Panraven is an online photo book creation application that lets anyone create very attractive online scrap books, which can also be turned into hard copy printed books. The two-year old Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company began by initially offering its services to travel tour operators, but this month Panraven launched its new online photo book creation app and printing services to the general public following a three month closed beta.
Panraven is a web application that is aimed at novice users. It really takes the guesswork out of page layout by providing a large library of pre-made styles and page layouts that are guaranteed to look good.
The first step to a Panraven "story" is picking a style. The app gives you the option of choosing a premade design from a number of categories (like "Wedding" and "Baby" and "Travel") or to create your own freeform book. The freeform option is the one I generally have the most fun with. Even with freeform books, however, you still need to choose from among a list of preset styles.
Once you have a style selected, you begin your project by uploading your media. Using the browser uploader is a snap, but Panraven also offers a downloadable photo uploading application called PicUp, as well as a Picasa plugin. The next step is to add your media to your story bucket -- which is where the photos that will be available for your story are stored. Panraven supports some simple social networking, and your friend's shared media is also available to you. Publicly shared media from other users is available as well, including entire pages from some Panraven books.
With media uploaded, it's on to editing your book. The editor is simple, and basically consists of dragging photos into predefined areas on the page and entering text. Panraven can even auto fill your pages with your photos if you don't really care about the order. The Panraven editor will automatically size your photos to fit the page, and will warn you if a photo is not a high enough resolution to print well.
Each predefined style comes with a large number of page layout options (think ~30 layouts), and swapping them around is easy. Each Panraven freeform book starts with 9 pages, but you can change which layout goes with which page and add or remove pages at will.
When you're done with your Panraven story, you can publish it publicly to a web viewer on the site, keep it to yourself, or share it with family or friends. You can also have Panraven print books over over 20 pages, but it's not cheap The pricing starts at $29.95 for a 20 page book and $.99 per page after that. Panraven has plans to offer an embeddable widget for stories, but so far doesn't appear to have it launched. Check out a sample Panraven story.