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Albuming Becomes More Than a Cliché
Taking Center Stage at PMA Show


A Kodak Photobook
A Kodak Photobook

I really do hate clichés. Mostly because I end up having to explain them to the younger generations which, in my case, there are many. Two come to mind when I consider the recent PMA: "Talk is cheap" and "Put your money where your mouth is."

I thought it might be a good idea to Google these clichés just to see where they might have gotten started, in order to give some historical relationship to them and the PMA convention. Much to my surprise: both of them are rock song titles from recent days. So much for the generation gap.

Anyway, there was a lot of talk, a.k.a. buzz, on the matter of photobooks, albums and scrapbooking on the convention floor, snack bars, shuttle buses and maybe even at the blackjack tables. It reminded me somewhat of the PMA conventions of the early 1980s when all the talk was about that new fangled machine called a minilab. Often heard was another cliché: It's only a fad. (Right!)

While those earlier PMA convention-goers might have been suspicious of the minilab they were also frightened and in denial. Heaven forbid if something were to come along to disturb the status quo of the wholesale photofinishing business model which guaranteed two things: 7-10 day turnaround and high margins for all.

This time around, however, the talk of photobooks and albums was not a matter of disinterest. Rather, it appeared to have been the reason that many photo specialists even came to Las Vegas as they were hopefully reaching out for something, anything, that would stanch the flow of red numbers jumping across the screens from their QuickBooks software.

And the manufacturers were up to the challenge. The new guard, Hewlett Packard, which last year unveiled its Photosmart Studio to some fanfare, all of a sudden found itself surrounded with competition in every PMA aisle as the old guard jumped onto the bandwagon with a myriad of solutions for outputting photobooks, albums, and scrapbooks.

It was the talk of the show, no doubt, and, with a year head start, HP seemed to have the spotlight of attention at PMA as the other contenders were showing their wares for the first time. It would take time for the variety of new solutions that show goers were exposed to, to take hold.

Is there really a market out there for these specialty products or is it just plain 'cheap talk'?

Kis Photo-Me held a press conference at PMA to announce its PhotoBook system, a machine that outputs completely bound photobooks, up to 12x12, in a matter of minutes. Included in the presentation was a forecast done by Don Franz's Photofinishing News indicating that there were over 5,000 photobooks produced in '04 and over 10,000 in '06. By 2008, it was expected that the number would rise to 25,000 and reach 40,000 by 2011.

Considering the interest at the show and the possibility that some heavy tonnage promotion on photobooks could kick into gear once the trade gets production equipment in place, these numbers could be modest.

There was no shortage of choices for the engaged retailer to explore with albuming solutions ranging from nothing more than a software package hanging on a pegboard display to a capital investment for equipment up to $70,000.

HP, of course, was back with its Photosmart Studio package of equipment upgraded with enhanced software for additional creative options. This year there were a number of Studios set up in a variety of typical in-store arrangements as the firm is, for the first time, reaching out to the independent photo specialist and illustrating how it could be incorporated in a retail environment.

Kis Photo-Me's solution is the system described above. It's booth was humming all the time with folks interested in seeing this one-stop system, as pages of prints were fed into one end of the machine and an album popped out the other end in only a few minutes. The system won the 2007 DIMA Innovative Product award in its category.

The Kodak answer is to create the photobook with very unique album software that consumers will be able to use at a retail site equipped with a G-4 kiosk or at a home PC to be uploaded to an equipped retailer. It offered two methods of binding, a simple Unibind system for about $1,000, and another, the Powis Photopress, which uses high-pressure to adhere two 8x10 pages back-to-back using an adhesive sheet, for about $7,000.

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