Panstoria, the maker of Creative Memories StoryBook Creator, is launching their own line of photo books and other products through panstoria print shop. They also offer Artisan software. I received my first photo book yesterday and here is what I like, and what I don’t like. I directly compared Panstoria’s photo book to the same photos printed in a Creative Memories photo book. The photo book is a sample so it is possible some of the details may change prior to their official launch. I did not evaluate other photo products from Panstoria.
Packaging – Packaging is important, and the current packaging is inadequate. I received my photo book with what looked like a normal amount of wear from shipping. Unfortunately, the box was insufficient to protect the corners of the book from shipping damage. When I opened the package, the corners of the photo book were clearly damaged. Panstoria will need to improve packaging, or they will face significant returns and reprinting costs from shipping damage.
Print Quality – Panstoria’s photo books are clearly high quality with minimal flaws. When compared to Creative Memories, sometimes I preferred the Pansoria’s printing, and other times I preferred Creative Memories printing. Panstoria’s photo book had no noticeable banding, and black and white photos were neutral. One photo did show some magenta printing defects. When viewed up close, Panstoria’s prints appear slightly more grainy, possibly due to the vertical screen angle that is used. At normal viewing distance this graininess was not as noticeable. Some photos appear slightly darker in Panstoria’s photo books and this may be objectionable with some images. Overall, I would give the edge in print quality to Creative Memories. I expect improvements in print quality to take place over time, as Panstoria optimizes their color profiles and their Xerox iGen4 printing process.
Binding – Panstoria uses 25 gauge stainless steel wire stitching for hardcover binding, and PUR adhesive for softcover books. I contacted Werner Rebsamen with the Hardcover Binders International, and he specifically cautioned against the use of stainless steel wire for this purpose, indicating that similar bindings had failed prematurely when tested with the Universal Book Tester. In addition, ISO standards for hardcover books do not recommend metal stitching.
While Panstoria’s vendor has not done official burst testing, they did state, “What we found was that wire stitching doesn’t hold up to the fiber stitching when you try to pull the whole book block away from the cover (for example take the cover bend it all the way back and then pull the cover from the book block). It does however stand up better when trying to tear out an individual page. The wire stitching perforates the pages less so they are harder to tear our than a standard sewn book that may perforate each page 3 to 4 times more.”
Lay-flat pages significantly reduce the stress on hardcover bindings, and I recommend this option for hardcover photo books from Panstoria. PUR is the recommended approach to softcover books, so there should be no problem there.
Cover – Panstoria offers matte and glossy options. Glossy works well for all covers and I suggest this option for photo books with darker covers, since matte laminates make these covers look muddy. Unlike Creative Memories, Panstoria does not texture their covers. Panstoria offers a choice of black or white end papers, compared to Creative Memories spargo.
Warranty – Panstoria does not offer the same warranty that Creative Memories has typically provided, stating “We do 30 days for all workmanship defects free of charge (doesn’t include subjective determinations of print quality like my photo is too dark, or “that red isn’t the same as on my monitor” type issues). We just ask that they be reported within 30 days of the order.”
What this means is that you must inspect all books carefully when you get them, and if you don’t like the print quality, you may be out of luck.
Summary – I will use Panstora’s 12×12 softcover book for my photo books. The convenience of being able to create and order photo books in a single product is compelling. For special occasions, I will order the hardcover book with lay-flat pages.
Note added 9/24/2013: Cover texture is a matter of preference. Panstoria offers matte and glossy, instead of the textured glossy that CM uses. I like the textured glossy and selected it for CM; however, I am perfectly comfortable with the options Panstoria has available, just like I am comfortable with their end sheet options. I simply want to highlight some of the differences between photo books.