Magazine Article


The Lowly Shoebox in the Closet May be the Key to Keep the Doors Open

Shoeblox and Mouse

The Pixel Magic price for the Nextlab 120 would allow most minilabs, looking for ways to augment disappearing roll film business, an easy entry into the shoebox game.

Paul Rentz, owner of Rush Hour Photo, Corvallis, OR., was attracted to the shoebox idea but not if it meant paying for the Kodak i660. Instead, Paul researched the document scanning market and found the Canon DR-5010C for about $4,000. It is part of the Canon image filing systems line. This unit is said to scan about 50 color prints per minute, plenty for most shoebox business, and will scan front and back of any photo up to 11x17.

Unfortunately, the Canon unit is designed for the scanning of documents, not photographs, and is not as elegant a system as either the Kodak or Pixel Magic scanners. Paul said it does not recognize a black border, for example, and just crops it off. Dust spots are also a problem. He said he has not been able to get much help from the Canon folks responsible for the 5010C as their orientation is strictly for office applications.

I didn’t do much better than Paul when I contacted Canon’s copy division. I spoke to Tara Pierce, Canon’s product manager for scanners, and she was completely unaware of the shoebox concept and that a photo specialist was using a Canon unit for photo scanning. She learned a lot more from me about shoebox than I did from her.

With the Canon hardware already able to deal with the physical handling and scanning of a print, it would seem that all they have to do is call in their IT people to develop the software required by the photo industry. However, Tara did sound interested and hopefully Canon will realize the market opportunity.

Paul is pricing his service at $99 for a 500-print scan and a CD. So far he is getting only a few orders a month but feels is would be a “fantastic business” if it can be done efficiently.

It would seem to me that the players in the scanning business, including the likes of HP, Epson, Xerox and others could easily re-software their units to go after the shoebox market for the tens of thousands of on-site photo lab locations that are in need of new ways to generate revenue.

With the Kodak i660 first out of the block with a system costing $60,000, there is a lot of room for new ideas from scanner manufacturers looking for new markets. Then again, look for Kodak to re-configure other models in its document imaging line at lower prices to put a shoebox unit into the hands of many more dealers.

In the meantime, what happens to the lowly shoebox once it has been emptied of family photos? What will it hold in its next re-incarnation?