I’ve delved into the realm of digital scrapbooking only once. I’m more of a traditionalist. I like to work with scissors, adhesive, and textures. Paper and embellishments are more my racket. That being said, over the past couple years, I’ve considered the notion of creating a digital album for a particular occasion—say, for a special vacation or a brag book for Grandma.

In fact, making a brag book for Grandma was exactly what I was considering when I was given the opportunity to review the Unibind Photobook Creator system. I was interested in the possibilities of this system when I opened the package: The binding machine is a simple-looking, lightweight contraption that holds the promise of easy scrapbook binding. It looks a bit like a plastic cookbook holder. The system came with several different coversets in two colors (black and white), in both a portrait and landscape orientation, as well as a software package called ArcSoft Collage Creator. At first glance, I thought the product might offer me an interesting way to create a unique gift.

As it turns out, the final product was a chore for this seasoned “physical scrapbooker,” but the Unibind process was educational, and the gift was very well received.

ArcSoft Collage Creator
One of my first tasks in this project was to load the ArcSoft Collage Creator software. At first glance, the GUI looked fun and easy to use. However, after working with it for a while, I became frustrated. I determined that ArcSoft is more appropriate for creating a single “collage” page than creating “pages” for an album. You can do some fun things with this software, such as cutting and pasting shapes and inserting clip art. But after a lot of testing, I decided that ArcSoft isn’t the ideal software to bundle with the Unibind system.

The software doesn’t provide any templates, and I needed something like that to design my album. I also needed a template to precisely center a photo in the window slot of the coversets that come with the Unibind system. The ArcSoft package doesn’t provide that. At the Unibind PhotoCreator Web site, there’s a link for “free templates,” but as of this writing, that section is “coming soon.” I ultimately abandoned the ArcSoft software and searched the Internet for a free digital scrapbooking package. I found exactly what I needed in something called Scrapbook Flair, which came with templates, embellishments, and text options and was very easy to use. My only stumbling block was that the page-size templates I selected were letter-sized, but as far as I could figure out, 8x10 and letter were the same, so my pages came out a little off-center when I printed them for the 8.5 x 11 coverset.

I wanted to create a 20-page album (i.e., 20 double-sided pages) for my in-laws for Christmas, in which I would use picture of my daughters with their grandparents over the years. I had to do some digging to find old photos, but I eventually got there. I chose templates, imported photos, added embellishments, and did some journaling on certain pages. All of this had to be precise before I began printing the album. I didn’t want my mistakes to be forever in print!

Printing and Binding
To create good pages for a Unibind photobook, I needed to find some double-sided photo paper. On the PhotoCreator Web site, there are examples of albums with double-sided spreads but no suggestions for the type of paper to use. I ended up finding Epson Premium Presentation Paper with a matte finish. In hindsight, I would have preferred a glossy paper or something that more resembled photo paper and not presentation paper.

At long last, I was ready to print the book. I printed the pages on a Canon color photo printer. The images were a little skewed, since my template and page size didn’t mesh. I was happy with the double-sided look, however, and the colors didn’t bleed.

I lined up the pages, placed them in the spine, and followed the simple directions to bind the book. The system has no on/off switch. It works so simply that I thought I was missing something: Surely, there was more to the system than this? No, it really is this simple: You place the loose book spine-down on the heating element, wait for the light to turn red and the system to heat up, quickly binding the album. It’s an incredibly quick process, taking all of two or three minutes. When the system light turns green, you leave the album upright in the system for another two minutes to cool. You then remove the album and let the spine cool further before opening the book. In my test, all the pages were bound in the album perfectly. I didn’t experience any loose pages, even when I flapped the book around somewhat forcefully. In the space of 5 minutes, I had a bound album.

Impressions
My mother-in-law was thrilled with the album. I would say that the album cover is rather plain-looking, and so I would suggest that Unibind start creating some more colorful or graphically interesting coversets. These things desperately need to be dressed up. I’m considering adding some rub-ons to the cover to give it some more pizzazz. Unibind has the feel of a young product whose simplicity and ease of use might just grow into something that will catch fire.