Why Online Photo Books Are Better Than Photo Albums – What’s the Difference?

What is a photo album?

Most of us are familiar with the traditional photo album – a book filled with pages of clear plastic sleeves to insert your 4×6 prints. Most of them come with 200 to 300 slots for your photos and have covers made of vinyl, leather, fabric or some type of coated paper. Before plastic sleeve albums came on the market, most albums were adhesive – with clear overlay pages and a tacky backing which stuck to the back of the photos (in many cases it’s hard to remove the photos from these types of albums as the adhesive has bonded and are impossible to peel off!)

What is an online photo book?

The digital photo book is the successor to the photo album. There are many companies on the Internet that provide free easy-to-use software that you either download or use online to create a book filled with photos that you lay out yourself.

How do traditional photo albums compare to online photo books?

Size & Weight

Since photo books are digitally printed, they tend to be lighter in weight and less bulky. You can fit several hundred photos into a single 100-page book very easily. My traditional photo albums are very heavy and therefore not as portable and they take up about 4 times as much room as my photo books.

Ease of Duplication

There’s no way to duplicate a photo album unless you make two identical albums. (I’ve done that before to make a gift for a friend of a trip we took together and it can be tedious!). With digital photo books, you can print one book, or ten! Your files are saved onto your hard drive or on the company’s website, so you can easily go back later to print more books if you want another copy. In many cases you can switch size, style, covers etc. without having to redesign your layouts.

Because photo books are easy to duplicate, they make great gifts. Make a family history book and then print several copies for thoughtful and personalized Christmas gifts for your family. Gather all your family’s cherished recipes and add photos for a unique collaborative cookbook! Make a photo book of your baby’s first year and give a copy to the grandparents. The possibilities are endless and everyone loves receiving personalized gifts!

Preservation – Archival

Photo books are printed on archival paper often with archival ink and protective coating. That means your creations will last for years to come.

Online books also preserve your photos in a different way – if some unfortunate event should happen such as a fire or flood, you’ll be able to reprint another copy of your book.


Photo books allow you to be as creative as you want to be. Make a clean lined composition of photos using solid black or white backgrounds – portfolio style. Alternatively, go wild with embellishments, clip art, captions and fun borders. Many scrapbookers have moved from traditional scrapbooking to digital scrapbooking for many of the same reasons listed here!

Sharing or selling online

With the advent of digital cameras the trend has been a drop in traditional photo finishing. No one I know prints 4×6 photos anymore. Don’t let your photos gather virtual dust! Print a book for yourself and share your creation online with family and friends. Have you ever wanted to sell your photos? Create a photo book and sell it online without risk. You’ll save lots of money by not having to print mass copies and test the market first.


Traditional photo albums can range anywhere from $20 to $100.00 or more depending on materials. You also have to print your photos which runs about 10 cents a print. So, for an album with 300 photos you’d probably expect to pay a minimum of $50.00. I’ve printed hardcover books with 300 photos for less than that. Photo book companies also frequently offer coupon codes and deals. Cost is naturally affected by choice of cover and style, but there are many affordable options too such as softcover books. There are so many different types and styles to choose from in every price point, and you can even have your pages printed on real photo paper.

I want to make a photo book, where do I start?

The process generally flows like this:

1) Sign up for an account on the company’s website;

2) Upload the photos that you want to use in your book;

3) Select a pre-made theme or templates for a quick and easy 5-minute book or take your time and design your own layouts for full creativity;

4) Drag and drop your photos into the photo boxes;

5) Click to order your book.

Generally in about a week to 10 days (sooner if you opt for expedited shipping), you can get a finished printed book of all your photos. You can proudly display it on your coffee table and some of your guests may think it’s a store bought book!

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