My comments about the books from iPhoto 5 sparked a lot of feedback. Thanks to everyone who left comments; The insight, personal experiences, and information were great to read.
As promised, here are my impressions from the book I ordered last week and received last night:
The quality was slightly better in my book, than the one my father-in-law ordered a week or so ago. Maybe I was already expecting some of the grainy-ness and was taking that into account. I don’t know. But it looked decent.
In fact, I noticed that the larger of the images (I got a medium sized book) were clearer than the small. This leads me to wonder if the 4mp jpg’s that were used from my iPhoto album suffered from some artifacting when their size was reduced for printing. That coupled with the printing techniques mentioned (in great detail) in the comments may explain the quality (disappointing as it may be).
Via the personal experiences expressed in the comments, it also sounded like the large sized books were of pretty good quality, and remain-so in version 5 of iPhoto. People’s observations are all relative to their experience and expectation, but if this is true, it may lend some validity to my jpg/scrunch/artifact theory. Who knows.
I actually plan to do as Roby mentioned, and order the different sizes and compare them to see if there’s variation from small, medium, and large books and their print quality. So look for that in the future. If anyone else has done this, feel free to save me the money, and let us know what you found. :)
So all in all, I guess I’m satisfied. My order was express shipped to me and fulfilled for about $20. Not shabby for a nice gift or keepsake. I still expected more, and hope Apple can find a way to increase the output quality, or add an option to pay more for it.
In the meantime, I’ll still order books from iPhoto 5, and suggest you try it for yourself as well. They’re cheap enough that it can’t hurt too much to try it at least once.