iPhoto Books: Great Gift or Behind the Times?

A while back I enjoyed making a bunch of the mini iPhoto Books for family members as holiday gifts. The size was fun and portable, good for the grandparents to show off and all that. They were relatively cheap, and in typical Apple fashion, easy to create.

But when they arrived in the mail and I tore it open to have a first look, I was pretty disappointed. The print quality of my images was mediocre at best. I could understand the colors possibly not being calibrated, but this was image quality, not tonal distortion. And while they were still a hit as gifts, I was less than pleased with the final product.

But I tried again. I scoured the Apple Discussion Boards and Googled the topic. I ordered 2 or 3 more books, each time changing the settings to see if there was a sweet spot. Higher resolution images, scaled-down image sizes, etc, etc. Nothing really seemed to do the trick. Each time they made for nice memories, but it was the content, not the quality to be certain.

So since I’ve stayed clear of iPhoto Books over the past couple years, I wonder what they’re like these days? I’d love to hear from anyone who’s ordered one recently – please share your thoughts on the final product if you don’t mind. With Services such as Lulu.com that put out actual high-quality, is Apple’s offering a bit lacking and behind the times? Or have they quietly upped the ante and developed a more satisfying product for their customers?