I’ve been using Booksmart from Blurb.com to put together a memorial book for Peter. We’ve collected photos, stories, and appreciations from people from all parts of his life. I downloaded the Booksmart software and use their templates to lay out the pages.
It allows a certain amount of flexibility (not as much as I would like, though not bad) in page layout, with a choice of pages that are all text, text with some photos, photos with some text, or all photos, of various numbers and sizes. It ensures that I don’t try to print a picture too big for the image available. Once I learned the hazards (e.g., reformatting a page with text on it can result in lost text) and workarounds (don’t reformat an existing page, create a new one and delete the old) it worked well. You import photos and then have a collection of thumbnails of them to draw from. It marks those that have been used. You can zoom in on a page, see 2 pages at once, or look at the whole book in thumbnail. It shows which pages will be facing one another. It’s easy to move pages around and to navigate around the book, using thumbnails of the pages.
Once the book is finished, I’ll upload the book to them and order printed copies from them. I ordered a couple of softcover copies of the work in progress and the result was good quality, on heavy, glossy paper. The copies came quickly — within a week. Faster than their site estimates; I probably caught them at a good time when they didn’t have a backlog.
Once it’s uploaded, we can send people the URL to order their own copies. (Once it’s done I’ll post the URL here.) You can also make your book public and try to sell it through Blurb.
I found out about them from a friend at Flickr, which is now contracting with them. It’s just what we needed for this project, and good quality.