatically create a new book with the upload of 60 photos.
Chatbooks Photobook Highlights:
- 6×6 in or 8×8 in sizes
- 6×6 in softcover photo books start at $10 USD
- Add photos from multiple sources including Facebook, Instagram, Flckr, Dropbox or computer.
Forever’s main point of difference is how quickly books can be made. The “just enough” approach to customization options will help you customize to your satisfaction without getting overwhelmed, and the layflat binding option (premium add-on) makes for perfect presentation.
Forever Photobook Highlights:
- 21-page books start at $19.99 USD
- Available in two sizes and styles: 8×8 in and 12×12 in, hard and softcover. (Leather cover is a premium add on).
- Archival-quality materials ensures the life and quality of your book for future generations
Mixbook has plenty of beautiful options for customization including templates and fonts. Users can choose from 359 photo book themes.
Mixbook Photobook Highlights:
- Rated #1 in 2014 by Top Consumer Reports in the U.S.
- Landscape photo books start at $21.99 CAD
- The “Get Inspired” tab will help kickstart your creativity for all photo projects, including books.
*** coming soon to Canada in 2023
With no shortage of size, customization, and embellishment options, Shutterfly is a pioneer in the photo book space. And they offer three different ways to make your book: have their designers make it for you; make it yourself using Simple Path (automatic photo arrangement on the template of your choice), or Custom Path (layouts are professional and predesigned, or designed by you).
Shutterfly Photobook Highlights:
- Excellent image and overall book quality
- Popular design templates include Disney, Sesame Street, and Star Wars
- Square, 8×8 in books start at $19.99 USD
Snapfish users love the easy-to-use photo editor and step-by-step instructions, not to mention the number of customizable options including more than 120 themes, backgrounds and templates. But Canadians beware, you’ll wait a lot longer for delivery!
Snapfish Photobook Highlights:
- 20-page 8×8 in hardcover books start at $29.99 USD.
- Square, portrait, and landscape options.
- Delivery estimates to Canada are between eight and 30 business days
5 Pro Tips for Creating Your Photobook Masterpiece:
- If you’re making multiple books for different people, start by creating one master version that can be tweaked for others using dates and images that are meaningful to them.
- If you do photo books annually, create a file on your phone or computer every January that you can transfer your favourite photos into throughout the year. And if you’re including photos from other family members, be sure to give them plenty of time to share their favourite images with you.
- Consider attaching a theme to your creation, like “Our Summer Vacation,” “Favourite Family Moments,” or “Being Silly in 2021.” This helps create a more structured and cohesive finished product, and you can change the theme year to year.
- Pay attention to how your photos are organized and ordered. A great photobook is like any story, so consider how you want yours to flow and unfold.
- Before you buy or decide on a service, search online for sales. It’s not uncommon to find a promo code for 40%, 50% event 60% off especially around the May and December holidays, as well as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
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- Photo Organization Mistakes
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Tagged under: Moms , motherhood , photobooks , memories , Family life , photobooks canada , photos
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Photo Books – MPix review
Photo books are becoming an increasingly popular way of getting your images printed. It’s no longer as cost prohibitive or complicated to do as printing outfits seek to bring more products and services to the consumer market. I’m in the midst of doing some testing of various online printing services, and one of the first books I got was from Mpix. So, today, I’ll be showing you some of the pros and cons of this service. I decided to approach the photo book reviews from five perspectives: image quality, binding quality, durability, value, and turn around time.
Mpix, like many labs, requests that you send them photos in the sRGB color space. While this is not necessarily a check against them, it does limit the capability for image quality during print because you are limited in the color range that can be printed. Having said that caveat about the print process, I must say that the quality of the prints has not disappointed me at all. The photos look identical to what I sent them both in color and tonal range. So, they definitely get props here for a job well done!
For this project, I wanted to limit expenses as hard cover books are significantly more expensive. So, going with a soft cover route, the quality of the binding becomes more relevant because the last thing you want is to have the pages of your book fall out over time. In the print world, I understand that the options with soft covers are limited to stapled and glued routes.
In general, glued bindings probably give a more professional appearance, as staples can be unsightly. On the flip side, glue can soften and pages can fall out over time, whereas with stapled books, they are more likely to stay held together. The folks at Mpix went with the stapled route, and I gotta say, the staples were not off-putting to me at all. This may be different if I chose another cover image, but with a darker print as the cover, the staples worked out nicely.
You can kind of see a little wear and tear already along the edge of the fold, but I guess (in hindsight), with a soft cover, that’s to be expected. Given the wear I am seeing though, the next time I may select a canvas cover or a lay-flat cover to provide a little more protection. The pages on the inside of the book seem fine, and as long as I am not throwing it around like a frisbee, they are a good weight, and thickness. Barring abuse and such, this should hold up well.
Judging the value of a product is hard to do because while as a general rule, you tend to get what you pay for, other factors go into the equation. Elements such as image quality, turn around time, and packaging all factor into the value. Given the retail cost of this product of $39 through Mpix Pro (I put together an 8.5″ square book with 40 pages), I’d say it was pretty good. When you factor in the cover and the back, and the insides of each, it’s actually 44 pages of printed images for $39. Shipping, of course, is extra, so let’s say for easy math that it’s $50 for a 40 page book. I’d say it’s very competitive at $1.25 per page.
For delivery I looked at two things – how was the product packaged, and what was the time frame for said delivery. With Mpix, I’ve always been impressed with their shrink-wrapping and air gaps to protect products from getting dinged and damaged during shipment, so kudos there. They also get high marks for the fastest response time. Within 5 days of submitting my order, I was in possession of the book. Now granted, they are in Kansas, and I am in Colorado, so shipment here was probably easier than average, but since I also have gotten similar delivery in the past when I lived elsewhere (South Carolina and products sent to NY and PA), I’d say they get high marks for a good turnaround time.
Here’s the rest of the sample shots of the photo book:
Photo Book Cover
Front and Back Cover
In the five categories, Mpix gets high marks in 4 of the five. The one category that wasn’t really scored was binding – and this is a tough one to judge too, as the longevity over time is really what defines the durability of a binding. Since I have only had the photo book now for a couple weeks, it’s kind of difficult to judge that category, but outside the cover deterioration from a lot of handling, can approximate that the interior pages will hold up well.
There’s more photo books to come from other vendors too, like Nations Photo Lab, and a few other online printers, so stay tuned for future reviews as well. If you have your own favorite printer, by all means, sound off in the comments! What do you like? What criteria do you look for? What don’t you like? As always, I love to hear feedback, so feel free to chime in! Until tomorrow – happy shooting!
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custom photo books .
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Photo books, photo books guide, how to make photo books.
CVS makes it easy for you to customize your lasting keepsake by offering a simple three-step process in curating your photo book. Even if being tech-savvy is not your style, CVS Photo ensures absolutely anyone can create their giftable treasures online with proficiency. Starting with your favorite photos on social media or your phone and tablet, you can smoothly upload your snapshots to CVS Photo online. Choosing from your favorite photos is the hardest part, and now all you need to do is narrow down the size and style of the photo book you desire. To make the photo book your own, you may wish to add text, embellishments, or a specific layout of your photos to tell a story. Themed photo books are also available to match your special occasion.
What Are Some Photo Book Ideas?
Whether you are creating a photo book for your own coffee table as a conversation piece highlighting your recent travels or gifting the personalized keepsake for a loved one, teacher, or coach, the possibilities for photo books can be paired to any of your favorite people. Photo books can also be extended to your favorite furry friends, honoring them from puppyhood and throughout their joyful lives with you.
How Soon Can I Get Photo Books From CVS?
While some photo books can be created online and picked up at your local CVS later on that very day, other variations may require some time to ship, with delivery offered in 1-2 weeks.
What Are CVS Photo Books Made From?
Hardcover, softcover, custom covers, and different bindings in a glossy finish or velvet matte allow you to choose from a variety of styles to fully personalize your photo book from beginning to end. The bindings can also contain thick, layflat pages for a satin sheen on every page, or contain extra-thick, seamless bindings to highlight a smooth two-page spread of a single image.
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What You Get
- A unique gift idea
- Create up to 20 pages of photos
- Add special text and messages to each page
- Printed on high quality lay-flat paper
- $16.95 for a 8.5x11 black linen photo book with window (a $42.93 value)
- $16.95 for a 8.5x11 white linen photo book with window (a $42.93 value)
- $22.60 for a 8.5x11 black leatherette photo book with window (a $50.84 value)
- $22.60 for an 8.5x11 black leatherette photo book with no window (a $45.19 value)
- $22.60 for a 8.5x11 beige eco-canvas photo book with window ($45.19 value)
What You Need To Know
- Expires January 20, 2016
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Best photo books 2023
The very best photo books you can create from your own photos and order online
Easy to use, with plenty of designs to choose from and a high-quality finish, Mixbook is our top choice for photo books.
The best photo books can be the visual equivalent of a mixtape - curated with love and care, they are capable of evoking feelings and bringing back memories. And unlike a battered C90 in the tape deck of your car, they are only enhanced by the fact we all carry a smartphone in our pocket these days.
As a thoughtful gift for a loved one or family member, a photo book is hard to beat. Spend some time collecting images from special occasions, and you can guarantee a long-lasting, treasured reminder of happy days. They’re a versatile gift, endlessly adaptable to weddings, vacations, celebrations and more besides.
Any of the services we’ve collected here can create such a book for you, so we’ve tried and tested the best photo books, scoring them in terms of how good their print quality is, what the layout options for the pages were, and how quickly they could be printed and delivered. The image quality delivered by the finished article was the most important criterion, followed shortly by how versatile the book was.
Mixbook comes in at the top of our rankings, but we didn’t find a digital photo book that was actually bad - they are all highly rated and your choice comes down to the one that best fits your needs.
Books aren’t the only digital printing options we’ve looked into. We have guides to the best photo cards , for when you want to send a special message with only one image attached, as well as the best greeting card software , for you to create your own.
1. Mixbook: Best photo book overall
Why you can trust Top Ten Reviews Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test .
Mixbook Photo Book
Our expert review:
Reasons to buy, reasons to avoid.
Mixbook scored solidly across all of our testing categories. The photo books we received were of a high standard, with sharp pictures, accurate colours and quality paper. More importantly, the company has also got a really watertight guarantee, which allows you to return your product for a full refund if it doesn’t come up to scratch in any way.
Another reason we really like Mixbook is that it makes the whole process of creating a photo book feel fun. When we were reviewing services, we found that it takes roughly three hours to create and finish an album. But thanks to Mixbook’s brilliant array of designs, and its ability to easily pull pictures from multiple social media streams and computer drives, the whole activity felt like a breeze.
In addition to the thousands of backgrounds and stickers available, Mixbook also regularly releases new designs and has a genuinely engaging blog that’s populated with interesting tips. There are some Martha Stewart designs on there at the moment, along with posts detailing the best way to go about making a family recipe book. Of course, you can also start designing your book from an entirely blank canvas, too.
When it comes to printing, Mixbook gives you eight book sizes and five cover materials to choose from. Handily, the site will give you a warning if your photos are too small and at risk of looking pixelated. You’ll also get a discount if you order a large number of photobooks and you can even rush shipping for an extra fee.
- Read our Mixbook Photo Books review (opens in new tab)
2. Shutterfly: Best value photo books
This is a great budget option, with plenty of regular sales appearing on site and a base price that’s very reasonable, too. The compact 6 x 6 photo book option can cost as little as $19.98 and lets you print images across 20 pages. We found that the company delivered high quality goods. When we used the service to print our own book, it had great crisp images and excellent color reproduction.
Like Mixbook, Shutterfly allows you to pull in images from your social media feeds, and you can also rush shipping if you need it printed in a hurry. However, do be aware that the refund isn’t quite as watertight as the one offered by Mixbook. Shutterfly will only refund you if the product is faulty - if you make a mistake, you’ll have to take the financial hit.
The site doesn’t offer quite as many customization options as our top-rated photo book printing service, either. Although it has recently overhauled its book building experience, offering customers the chance to whizz through the process in a smaller amount of time.
- Read our ShutterFly Photo Books review (opens in new tab)
3. Artifact Uprising: Best for high quality prints and gifts
This definitely isn’t the cheapest option, but in our tests it scored the highest in terms of quality. Also of note is that this is the only service we tested that has a focus on sustainability, giving you the option to pick recycled paper for your prints.
You can produce some really beautiful hardcover books on this site, including vacation mementos and baby albums. A lot of the books come with the option of adding linen covers, which is a nice touch, and while it doesn’t have the widest selection of designs, the ones it does offer are really sleek, modern creations.
It also offers a bespoke service, where someone curates images and designs your layout for you. This can cost in excess of $100, though, so it’s not a service that everyone will want to use. If you’re looking for a cheaper option, Artifact Uprising also offers a softcover book starting from $15. But for this price, you could also get a more customizable product from somewhere like Shutterfly.
In general, we’d recommend Artifact Uprising for when you really want to go all out on an expensive, high quality product, as this is where the company excels.
4. Printique: Ideal for special occasions
This company is well known for its high standards. When we tested it out, it was miles ahead in terms of printing quality, yielding the best photo clarity and color accuracy of all the services we tested. However, that luxury comes at a cost – a 20 page, hardcover book will cost you $49.99 at minimum.
That’s why we recommend this option for when you really want to commemorate a special event. It’s perfect for wedding pictures, for example. You can choose between several different types of paper, including glossy, luster and deep matte varieties. So while $49.99 might sound like a lot, you really are getting the best quality out there. And like a lot of the other services in this guide, there are regular discounts available to bring down that price.
There are thousands of design and layout choices to pick from, and it’s easy to pull in photos from places like Facebook, Google Photos, Flickr, Instagram, Dropbox and Amazon. It has a slightly complicated design process compared to other platforms, so it may take you a little longer to build something you're satisfied with (although if you’re committed to making the best photo book you can, we recommend you put aside a couple of hours for each project regardless.)
Printique offers 15 photo book sizes, whether landscape, portrait, square or horizontal-spine. It’s worth noting, though, that the book sizes are slightly unusual: for example, it sells an 8 x 12, 8 x 10 and 12 x 15 instead of the typical 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 14 options.
5. Meijer Photo: Great for customer service
Meijer Photo is a US institution, and it is generally well loved by its satisfied customers. If you're buying a photo book from here you have the comfort of knowing that this is an established and trusted provider, and you can even visit a brick and mortar store if you want to collect quickly, or you have a problem with your order. While we didn't see any kind of money back guarantee with Meijer, we're fairly sure that most issues can be resolved quickly and easily in store.
Meijer has good print quality too, and its range of photo books - while limited - are good quality. You'll pay a low price for all photo products from here too, and if it wasn't for the frequent promotions run by sites like Mixbook and Shutterfly, this would rank as our cheapest provider overall.
The site is easy enough to use, but what Meijer really lacks is a wide variety of options when it comes to photo books. This is a pretty vanilla printing business, so lacks the range and features of more specialized providers. If you want to shop here because you know and trust Meijer, you'll get a good photo book, but there are better options out there.
6. Photobook: Best for versatility
If you want to get really creative with your photo book, then you'll need some software with a great range of tools. Photobook impresses in this area, the Malaysia-founded website providing an extensive palette with which you can design your masterpiece. Whether you're looking to expand, crop, rotate or put frames around your images, Photobook enables you to do it with ease. And if you do get stuck during the process, there are a bunch of 'how to' videos, along with a live chat service, to help you.
Our experts found that the images came out a little dark or grainy at times, but on the whole were satisfactory. Should you be disappointed with your final product, Photobook offers a 100% quality guarantee that enables customers to get a full refund if they're not entirely happy.
The other thing to say about Photobook is that it offers a huge range of other picture-based products, from calendars to kitchen aprons. There are also a number of branded items from your favorite high-street stores, which can be personalized with the name of your loved one for a gift that they're sure to cherish.
7. Snapfish: Best for extra photo gifts
Snapfish and Shutterfly have now technically been merged, but the companies remain distinct in terms of the services they offer. Snapfish is certainly still one of the largest photo printing services in the world - but this comes with advantages and disadvantages.
On the positive side of things, the company offers some great prices if you’re looking to bulk buy printed gifts. In addition to photo books, it also offers custom mugs, keyrings, pillows and face masks. Discounts regularly appear on site, so you can get some genuinely good offers here, especially if you need products printed for corporate events.
However, in our tests, the quality of the printing wasn’t quite as good as some of the company’s main competitors (like Mixbook.) Moreover, the experience of creating the photo book wasn’t as enjoyable. The site is a nightmare to navigate, with various pop-ups appearing on screen as you try to reach the checkout, pushing extra features and products. The designs aren’t as inspiring as competitors, either, as they’re all very basic.
It’s a good option if you have simple needs, and want to prioritise saving money, but other services provide better quality.
8. Amazon Prints: A cheap service
Amazon Prints is a good option if you're looking to create a stylish and affordable photo book, as long as you’re not looking for the level of customisation offered by the services above. Our test photo book had a high print quality and was well built – despite it being the cheapest in our guide.
You can manually choose your backgrounds, stickers and the placement of your photos. The interface gives you the freedom to create your own layouts, and lets you crop and zoom into photos as you please. It also warns you if your photos are too low-res and will print blurry, which is helpful. The process, however, is very complicated and you may struggle to use it.
If you need to make a photo book in a hurry, you can choose from among the 13 pre-designed photo books and use the autofill feature. This photo book service also enables you to share images with other Amazon users to create collaborative photo projects.
It’s good to know that any purchases over $15 automatically receive free standard shipping. This can cost between $5 and $13 with other photo book services, so it’s a significant saving. Amazon Prints also offers a strong money-back guarantee.
9. Walmart Photo Books: Very fast creation
If you need a photo book in a hurry, Walmart Photo is probably the best option for you. While the print quality isn’t as good as the other services, it's possible to create a book online or in-store and pick it up just an hour later.
Walmart Photo is also one of the cheapest photo book services online. But, as you’d expect, the lower cost means lower quality and fewer options. You don’t get as much control or creative freedom as the other photo book creators in this guide, and the design tool is harder to use. For example, we couldn’t fit the cover image to the design window and so some of the people were cropped out and the photo became distorted. Nevertheless, if you need a photo book now , Walmart Photo is your best bet.
How much does a photo book cost?
The price of photobooks varies by service, as you might expect. But to get a good idea prices for a 20-page 8.5 x 11-inch book usually start at around the $30 mark and hit $46 at the top end.
The other factor to take into consideration with price is shipping, which is usually charged as extra. This can be as much as $10 so it's worth shopping around on this factor too. On top of that there can be tax added too, with as much as $8 added in our testing. All this varies by the number you order, how close you live to the printer and the state you live in.
Is it worth using a photo book printing service?
Despite all the costs mentioned, this is a service that pays for itself when you see the end result. No matter how good your home printer and arts-and-crafts skills might be, you'll struggle to match the quality of the end results that these professional services offer.
So even if you have the best graphic design software (opens in new tab) and high quality printers (opens in new tab) available to you, a photo book printing service is easier and can offer better results.
How long does it take to design a photo book?
How long you want to spend perfecting your photo book is up to you but generally speaking most top end options have easy to use software. As such you can whip up a winning photo book in as little as 30 minutes. These can pull in photos from social media or your device, making that otherwise tough part, simple.
It's best to take your time over your photo book though, spending a few hours to get it just right. This means a better end result. Of course if you need to digitize photos too, add that time on.
What are express photo books?
If you're in a real hurry to get your photo book, perhaps as a gift, then express photo books may be helpful. These are same-day photo printing services which allow you to pick up your photo book from a physical store. Some places where you can take advantage of this are Walmart Photo, CVS Photo or Walgreens Photo. Each of these offers an impressive one-hour pick-up time.
By comparison most other online services are going to take a few days, or even a week, to have your book printed and delivered to you. While these can mean you save money over express services, it does mean you need to plan ahead.
What are bespoke photo books?
If all this sounds like too much effort, there are bespoke photo book services that take even more of the work out of it for you. Services like Artifact Uprising offer professional designers who will do the legwork for you, for an additional fee of course.
All you need to do is get them the photos, tell them the sizes you want for the end result and have them go to work. You can then review and adjust before deciding on the final outcome.
How do photo book subscriptions work?
If that automation idea sounds good to you then a subscription service could be ideal. Photo subscriptions from the likes of Chatbooks, mean you'll be sent a photo book each month based on the photos from your smartphone, Instagram, Facebook and Google Photos.
Charged at $10 per softcover, or $15 for hardcovers, these books are shipped for free and are created for every 60 new photos.
Photo book options
When you are buying a photo book, there are many things to consider outside of the cover design. It can be tempting to pick the prettiest cover, but measurements of size, layout options, and paper quality matter too.
If you are new to buying a photo book, here are some important things to keep in mind before adding one to your cart.
Size, shape and orientation
Most photo books are available in the 8.5 x 11-inch size, ideal for landscape photos. This is great for you if you have tons of average-sized horizontal photos. You can also get bigger, 14 x 11-inch photo books for larger-than-average snaps.
While this works great for landscape photography, it may not be the best option for you if you are a fan of portrait photos. Selfie lovers should opt for vertical-oriented photo books that perfectly accommodate tall and narrow photos.
Paper quality might seem like an afterthought for photo books, but the right paper quality can actually change the whole look of your photo book. The most popular paper qualities include a glossy, matte, or luster finish, all of which look great depending on the theme of your photos.
If you have vibrant photos with vivid colors, it’s best to opt for glossy paper, while a matte finish is ideal for a neutral or serious vibe. A luster finish is a good option if you want something bright but not super glossy.
If you are looking for premium quality, opt for Lay Flat, which a fine paper made of extra thick cardstock for firmness and shape retention. This is best if you want your photos to lay flat in the book (instead of the curved shape most photo books offer).
Cover and binding
Now comes the best part: choosing the cover. This is one of the first things people consider when buying an album.
Along with a great design, the “feel” of a photo album can also add to the nostalgic experience. Most popular cover options include leather and velvet as they offer a premium look for special photos.
When choosing a cover, also look at the binding. Is it strong and durable to sustain regular use? Or is it pretty but delicate, making it suitable for rare use?
A good layout can make or break your photo book. The layout defines how your photos are arranged in the book. Here are some great questions to ask yourself to find the right layout:
Are all photos horizontal or is it a mix of landscape and portrait orientation? Is there space for taking notes and marketing dates? Can you change the layout or is it fixed?
Use photo books for online photo album storage
Lots of photo book services are happy for you to use their server space to store your photos. That means you can upload all your pictures as you take them for online backup with unlimited space. Not only does this mean your photos are secure but it's also easier than ever to create photo books, photo cards, canvas prints, photo paper prints, iPhone cases, gift mugs and more.
Some services, like Amazon Photo with Amazon Prints, will even recognise faces allowing you to create people specific albums more automatically. These also let you organize photos but to do this really well it's worth looking at good quality photo organizing software (opens in new tab) .
Digitizing photos for your album
If you’ve been in the photography scene for a while, chances are you have analog photos you’d like to feature in a photo book. But to do so, you need to digitize them.
The easiest way to do this is with a scanner, often found on an all-in-one printer . However, if you don’t have a scanner, time or the inclination to digitize your photos yourself, we recommend using a photo scanning service .
If you have old slides you’d like to include in your photo books, you'll also need to convert them to digital media. As stated previously, you can always use a photo scanning service. But if you want to save some money and do the conversions yourself, we recommend investing in a slide to digital image converter . Keep in mind that this process, while not difficult, does take an investment of time if you have a lot of slides to get through, and it isn’t the most exciting work.
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Andy was the previous Editor-in-Chief of Top Ten Reviews. With over 18 years experience in both online and print journalism, Andy has worked for a host of world-leading tech and gaming brands, including PC Gamer and GamesRadar. He specializes in photography, technology and smart home, and has provided expert comment for sites like The Guardian. In his spare time Andy is an amateur photographer, and teaches at the National Film and TV School.
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Pros: Intuitive and user-friendly design tools · Cons: Users have reported some quality issues that can be hard to resolve with the customer
It's no surprise that the makers of the Easy button take a pretty no frills approach to photo books. Staples offers few creative flourishes
The folks at Mpix went with the stapled route, and I gotta say, the staples were not off-putting to me at all. This may be different if I chose another cover
Photo > Photo Books. Custom Photo Books · Same Day Photo Books. High quality Photo books available for same day pickup. · Shop By Photo Book Size. Make Your Own
Custom Photo Books from Staples Starting at $16.95 · $16.95 for a 8.5x11 black linen photo book with window (a $42.93 value) · $16.95 for a 8.5x11 white linen
Mixbook comes in at the top of our rankings, but we didn't find a digital photo book that was actually bad - they are all highly rated and your
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