A guy from Saal sent me an email offering a collaboration. Give a look to their website and you'll notice that everything looks quite professional and expensive. I already knew them, and I knew that they have professional line products I was very curious to test.
I asked for a 300€ voucher to print three books. He offered 100€, no more. What stingy, I thought, but I accepted anyway because... it's actually for free.
I decided to spend most of the 100€ voucher in one product: Photo Book Professional Line. 34 pages, 30x21 cm, full colour, hardcover, = 82,15€. Sounds expensive? Well, it could be. But it looks so professional and, in this case, it's for free so... Who cares?.
Since I've just launched my last book I thought I could print the copy "0" with them changing the cover, so I created a new project on Indesign just for this collaboration.
The standards required by Saal are very messy and bad explained, but I did it anyway. Furthermore, it's not possible to print on the back cover and on the spine, because everything will be covered with black leather. Or white leather, or stuff like this. You can choose it.
After a few weeks, the book was actually ready for the print, so I sent an email to the support centre because I wasn't sure about some settings I was using. They answered quickly and professionally, but... They told me that don't accept PDF I'm obliged to use their own software. This service is not available in my country yet, it will be available "soon", but at the moment I have to use a dumb software to edit an 80€ book.
I said: WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?
Ridiculous. You're selling books for 80€ (and more) and I'm supposed to edit it on your own software, which is certainly a "normie" software compared to Indesign? And I've just lost weeks editing something you can't fucking print?!?
I was as angry as a cornered possum.
I said: ok, let's try it. I've started using their own software, which is bad. I mean, it works well if you're editing your stupid holidays in Formentera, but for me, it's not enough and in a couple of days I was about to give up again.
Then I thought: I could export all the pages of the Indesign project in Jpeg with a veeery high resolution (like three times required), and add all the jpegs in the Saal software at full page. It was tricky and risky, but it apparently worked.
I still had 20€ to spend. Even if I've already tested their printing service several times, I decided to print a fine art print (a 30x40cm colour photo printed on Baryta. Price: 13€). This took me a few seconds.
I sent the order, added the voucher, address and everything. I was angry, I've lost too much time on this order, even if it was for free I had the feeling that it wouldn't have been worth it.
Then, after a few days, I received everything.
The book is definitely good. It's very good. Solid, well bound, thick, good paper, methacrylate bright cover. Everything looks great even before opening it. Maybe the black leather is a little bit kitsch... but all in all, it's ok.
The colours are clear, the shades are smooth and natural, the detail is good. I was angry as fuck, but when I saw the quality of the print I calmed down. I'm not saying that I wasn't angry anymore, I just was angry and calm.
I told myself: "ok, at least is a very good product. And it's for free"
Does it worth 80€? I don't know. 34 pages aren't enough to make a book, 80€ for 34 pages are definitely too much if you consider that you're selling it on the internet. The print is awesome, the feeling is great, the materials are good, but it's a little bit expensive anyway. If we consider that they don't even accept PDF, it doesn't worth it at all.
What about the print? The 30x40 print was as good as the book. Thick paper, good colours, good shades, nice detail, natural tones. Everything good, even the price: 13€. I mean, it's not cheap, but it worth it.
I'm not surprised by the print because I've already had several good experiences with them. They actually print all my everyday shit as previews, outtakes, contact sheets. It's not expensive, the quality is ok, the packaging is strong (which means a lot if you order big photos) and the delivery's always on time.
So my advice about Saal is: use it to print your photographs, even in big sizes, but don't use it to print the professional line book. Or at least don't use it until they resolve the PDF problem.