Vacation Brag Book not much to brag about

Spoiler alert! Build a Vaction Brag Book for iPad looks pretty cool until you actually try to tailor the story to your vacation. Good luck. You’d be better off reading the story in advance and tailoring your vacation to the story.


Carol never understood why I don’t carry pictures of my son Bryan (and more importantly, her) in my wallet to show everyone I meet. This is because Carol actually enjoyed passing around birth photos, vacation photos, children petting puppy photos, and vacation photos of people I barely knew. Photos that mostly consisted of poorly framed shots of faces, fingers waving or making the peace sign.

I seriously practice the negative golden rule which is don’t do unto others what you would hope they wouldn’t do to you. So I don’t carry pictures to show them around to people I barely know. I also practice the inverse corollary of the golden rule: don’t make others suffer through social rituals you know they hate no matter how much you enjoy them.

My favorite social ritual? Intelligent (I stress “intelligent”) and in-depth discussions of modern trends in philosophy, including post-post modernist and post-post structuralist, the joys of poetry and art, history, contemporary popular misinterpretations of physics, politics with an ironic twist (e.g., neo-Democratic deconstructionism) and Hong Kong and Bollywood cinema (particularly during the eighties and nineties).

But I discovered that the instantaneous eye-glazing I witness when I segue into one of those subjects is actually overt body language. That body-language, I realized, signifies “this is so boring I can’t imagine that people even think about this shit.”

So now I pretend to enjoy the photos and keep my mouth shut when I feel the urge to connect the current thought to something written by Julia Kristeva or Umberto Eco.

Oh, yes, semiotics. I love to have discussions about semiotics.

All of this is a circuitous slide into the realization that social networking has replaced physical media, and the more we can dress social networking as real media, they happier we feel. Hence, Build a Vaction Brag Book for iPad, the iPad app from Build a Brag Book.

Build a Brag Book offers more than vacation books, they offer birthday books and other personalized story books. But since I am leaving the blog for summer vacation in August, I thought I would review vacation related apps this week. Just in case people were planning one last getaway before locking the kids away in school for another nine months.

Vacation Brag Book was featured as a vacation app in the App Store, although I don’t think whoever selected it actually looked beyond the surface.

On the surface, Vacation Brag Book is a pretty cool app. It allows you to create a picture book story of your vacation. You can write your own narrative (up to 500 words a page) to go with the illustrated storyline and even add your own photos directly from the iPad’s photo library.

Vacation Brag Book allows you to assemble text illustrations and photos that will be stitched into the basic story book.

You can also record your story, using your written text as a prompt. The app stores a sound file for each page and you can play your voiceover back as the pages turn. The app settings allow you to play the story back as a slide show and control the animation and animation speed for the page turns. You can even animate the page flip.

You can actually add your own recorded narrative, using your own writing as a prompt. You can set the book to play back your narrative one page at a time or even animate the entire book.

If you want to show off to friends who can’t access your iPad, you can email individual pages or post pages to Facebook and Twitter. Your kids can even scramble the pages into puzzles (not very hard puzzles, a couple of dozen pieces at the most).

You’re kids can scramble each page into a puzzle to make the brag book more fun. And more fun may be something the book really needs.

So why don’t I sound more excited about Vacation Brag Book? Because even for the small price of a dollar, the book tells only the story of the developers imagined vacation. If it doesn’t resemble your vacation, you’re SOL.

And that’s just for starters.

I won’t buy that for a dollar

I wanted to like this app, but the more I tried to drive it the less useful I found it. At first I told myself this was an app for kids, but it really forces kids into the developers’ mindset, not their own.

I downloaded it when it was free. Now it’s a dollar. I’m glad I didn’t pay for the download.

So let’s get started with the laundry list. There’s no way to share the entire book short of physically handing your iPad over to a friend. The other options are to share individual pages. It would at least be nice if people could export the book as a PDF file and upload it to the Brag a Book site.

Or maybe the developers could take a cue from Comic Life and create a book drawer to share books with other iPads. Even if they added another dollar to the price I think people would be more likely to use it.

The whole book creation process seems really limited. You are stuck with the twelve illustrations included with the book whether or not they reflect anything that happened on your vacation. Nor can you resize photos (and the book’s photo windows are really small). You can’t even remove photo frames if you don’t want to add a photo (although the app may remove the frame without asking you).

I also discovered the app was unpredictable in book playback, especially if you use larger photos. Sometimes it would drop the text fame, sometimes the photo. When I edited the text on a page I had to add it three different times before the app actually saved the change.

Vacation Brag Book also provides poor multitasking support. If you need to edit a photo or look something up, you have to close the book or you lose everything. Each time you switch to another app, the Vacation Brag Book restarts.

My biggest complaint is that you’re stuck with Vacation Brag Book’s storyline, which basically consists of:

  • Packing
  • Loading the car
  • Flying
  • Lots of pages at the beach
  • One boardwalk
  • Beach sunset to end vacation

Given the standard 12 illustrations you can’t include:

  • The kids arguing over who gets what seat.
  • The kids kicking the seat of the passenger in front.
  • The kids arguing over who gets which bed.
  • The kids arguing over who steals whose toys.
  • The kids whining because dad won’t let the kids get the most expensive shit on the menu.
  • Holding the kids’ heads in the bathroom because dad let them stuff themselves with popcorn, corn dogs, hot dogs, monster cookies, super slurpees and cotton candy.
  • Dad staring at the boobs of every girl walking your way then stating at the thong-clad asses of every girl who walks past.
  • Mom having a heart attack when she realizes how much you’ve already gone over budget only two days into your vacation.
  • The poop painting on the hotel wall that was little Bobby’d first attempt at artistic expression.
  • Mom squeezing dad’s knee so tight he loses circulation because he hit on yet another twenty-year-old waitress.
  • Mom at the hotel happy hour spilling her drink on some poor bastard from Iowa.
  • Mom looking franticly for the return tickets dad swore he put in her purse just before you left the hotel.
  • Dad discovering the spare is actually the last flat he forgot to fix.
  • Mom discovering dad forgot to renew the AAA membership.

The app doesn’t even include other typical vacation illustrations such as swimming pools, horse riding, camp fires, theme park rides, sand painting, Native Americans dancing, the Eiffel tower, the Grand Canyon, paddle boats, bicycles and picnics. I get that Brag a Book couldn’t include pictures of theme park characters, Disney would sue them. But at least they could include an illustration of a kid with a princess or cowboy.

I’ve seen a number of one and two dollar apps that allow users to download pictures directly into the app from the developer. I don’t see why Brag a Book couldn’t include a similar feature. Especially if they also intend to market birthday books, holiday books and other personalized story books.

Jenny Manytoes rates Build a Vaction Brag Book for iPad

Jenny Manytoes would bunch her tail at Vacation Brag Book. It’s like offering one model of kitty condo for every cat in the world.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat

  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

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About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
This entry was posted in 2 Stars - Raised Tail, Entertainment, Journaling, Vacation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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