Tabblo books

Sunday 26 November 2006This is over 16 years old. Be careful.

We’ve just released our latest product at Tabblo: books! Now all the creative control we’ve given you for making online tabblos and posters is available for creating books from your photos.

It’s been a lot of hard work, but I think we have a kick-ass book editing experience. Lots of other sites let you make books, and they give you nice templates for laying out your photos, but they don’t give you a way to break out and make your own page designs. Tabblo gives you page layouts as a starting point, but then we let your creativity take over.

We’ve got two book products now: 9½×8-inch with a laminated wrap-around cover, and 4×4-inch with a black linen cover and a customizable sleeve. The 4×4 book is cool because it combines the size and portability of an informal book with the cover and style of a serious well-designed product.

To entice you to try it out, here’s a deal: the 4×4 book costs $10. Here’s a better deal: use the coupon code NED17 at check-out, and we’ll take $10 off your order, which means these little books are free. How can you pass that up?

Alright, enough selling. From an engineering perspective, this has been a really interesting progression. Tabblo started with online tabblos, and then offered posters. Posters begat postcards, and now we have books. At each step, we built on what we had, and added to it to make the next product. Each time we undertook this, we figured, “Well, it’s just a little different”. We anticipated the differences, and planned for them, and then learned as we went how a slight difference can really be a big difference.

For example, posters differed from online tabblos because they had a finite length. So we needed to address how to end the tabblo, and how to decide what fits and what doesn’t. Then we added multi-page posters, and we didn’t need to kick out any pictures, but we had to deal with pagination. We figured postcards were just like two-page posters, but they were also our first full-bleed product (that is, the photos could extend all the way to the edge of the paper).

At each step, we were challenged to extend the infrastructure to include the new member of the family. I think it has held up very well, if I do say so myself.

And books, too, “are the same, except...”. Books have brought with them a number of challenges in all areas: data model, editing, production, and so on. Some are big and obvious (covers!), while others seemed simple but turned out to have deep roots. The lesson in all this? It’s hard work building a great product, and categorization schemes (how is a book like a poster?) don’t always give you the answers you thought they would. The real world can be maddeningly difficult to categorize neatly.

But we’ve done the engineering work, and now the books are ready and waiting for you. Go and give them a try.


Wow, looks fantastic! Just tried editing a book, and I have to say, you've got an amazing system there. Beats out Gmail for best use of AJAX.

And you gotta love that it's Django powered :)

My one complaint, is that after getting all the way through editing the book, I find out it costs $27 to ship to Canada. Ouch!
Ow. The tabblo main page, in really big letters, on the main button, says "Sign-up". Now, I'm not gonna argue that the hyphen is ungrammatical; that argument will never be settled. But it looks bad -- it turns off fuddy-duddies such as myself, whereas removing it will turn nobody off.
If a tif is uploaded and used for a book (or poster or postcard), does the system use the original tif for printing or does it automatically convert to jpg? With most of these kinds of sites I've experimented with, if they let you upload tifs at all, they convert it to jpg and through out the tif as soon as you upload. Printing from jpgs just doesn't come out as nice.
Jay: yes, we're looking into other options for shipping. Supporting other methods is a logistical challenge, but we know that our international shipping prices are high.

me: I guess I'm a fuddy-duddy too. Once you pointed it out, it seemed like a burning mote on the page. It'll be gone the next time we push code up to the production site.

anders: you can check the PDF yourself. On the Preview Your Book page, there is a link to get the PDF of the book pages. Those are the images that will be printed.
Imagine my surprise when I went to add some new photos to a tabblo and saw all these new features - gotta love internet-time! Besides the books, which I think is a great idea, I noticed that there are new layout options (or, if there aren't new ones, then the presentation of those options is new). I might have to try one of those books to see how they turn out. Not having much wall space left, I didn't find the posters to be that appealing to me. But books can be stored easily.


Had a slight problem with the register screen. The ok/go button would not do anything. After a few trys, I hit cancel and saw the error message - passwords were not the same. Anyway, on Firefox the error box was hidden by the registration screen. Getting ready to check out the rest right now!

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