Zno Flush Mount Layflat Books Review (Podcast 527)

Iceland Book in Handmade Leatherette Box

Zno Flush Mount Layflat Books Review (Podcast 527)

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.]

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.

Iceland Book in Leather Cover and Handmade Leatherette Box

Iceland Book in Leather Cover and Handmade Leatherette Box

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.

Iceland Book Front Cover

Iceland Book Front Cover

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.

Iceland Book Last Page

Iceland Book Last Page

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).

Iceland Book Double Page

Iceland Book Double Page

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.

Iceland Book in Handmade Leatherette Box

Iceland Book in Handmade Leatherette Box

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.

Zno Book Options

Zno Book Options

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.

Zno Upload Images

Zno Upload Images

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.

Zno Image in Cameo

Zno Image in Cameo

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.

Zno Layout Full Page Image

Zno Layout Full Page Image

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.

Zno Two Portrait Orientation Images

Zno Two Portrait Orientation Images

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).

Zno - Adding Text

Zno – Adding Text

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.

Pricing

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.

Conclusion

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.


Show Notes

Zno’s web site: http://www.zno.com/

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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13 Comments
  • David Kosiur
    Posted at 06:21h, 20 June Reply

    What is your impression of Zno’s reproduction of your B&W images? Any color casts, etc.? So would the book qualify as a fine art book? (I would hope so, considering the cost…)

    Thanks.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:18h, 20 June Reply

      The B&W images look great, as do the color ones. There’s no color cast or anything. It would definitely qualify as a fine art book, although as I mentioned above, I’m going to try the new matte paper next, and I think that might be more appropriate for fine art. The sample that they sent with my Iceland book was beautiful. It’s matte, but looks coated with some kind of laminate, so it’s not going to scuff or anything.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 10:40h, 01 November Reply

      Hi again David,

      I’m hearing some pretty concerning stories about color casts in the printing since Artisan State changed their name to Zno. I don’t know the cause, or a solution, but I thought I’d let you know, in case you still haven’t ordered. You might want to look for an alternative.

      Regards,
      Martin.

  • Stephen Perkins
    Posted at 22:15h, 28 September Reply

    Bullshit! Before the name change, they were a good company. Since the name change, they changed the software and their customer service is atrocious. They don’t respond and send discount coupon that are invalid. The worst company ever and I highly suggest others from ever using them.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 22:36h, 28 September Reply

      Well, at the time of writing this wasn’t bullshit. I don’t write bullshit and don’t appreciate the outburst.

      But, if you are right, people have a right to know, so thanks for making your point.

  • Aileen
    Posted at 00:39h, 06 December Reply

    Hi – Thanks so much for the clearly written review! I was wondering if you ever got your African book printed… was the quality as good? I am making a wedding album and do not want any problems… so hopefully you have an update on the quality at ZNO now. Thanks so much!

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:24h, 06 December Reply

      Hi Aileen,

      I ran out of time and actually didn’t get my Namibia book printed. I might get back to this at some point, as I’d like to check the quality again myself, because some people are reporting issues. For now though, this is on the back burner I’m afraid.

      Regards,
      Martin.

  • Abigail
    Posted at 15:20h, 07 December Reply

    Just wanted to pitch in. We are on the same boat – we were originally in love with Artisan State, until a few days ago when a client complained about her flush mount album as you perfectly described as “literally coming unglued and falling to bits.” This client’s album was printed post name change to Zno, so now we are worried about other albums coming apart as well. Thanks for updating your post to include the horror story, now we know to look out for other printers. Any suggestions are welcome!

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 20:53h, 07 December Reply

      That’s terrible that you have customers that are seeing this issue Abigail. It’s a shame that a company can literally implode the way Artisan State have.

      I haven’t really heard of a company that makes a similar product that doesn’t fall to bits, but I’ll update this post or do another review if I do.

  • who
    Posted at 12:33h, 12 December Reply

    Just like others I had the same problem recently. before changing the name they were fine, very quick to reply and always great service and support. But after changing the name it became the worse experiece, not with an album with lots of issues and the customer service not responding my emails.
    Very very very disappointed and highly recommend all fellow photographers to stay far away from this scam company.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 15:15h, 12 December Reply

      Another unhappy customer.

      Thanks for adding your comment to the pile WHO.

      It’s such a shame how a company can totally destroy itself like this. I’m not sure if it was actually sold, but the founders should be ashamed of themselves for letting this happen.

  • Benoit Champagne
    Posted at 12:01h, 03 May Reply

    Hi, I was searching the web to find if others have had or are having trouble with ZNO support. Looks like I’m not alone. It’s been 3 weeks now. I got 3 books (2 small ones which are perfect and one big one with a terrible orange color cast). I emailed them and got a reply within 24 hours. However, it was the last I’ve heard of them despite my 3-4 emails to them since then. Total silence. I am very angry at them now. Cause if I need to redo my client’s album it’s gonna be a huge hit on my profit margin.

    I’ve had many problems with them since the beginning. Was already starting to doubt doing business with them. But now I’m sure I won’t. Prints coming in damaged, frames also, one book literally coming apart (which they remade and sent me 2 back in error from their part — which also shows their lack of quality control). I am so worried my other clients have the same issues which would be a nightmare and a lot of lost money for me 🙁

    At any rate, I simply wish they go out of business to avoid more people with problems with their own clients.

    A shame really, cause the books are really nice looking … when holding in one piece and not badly printed.

    Just thought I’d add my own experience to the pill …

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 11:58h, 04 May Reply

      Sorry to hear that Benoit. It does seem that ZNO have taken a total dive.

      Out of curiosity, I just checked my Iceland book, which was made over a year now since I had it made, and at this point, it’s still fine. Not coming unglued. But, this was probably one of the last books made by Artisan State, and not ZNO.

      I am more disappointed with the people that sold Artisan State to it’s current owners. They built something of quality, and had the potential to make a great brand, then sold it. I imagine they made a lot of money from the deal, based on the trust that people had built with them, and then they just flushed all of their customers, present and future, down the toilet.

      They should be ashamed of themselves.

      Thanks for adding your voice to the discussion though Benoit. I hope more people find this and similar posts before buying in the future. Hopefully we can help to squeeze the ZNO out of business.

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