Once upon a time, photos were happy to dwell in the dark confines of a shoe-box or within the static-charged plastic sleeves of photo albums. That was before digital changed everything.
I had lunch today with fellow entrepreneur Pat Phelan. Pat and I work in completely different industries. Pat is turning the mobile carrier business on its head; My area of expertise is Imaging, specifically imaging software for the web. Pat is one of those rare people whose energy and enthusiasm is infectious. The last time I spoke with Pat was after he had given a talk at the IT@Cork midsummer networking event some weeks back. Today though, I was doing most of the talking. I was talking about Photo Books.
Have you seen a Photo book? If you have, you’ve probably already made and purchased one for yourself. These Photo books are a far cry from the bulky ring-bound photo albums of old. They are hard-cover glossy coffee-table books featuring your own photos – and are quite simply beautiful. If you flick through a friend’s photo book I guarantee you will want one for yourself. They make fantastic gifts – which may be why they are so popular in Australia, where sending photos to family abroad is more common.
There are many European Photobook fulfillment companies. TicTacPhoto make beautiful hand-bound books of exceptional quality (check out the Flash intro on their website for a primer on what they do). I saw their work first-hand at the PMA conference last year. There are many other fulfillment companies who also provide Photo book merchandise and right now some of those companies are feeling pain.
Digital production color presses – the kind used to create Photo Books cost a lot of money. We’re talking about a significant 6-figure investment in hardware.
So let’s imagine you’re in the photo book business and you’ve just forked out hundreds of thousands of dollars for one of these machines. You would think your pain ends there but it’s only just beginning. You see, you now have to provide software so your customers can layout and design their photo books (I’ve played with some of these desktop software packages and they are complex and hard to use).
Unsurprisingly many digital print companies are now looking for simpler, more intuitive web-based photobook layout software but Kodak don’t appear to have such a product. I can’t imagine Kodak’s commercial customers are happy about this situation. In fact I know they aren’t.
If Kodak really care about their customers, here’s what I think they should do…
 Provide customizable, rebrandable web-based photobook layout software for all Nexpress customers. Macintosh users (in Europe at least) are left out in the cold. Which is surprising given how many creative moms (the people most likely to buy photobooks) use them. The software web-based so that it works on Windows, Mac and Linux and lets consumers get the most from the photos they continue to share online. This would be a double-win for Kodak if the software integrates with its own online photo-sharing site ofoto/EasyShare .
There are some who might say you can’t have web-based photo book layout software. They said that about Photo editing too – didn’t they?
In the meantime, until Kodak gets its act together (3 to 5 years), if you’re a photo book company looking for a game changing web-based software solution, please get in touch.