In November 2015 I made a book of my Iceland work to that point with a company named Artisan State. I intended to do this review earlier, but time ran away with me, and Artisan State are now called Zno. They are still the same great company though, with some really cool products, so today I’m going to talk about my Flush Mount Album, which is a Layflat book and touch on the system at Zno that I used to create the book.
[UPDATE: Before you continue reading or listening, I’d like to draw your attention to a number of very concerning issues that I’m hearing about the quality of Zno products since they changed their name from Artisan State. I’m hearing horror stories about color casts in the printing, and books literally coming unglued and falling apart. Their customer services seem to have bombed too. Please take the following as a review of a previous Artisan State book, not a Zno book.
UPDATE June 2018: Since hearing these horror stories, I am also now receiving comments confirming that Zno may have overcome the problems they were facing, and the quality that I talked about in my review MAY have been restored. Please read all the comments below the post for the bigger picture, and maybe consider a smaller test book before placing a more substantial order.]
To give you a little background on my project, my main aim as I set out to create my book was to see if Zno’s Flush Mount Album Layflat books were really as good as they looked on their web site. I could have just ordered their $5 sample book, but patience isn’t one of my key qualities, so I jumped right in and made a 70 page book with a genuine leather cover and cameo window, and had them put it into a handmade leatherette case.
As I got more and more excited about the project, I added text to the book and started to think that I’d actually like to make the book available to buy, and that’s how I ended the project, but I actually think the cost of this maxed out spec book might be a little bit prohibitive to make available as a fine art coffee table book, and that’s kind of why it just sat on a chair in my studio for the last seven months, as I tried to figure out what to do with it.
Regardless of that though, I’m still very happy with the book, and although expensive, I think they have many uses for the photographer, a lot of which could easily offset the high price for the unique and beautiful presentation piece that they are. They are actually so easy to make and with such a quick production turnover, at the very least, from now on I’m going to be using them as stake-in-the-ground records of my work at various junctures in my career.
For example, the Iceland project that we’ll look at today is based on work from three tours in Iceland from 2013 to 2015. Three feels like a good number to me, and I felt that I was really starting to do Iceland justice, so a book felt right. The next project I’m going to do is a Namibia book. It will only be two year’s work, but I’m already having trouble deciding on the final images for the book, I have that many that I’m happy with.
I can see these becoming a nice reminder of where I was at the various staging in my career, and I will probably also put them on a table in a future exhibition, for people to browse through to get a feel for my work on the whole, and not just the theme of the actual exhibition.
Of course wedding or portrait photographers could churn these books out as part of their service package, and again, as a one off, the price wouldn’t seem so prohibitive. I’m sure a newly wed couple would even consider having the top of the line version for themselves with a leather cover etc. and then get a less expensive copy done for family members.
My Iceland Book
Anyway, let’s jump in and take a look at a few photos of my Iceland book so that you can see the quality that we’re talking about here. I chose to create a 14 x 11 inch portrait orientation book. This means when you open the book, it’s will give you a 14 x 22 inch double page spread, which is just a little bit shorter than a 3:2 aspect ratio, which is the native ratio for my photographs. I actually lose just a little bit on the height, but because we’re going to trim off a little bit around all edges in the bleed of each page, it works out just about perfect.
I chose the Metallic finish, because it uses Fuji Pearl media, which I felt was probably going to give me the best gloss reproduction for my images. The resulting book doesn’t even really look Metallic, so the name is somewhat misleading, but it looks incredible all the same. Other options at this point in time (June 2016) are Lustre and Artisan Matte. I think I’m going to try the Artisan Matte for my next book, as I’m sure it’s beautiful too.
As you can see in this photo (below) I added a cameo window, and added a representative photo from my Iceland work to the front cover. It costs just $10 to add the cameo, and I think it makes a beautiful accent, especially when you first open the case.
I knew from the start that I wanted to max out the number of pages in my book, so I chose the thin page, which might sound weird as we continue to look at this book, but in the Flush Mount Album, the thin page is actually still 0.8mm in thickness, and this gives enables you to go to up to 70 pages. Note though that this actually includes both sides of 35 sheets.
If you opt for the Thick paper, it’s 1.3mm, with a maximum of 25 sheets, or 50 pages, and the Rigid paper, available only if you sign up for the Pro Plan, are a whopping 2.0mm thick, with a maximum of 30 pages, so that’s 15 sheets.
Lay flat Books
The coolest thing about these books though, is that they lay almost totally flat as you flick through the pages. It’s not quite as flat as the Zno marketing images would have you believe, but it’s pretty close, as you can see in this photo (below) of the last page of my Iceland book. Like I said, I was thinking to sell this book, so Included a place to number and sign the book at the back.
The beauty of the Layflat Library Binding of course, is that you don’t lose any of your image in the gutter that runs down the middle of the each double page spread. This means that you can lay out the book with landscape orientation images spanning both pages without fear of them looking strange around the gutter, as you can see here (below).
The line down the middle of the open book is actually more pronounced in this photo than when you look at the books in normal light, because I was lighting the book from either side to take these photographs. Excuse the scrappy processing along the top shadow in this photo too. I was running into problems with Lightroom and ran out of time to take these images into Photoshop.
Only One Negative Impression
We’ll take a look at some of the key aspects of making a book on Zno in a moment, but before that, I’d like to mention just one slightly negative impression that I got from the Zno service. As you can see in this photo (below) the Presentation Box that you can add as an option for your book, in my opinion, opens along the wrong side.
I ordered the Portrait 14 x 11 inch Presentation Box, and I expected it to open along the top edge, so that I would be looking at the book in the correct orientation, and the box opens at the top, along the short edge. However, when my package arrived, I was surprise to see that it opened along the long edge, so my book is essentially rotated 90 degrees clockwise when I open the box.
Straight away I contacted the Zno support team, and asked for a replacement. I assumed they’d packed the wrong orientation box. They came back to me saying that it was correct, and they would not give. After a few rounds of communication, I found that both their Landscape 11 x 14 inch box and their Portrait 14 x 11 box are identical. They both open along the long edge.
This to me is absolutely ridiculous. First of all, if that’s the case, they should just have one option for an 11 x 14 inch box, not a Landscape and Portrait option. But, as I mentioned to the support team at the time, I find this to be a really quite poor decision on their part. If I’m going to be paying more than $700 for a book of this quality, I really want the presentation to be 100%, and I don’t feel they have achieved that with the design of this box. Other than this, I’ve been very happy with Zno, but they’ve messed up big time on this in my opinion.
Making Your Zno Book
OK, so let’s quickly also look at how you go about making a book with the Zno system. I’m not going to do a tutorial as such, because the system is really so easy, I don’t think it’s necessary. Plus, there are a lot of different options, and other products, such as wall art, calendars and custom clothing, and I can’t cover them all, so let’s just touch on the key aspects of creating a book to get you started.
To start the process of creating a book, you can simply navigate to the page for the style of book you want to make on the Zno web site, enter your options then click the button below the options to actually make a book. If you don’t yet have an account, you can register right there, or login if you do have an account.
Once you have an account and know what you want, you can simply login, and click on the Create link at the top of the page, and start selecting your options. Don’t worry too much about the settings that you chose initially, as you can change them later with the Book Options link at the top of the page once you are editing your book, as you can see in this screenshot (below). Don’t forget you can click on the images to view them larger. To stop the images from automatically advancing, just hover your mouse over it.
You can also get to your old or unfinished projects by clicking My Projects under the My Stuff menu once logged in. I’ve opened my new Namibia book project to show you what it looks like as we get started on the process of putting this together. You can see that I’ve chosen a Rustic Brown Genuine Leather cover this time, as I think that suits Namibia well. I’m also going to Artisan Matte paper, partly to see what it looks like, but I also think that will suit the content better.
Before you upload your images to place them into your book, I’d recommend downloading the Zno ICC color profiles and installing them on your computer, so that you can soft proof your images in Lightroom or Photoshop. Just click on support and search for “ICC profiles” and you’ll see a page from which you can download them. In the Lightroom Develop module, hit the S key on your keyboard to enter the Soft Proofing mode, and the first time you use a new profile you need to click Other at the bottom of the Profile pulldown, and tell Lightroom which Profiles to load. Then just run through your chosen images to ensure that they look OK. If you need to adjust the images, as long as you are still in Soft Proofing mode, Lightroom will offer to make a virtual copy of your images which I love!
Once you’ve soft proofed and adjusted your images, you’ll need to export them at 300 dpi in the sRGB color space, then hit the Upload button under the Images tab in the left sidebar of the Zno Book Editor page, and select the files that you want to upload. Once you’ve selected your images you have to hit the Upload button to actually start the upload. I’ve only uploaded a handful of images for now, for the Namibia album, as I haven’t finished my final selection for the book yet.
Note that I didn’t resize my images for the book. Zno doesn’t say that you need to, and I would prefer to keep all the detail available in the images, so I just export at full size. Once you’ve finished uploading your images, placing them on a page is just a case of dragging them to the page from the left sidebar. As you can see in this screenshot, I’ve started by dragging a photo of a Himba girl to the cameo window on the cover of my Namibia book.
On the main pages of your book, before you drag your image to the layout, select a Layout from the selection at the bottom of the Book Editor window. I’m going to select the full page layout, which is the third from the right in this screenshot (below). Note that because we’re going to lose a little bit of the top and bottom of the image in this aspect ratio book, you can click the Crop button from the toolbar below the image, then grab the image and move it up or down to get a better crop. I’ve moved this first image down to decrease the dark area and show more of the sky.
Note too that you will lose some if not all of the image that is displayed after the little red line that you can see around the edges of the page. If you prefer to just see the image without the bleed area, click on the eye icon in the toolbar of the Book Editor.
If you want to layout two portrait orientation images on a page, click the “change” option in the bottom toolbar, next to where it says “Select Layouts for 1 image”, and select “Images 2”, and you’ll see a whole new rage of layouts to choose from. Have a poke around in the other numbered selections as well, to see what’s available. The number of options is really quite astounding.
Pretty much all of the elements that you can add via the Layout presets are customizable. If you need to add text, just click on the “T” button in the top toolbar, and you can add a text box anywhere on the page, and change the font, the character size and color and justification all with the toolbar below the text box, as you can see in this screenshot (below).
OK, so I’m getting carried away talking about the options, but hopefully this has given you an idea of how easy it is to create a beautiful book in the Zno Book Editor. It is possible to download templates and create the pages yourself on your computer, but I honestly think that with this much power in the online editor, for me at least, I can’t see me ever going to the trouble.
If you need to leave your project for a while, just click Save in the toolbar at the top of the page, and I usually then click the Zno logo in the far top left of that toolbar to leave the page. You are actually then asked again if you want to save the project, and I do save it again. From there, you can get back to your project from the My Stuff menu, as I mentioned earlier, and pick up where you left off. You can also go back to your old projects and order a new copy at any time.
At this point in time, to order a copy of my Iceland book, as an example, with the Genuine Leather cover with the maximum number of Thin sheets, which is 35, it would cost $676 dollars. The leatherette Presentation Box with the hinge on the wrong side is an additional $45, so you’re looking at $721 for the products, plus a ridiculously low shipping cost of $15, or $25 for priority shipping. You can also add $5 for Drop Shipping, and then Zno will not include any of their marketing material, so you could ship your book directly to a customer.
I should of course also mention once again that my Iceland book pretty much maxed out the specs, which is another reason it was so expensive. There are other much cheaper covers, such as a Paper Cover from $30 and Hard Covers from $35. The Linen Cover starts at $40 and the Bling Covers are the same as the Leather Covers, starting at $45. There actually is one more expensive cover, which is the Crystal Cover from $70, which looks amazing, as does the Metal Cover which is only available to Pro Plan members.
Over the last seven months or so since signing up, I’ve often received discount codes, to reduce this, and if you sign up for the Pro Plan, you can start to make further savings, but these are the standard prices that I’m seeing as of June 2016, and obviously these are subject to change.
Apart from my disappointment regarding the hinging of the Presentation Box, I have actually fallen head over heals in love with Zno’s books, which is why I’ve put this review together today. I will be working on my second book of my Namibia work in the coming months, and may share my thoughts on that too if you are interested. I’ll also probably create some other books with the various covers over time, just to check them out.
If you are interested, do head over to zno.com and check out their product line-up. You might also try one of their trial products, which they sell for just $5 to give you a taste of their quality. There aren’t many companies that are that confident in their products, but for good reason, Zno seem to be just that confident.
Zno’s web site: http://www.zno.com/
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