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Demand for Photobooks Continues to Grow

April 13, 2021

Although 2020 was a difficult year for the sales of many products, the photo imaging market has continued to grow, particularly for photobooks. In a recent article in DPS Magazine entitled “Printed Keepsakes: The New Standard for Photo Albums,” Len Christopher, worldwide NEXFINITY and NexPress product manager, Eastman Kodak Co., for customers specializing in photobooks, states that demand appears to be steady after some weakness during the first wave of COVID. “In general, demand has been on the increase over the last few years,” he comments. He admits that during the first wave of COVID, there was a decline, but volume for this application picked back up on a year-over-year basis.

“If you consider that most photobook orders are for a run length of one or two copies, the sheer volume of orders in peak periods are a challenge, not just in printing but also in the bindery. Automation is key here, so operators aren’t required to set jobs up on the press or report when a specific job is printed, and that the bindery knows how to complete the jobs efficiently,” shares Christopher.

Carlos Martins, solutions manager, saddle stitching and hardcover production, Muller Martini, explains that COVID-19 has had two opposite effects on photobooks. “On one hand, leisure travel and special occasions have been considerably reduced, and this has lessened photobook production. Conversely, since people are home, they’re finding more time to organize and sort the photos they’ve stored electronically. And, that’s resulted in new opportunities to create photobooks. Both trends will be re-visited in 2021’s ‘new normal’ to see if they’re permanent or temporary.”

“Photobooks are personal and can serve as a momento, allowing users to experience images physically, rather than just digitally on a screen. Due to its personal touch, photobooks have grown in popularity as they make great gifts that consumers can flip through for years to come,” comments Richard Reamer, senior director, Canon U.S.A., Inc.

“People are taking and storing pictures digitally every day, and for many, that’s just fine. But the move away from physical media has—kind of ironically—made physical media that much more valuable to certain people. Having that tangible end product, full of memories, is a special feeling that you can’t get from scrolling through a digital album. That trend has accelerated and broadened significantly with stay-at-home mandates,” shares Roger Serrette, Customer Experience Center director, Ricoh USA, Inc. “Photobooks are a great way for people under stay-at-home mandates to relive vacations with their families, being present with their friends, and sharing life milestones. As humans, we respond really well to seeing and handling our photos. It makes the remembering experience more real,” he continues.

From the business side, Serrette points out that many small-to-mid-size commercial printers are looking at new ways to drive business to adapt to the massive shift in demand resulting from COVID-19. “That’s led many print businesses to offer applications they hadn’t in the past, such as photobooks and personalized puzzles. But these additions to the portfolio represent much more than new revenue streams. They’re a way to strengthen and maintain customer relationships. Coming to a long-time customer to say, ‘Hey, we get how hard this moment is, and I’m not trying to push anything, but we recently did a photobook for so-and-so, and they really appreciated it. I’m not sure if that’s something you’re interested in, but we’d love to work with you on it if so.’”

On the production side, Djawad Khorosh, CEO, Layflat.com, believes that advancement of LayFlat equipment enables printers to manufacture premium books without the need for highly skilled operators. Photobooks are also getting more pages. “As more printers enter this business, competition is keeping prices from rising. Additionally, the choice of covers is expanding, enabling customers who wish to invest the time and money to create unique photobooks.”

Khorosh explains that there are basically two types of photobooks—those without text and those with text. The creation challenge is to be able to tell a story, grouping the events accordingly. “Whereas there was once a 70 percent abandon rate during creation, the arrival of AI has made it possible to create books automatically and very quickly.”

While printing and bookbinding are becoming automated, marking and finishing a variety of covers is still handled separately. “Large scale photobook manufacturers have developed production lines with softcovers and even with some hardcovers. For smaller printers, there are still manual tasks that must be performed. However, more of this production is being automated,” notes Khorosh.

“The continued rise of book-on-demand printing has driven demand among publishers as well because they can be even more strategic with their production,” comments Bob Flinn, director of business development, Standard Finishing Systems.

The bookbinding systems from Layflat.com is able to fit into the workflow of book production presses, and can easily handle the unique characteristics of photobook manufacturing.

The complete article may be viewed at: dpsmagazine