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Deep Into Digital Era, Shutterbugs Look Beyond 4-by-6-Inch Prints
AP Business Writer



Of the 7.9 billion digital prints made in 2005, 49 percent were created at home, down from a 61 percent share in 2004 and 90 percent in 2000, Delis said.

Online photo services, which have been whittled down to a handful of big players, printed about 1 billion images, or 13 percent of the market. And digital orders at retailers, who look likely to re-emerge soon as the kings of printing, jumped to 3 billion prints from 1.9 billion in 2004.

Kodak, which has nearly 75,000 photo kiosks installed at retail businesses worldwide, is bringing in a more versatile film-and-digital kiosk system this spring that can handle up to 900 prints an hour.

"Retail is actually the fastest growing segment of digital printing right now," said Nicki Zongrone, Kodak's general manager for kiosk systems and services. "Early adopters were more techno-savvy, spent a lot of times fiddling with images, printing some but not all of them. As that mainstream consumer has moved to a digital camera, they want to be able to get their high-quality prints as easily as they've been used to."

Propelled by price battles among retailers led by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Costco Inc. and online photo-storage sites like Snapfish.com and Shutterfly.com, prints from digital cameras could swell to 10.9 billion this year and outnumber prints from film cameras by 2007.

The average price for a digital print has dipped to 17 cents online and 21 cents in retail outlets, Delis said, and some online services offer a stash of free prints for registering as an incentive.

While often a good deal more expensive, images reproduced by customized-photo specialists such as Zazzle.com, Photopetgifts.com and Matthewsbronze.com are generating a buzz.

Matthews International Corp., a casket, memorial and cremation-equipment maker, started a business in September that turns favorite photos of departed relatives into cast-bronze plaques. A grave might simply be adorned with someone's face or a fond scene of them playing golf or fishing or surrounded by family, said Dave Hewitt, president of the Pittsburgh company's bronze division.

"People want to be able to look back and remember that person, the things they enjoyed doing when they were alive," Hewitt said.

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