May 4, 2005 A new web-based service that offers personalised single-copy high-quality coffee-table books could give the humble book a new life in the digital age. Books have been the principle medium of knowledge distribution for five hundred years until the coming of the internet and the digital distribution of words, sound, images and video. With the arrival of the Digital Age, the book has lost some of its allure, being seen as low-tech in a high-tech age although it remains the most user-friendly of all mediums. In offering everybody the ability to produce a one-off or very-short-run book of premium quality at a cost-effective price, Australian-based Momento has redefined the short-run book publishing market and opened up myriad new and exciting publishing opportunities. Already the service is being used by companies, photographers and artists as short-run portfolios, as special “this is your life”gifts for loved ones and retiring employees, baby books and the overwhelming favourite … wedding albums. The coming launch of the service to professionals will also enable photographers and communications companies to offer sizes up to A3, leather binding … and professional value-added services.
Having a book published is still one of the great dreams of the modern age. Most aspiring, working or retired creatives have at least one book under the bed and there are equally as many people who would appreciate having their life’s work captured within the pages of one volume, regardless of their field of endeavour.
Now it’s possible to fulfil that dream, and whatsmore, you can do it for under US$100 – Momento pricing is loosely based on AUD$80 plus AUD$1.00 a page. So a 100 page book, will cost AUD$180 (approx US$140) and a 150 page book (which is the maximum size available through the web-based system), will cost AUD$230 (US$180). There are also discounts available for two (5%), five (10%), ten (15%), 50 (20%) and 100 (25%) orders of the same book. You can also order a protective cover sleeve for the book printed to your own design for a further AUD$25 each.
The books can be created in four different sizes via Momento’s web site and free software package (A4 landscape, A4 square, A5 landscape and A5 square) and nine sizes are available through professional resellers (A3, A4 and A5 with portrait, landscape and square formats in each size).
For those not familiar with printing terms, those sizes are A3 (297 x 420 mm), A4 (210 x 297 mm) and A5 (148 x 210 mm) with square versions having the greater dimension and every book is hand stitched and bound with a hard linen cover and comes in a protective cover sleeve of your own design.
The Momento service came from the creative partnership of two of Australia’s best-known multimedia identities.
“Momento stemmed from me being an advanced amateur photographer and technology lover wanting a better format for presenting my many photos beyond just handing around a bunch of six by fours in an envelope,” said Momento co-founder Geoff Hunt.
“Digital photography has completely reinvented every single aspect of the photographic experience except one – there has to be something better than an envelope full of six by fours.”
The other co-founder of Momento and Geoff's life partner, is Libby Jeffery, who at the time of conceptualisation, was the NSW President of the Australian Interactive Multimedia Industry Association.
Libby believes that, "it's important for us to print the hundreds of digital photos hiding on our computers, so we can preserve our photo memories for future generations. Technology and digitisation is great but there's nothing better than holding a photo in your hand, and no better way to ensure that your photos can be seen in the coming decades, than printing it as a six by four or a photobook."
The Momento concept grew from there and has been operating in beta for more than a year, with the launch of Momento in October 2004 and launching fully to the public last month with a significantly enhanced version of the Momento’s free, DIY photobook software plus a broader range of book sizes.
Designing your Book
Momento's free composition software is windows based (Windows 98, SE and later) and designed “to offer something more than a template-based syste,” according to Hunt. The idea is that you design the photobook using the company’s free downloadable software and then upload the design you require and they print, bind and deliver the books to your door.
“For the average person we’ve tried to make it an easy, quick and creative solution for making a personalised contemporary photobook,” said Hunt.
The photo and page editing tools allow anyone to size, caption, crop, scale or frame their digital photos to produce great page layouts and a unique cover design, and Momento's powerful ACE technology (Aesthetic Composition Engine) can create brilliant page designs for you in an instant.
With more than twelve months of testing and refinement, the latest newly-released version of the software is now very advanced, with automated layout and pixelation-warning features if the size of your photos exceeds the resolution needed for optimum quality. There are graphics, text and framing tools in the software, as well as more frames, auto-alignment tools and the ability to control layers of images.
“There are a number of services on the internet that offer web-based book production but they nearly all offer low quality, low-cost spiral bound booklets and we decided very early to differentiate our product with very high quality,” said Hunt.
Momento Pro for Resellers and Photographers
For those people who don’t want to go to the trouble of designing their own book, or of turning the cardboard box full of old photos into digital images, Momento’s high quality book publishing service is now available through photographic studios and communication companies. The professional service will be officially launched at Photo Imaging World in Brisbane, and professional photographers wishing to add photobooks to their product range will be able to a offer a total photobook printing and production solution with autocomposition software, easy online ordering and a range of e-marketing tools.
One of the privileges of being a professional reseller of the Momento photobooks will be the ability to upload files for printing in PDF format for any number of pages, meaning that professionals who wish to offer extreme quality reproduction will be able to design entire books in professional software packages such as Adobe In Design and QuarkXpress, convert to PDF and have a hardback coffee table book delivered.
The Pro service also allows registered Momento Resellers to produce more sizes (A3, A4 and A5 in portrait, landscape and square formats) plus a range of premium cover materials, personalised branding, wholesale pricing and full ICC colour management.
As Momento doesn’t offer its services to the public outside Australia, resellers will be the sole suppliers to the rest of the world,via their web sites, until such time as Momento expands internationally.
Momento plans to open a United Kingdom operation later this year (2005) that will service the European consumer and professional markets and is currently seeking an American partner to offer its services in North and South America.
Momento’s web site already lists a large number of Australian-based resellers, many that also include scanning amongst their capabilities, hence enabling them the ability to turn that shoebox full of photos into digital form and subsequently into beautiful coffee-table books.
Many potential uses for short run books
Though it has only been at market for a short time, the photobook service has been adopted by consumer, professional and corporate markets in many ways already.
It’s an ideal output medium for anyone who already has an array of images in digital form. They might be on your hard disk, or they may be in one of the on-line photo management services such as Kodak’s Easyshare Gallery, Canon’s Fotango and Hewlett Packard’s Snapfish.
The Momento web site has a wide range of examples formatted beautifully that illustrate some of the more likely uses such as family histories, corporate showcases, travelogues, wedding albums, holiday snaps and baby books though there are many other logical opportunities to use the service creatively in areas such as professional portfolios, event marketing, corporate gifts and even proof books.
We’ve seen the quality and we’ll vouch for it – it is top quality and far beyond anything else we’ve witnessed for short run publishing.