By Joan Sherwood, Sr.Ed.
For any photographer who wants to self-publish a look book, brochure or calendar, HP offers a high-quality, low-cost option with MagCloud. One of its most impressive features is the ability to publish your work and offer a digital version for free. Over a minimal baseline price, you have control over the price of your printed and digital product. There is no minimum to how many print versions you or your client must buy. If it came with it's own mini downloadable graphic designer, it would be perfect.
The only minor barrier I’ve discovered in using HP MagCloud is that you (or someone you hire) will have to design the pages. Photographers are not often skilled page layout and graphic designers with a flair for typography. Though HP provides templates for their various formats for multiple applications, including Photoshop, InDesign, Word, Pages, Aperture, and others, designing a page is not the same as composing a photo. Once the designing is done, you only have to convert to PDF and upload. On the other hand, you may have materials already designed and ready to go in your existing marketing materials and templates (double-check trim and bleed areas).
The last caveat is that your readers will have to register on the MagCloud.com site to be able to see and download your publication.
We had samples of the print products sent to us (a large calendar and square and rectangular perfect-bound books), and the quality is absolutely top notch for its price. The MagCloud blog has helpful entries, including one that demonstrates what implements can write on their uncoated satin paper stock if you intend to make a calendar (most pass the smudge test).
There are too many positives to mention, but my short list is that your digital publication can include active hyperlinks, the print quality is fantastic, binding is sturdy, and the digital version is fully functional with iPad.