Monday, February 16, 2015

Instagram Print Reviews : Part 2

This is a series where I detail my experiences in printing or trying to print Instagrams either as individual prints or in books. You can read part one here!

I've been wanting to do a book series for a while. I'd like to have all my portfolios available as books for people to look at. I also want to create different albums for myself or for gifts. For many years, I've had the thought to create a coffee table book via Blurb of my European Tour. Many moons ago, I printed some small portfolios from Blurb. They were like mini magazines and the quality was fine. But as for coffee table books, it's not cheap. In fact, I just put my Boudoir Portfolio (112 select photos) together on Blurb as a 7X7 book to compare to the company I'm about to review. It was cost prohibitive at almost one hundred dollars, versus under twenty of the company I'm about to review. Honestly, that's a no to me. Maybe it's because Blurb is trying to be a self-publishing company, but for creating small albums, I just can't. Their softcover option stops at twenty images, which is a joke to me. Who needs an album of only twenty images? I take three times that in a week! I couldn't even do twenty images from one shoot! So this review is somewhat two-part because Blurb is just not affordable.

The second option I was SUPER excited about. It's a brand new company, and I have no idea how I found it. The company is Chatbooks, and they have this really great and interesting idea; Instagram subscriptions. The way it works is you sync up your IG account and every time you hit 60 images, they print a 6x6, soft cover book, for $6, and ship it to you. Fun, right? But what if you don't want a subscription? I don't know about you, but I don't want EVERY IG printed. Some of my instas are just for fun and for social media, not to be saved in a book. So what then? Well, you can print a 6X6 book up to 300 images (one image per page) for under $20. Yeah, so great. They have a desktop app and an iPhone app. The apps are really easy to use and everything is just quick and easy to put together. It's a really, really awesome service. And so I had a couple of books in the works and was working hard on putting together and was really excited about my projects, when I received an e-mail with a coupon.

Now, at the time that I received that coupon, I had ZERO IG subscriptions in my account. The only books I had made had over 100 and 200 images each. I was sort of surprised because I didn't think my books fit the coupon, but why would they send me a coupon that didn't work? I didn't ask for it. I just thought I was getting really lucky. So I tried to order my boudoir portfolio and it wouldn't let me. Since they had mentioned my other book by name, I decided to try to print that one. That book wasn't finished and I spent about three hours over the weekend getting it together to print before the coupon expired. But when I tried to print it, no dice. So I e-mailed customer support and they told me that I didn't have the right book.

By now, I was more than a little annoyed, so I posted on IG about the coupon and what happened. At the same time, the customer support replied and told me they'd give me a $6 credit to my book. Honestly, that's just bullshit. If a company is going to invite me to a free book (no strings attached) then they should honor their own mistake. Nothing in my account fit what they were trying to do. Clearly, their automated system was not working properly. Their bad, give me a fucking free book. With that e-mail offering me the $6 credit came some patronizing bullshit.

Ugh, I fucking hate being talked down to...and since when did it become good business practice to fuck shit up, not honor what you've said, but try to inform your customers of why they're idiots? My reply was pretty short and shitty...basically, I said I can read and I'm not the one who fucked it up, since they sent me a coupon when nothing in my account fit their requirements. But, like, how fucking convenient that the coupon MENTIONED the book I had with over 200 images in it!

In the meantime, someone from the company replied on my IG, trying to apologize for offending me. Before I could respond, Steph jumped in and said I wasn't offended just confused by why they would send me a coupon that didn't work. She suggested they give me the free book as a sign of good customer service. Way to go Steph! They agreed.

I had already told the customer service e-mail person that I'd happily take my business elsewhere, but it took Steph on social media to get them to act. So, I decided to give them a second chance and go ahead and order the book I had worked so hard to finish up. I e-mailed customer support AGAIN and included a screenshot of the IG conversation where my book was promised to me.

Customer service replied asking me which book I wanted published (because I had changed the title) and then added even more crap!

So they looked at my Boudoir Portfolio and decided it was somehow inappropriate for them to print...??!! I didn't bother to read their FAQ because I was done with them and also because my photographs are not really their business.

Look, either you're a professional printing service and you print any art that comes your way...or you're just not. Censorship and judgment are NOT qualities I look for in a print shop.

So I replied to the e-mail and on Insta and told them that my boudoir portfolio IS appropriate for everyone and IS cherished memories for those involved and maybe they should take their family to an art museum to see just how family friendly nudes are.

Look, Chatbooks is a really innovative company with a cool idea and super cute and affordable books. I cannot vouch for the quality, but everything else looks really good. They just made a poor decision when they decided to send out free coupons without really checking into what they were sending. The ensuing customer service crap is...well, it's crap. Furthermore, I can't support a company that censors me or any artist. While it is true that some states have laws requiring photo technicians to report child pornography (which is a grey area and could be a post in and of itself), it's not true that photo labs have any other laws governing what they print and how they distribute it. But since my photography is not pornography of any kind, it's simply art, I call bullshit. I can't support this company at all.

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