“May you live in interesting times.” is considered more of a curse than a proverb. Whatever, we are in it, “interesting times” that is. You gotta love this heady adrenalin rush of change and opportunity. It’s like a freight train screaming down the track. The trick is not to get flatten by it. Actually the real trick is be like those old dirty 30’s hobos, run along side it just fast enough to grab something and haul yourself in for the ride.

So where is the freight train going? What tracks are being laid? Can you position your company and vision for it?

In 2004 I was teaching in England and wandered into a major trade show. I was stunned to find only a few albums, mostly ignored. It was books that had taken over the stage. There were some with a wholesale tag of $15,000, before the photographer would add his prints and they were moving! Even the low-end books out flashed my personal creations back home. Now they are starting to emerge like a stampede at the professional level, but what’s the pulse of our consumers?

Now I need to introduce you to Malcolm Mathieson. He is one of those guys that hovers just above all the turmoil of our vocation, noticing the formation of trends and directions. He has noticed books.

Malcolm talks about the ground swell of books like it’s a tsunami of change coming to our industry. He believes we are about to “see changes so huge and with such ramifications for our businesses it will make moving from film to digital look like a walk in the park” He and others like him, are predicating a wholesale shift from pretty colored prints to the new fangled books, or files for people to make their own. They see this massive change creating graves for mini labs, traditional album companies, even camera stores who are profit based on prints.

Some of the others, with pretty deep pockets, driving this tsunami wave. HP’s Snapfish, like almost every other online photo service, offers it. Years ago, Apple quietly added the innovation in their iphoto, “press here to turn your album collection in to a book” Files slipped over the Internet to return as a picture book. Adobe’s Album, with the same offer, is now folded into a print option in Photoshop Elements.

Not long ago Scrapbooking was predicted to be a fading trend. Technology converted it into digital scrapbooking. When it began printing these digital books it became a player in the emerging ground swell of books. Craft and Hobby Assoc. pegs it exceeding $3 Billion bucks this year, its listed as the fastest growing leisure time activity. The number of scrapbookers has quadrupled in the past five years, to over 20million. Research studies predict it is on the verge of going mainstream . . . .

In my own studio I have experienced book sales leap 87% over last year alone. It’s grown from a unique side offer 6 years ago into an exciting growth product today.

Keep in mind its not just albums that are changing, on my desk is a digital frame rotating inspiration images as I write this. Stores cannot keep these in stock at Christmas time. Photographs are increasingly being referred to as images or simply as files. It is rare that an image capture has not been tweaked or tinkered with by somebody before somebody delights in it.

If books are coming for the small print market, are the large wall size images safe? Interesting question. Do you recall Bill Gates, many years back equipping his house with built in framed TV screens that were fed fine art images? Every one thought that was eccentric. This is the same fellow now bringing us touch screen tabletop computers. I really mean tabletop; the tabletop is the monitor, touch sensitive. It’s really cool.

Anyway, it caught the public attention (his large wall pictures) but was pretty out of reach and bulky. LCD and Plasma changed all that. You may have noticed the growth of those small digital frames I referred to on my desktop. In the stores they have gotten bigger, first 4x5, then 5x7 and now 8x10. Prices are more than halved.

Did you know there are several firms making them in 40-inch wide sizes? With wireless feeds? That can play jpg images and mpg movies, with sound. They are only 2 inches deep?

Did you know they can be currently had for the price of six or eight 10-inch LCD frames? Some firms have the digital frames connected wirelessly to an Internet account. You upload the images into the account and like magic both grandparents start seeing the new grandchild images.

Pause to ponder the implications. They could almost be considered picture books for the wall.

Ah, the freight train, or is that tsunami? Pick your allegory but start getting ready for it. It’s going to transform us again.

Author's Bio: 

Mark Laurie is an International Photographer, writer, speaker based in Calgary Alberta. He has been teaching photography and the business of photography for over 25 years. He has been the international photographer of the year in four categories. Remains the most awarded photographer in his field in North America. He runs the Digital Nude & Glamour Photography School in Paradise Island in the Bahamas.