The trends, the issues, and productive business
Digital or Hard-Copy Scrapbooks?
Is one better than the other? Or is there a
"best of both worlds" solution?
by CLN Subscribers (July 3, 2006)
(Note: The June 19 issue of CLN included a report
by the New York Times which said the new wave of scrapbooking
is digital rather than hard copy; it that is true, it could spell
trouble for retailers selling paper, albums, and embellishments. We
asked readers to tell us if a) the Times article is
true and b) how retailers should respond to their
computer-happy customers. And to make this collection more
thought-provoking, CLN will act as a devil's advocate and
comment after each reader's thoughts.)
A Creative Outlet.
Personally, I scrapbook not only to preserve my family's
memories, but also for a creative outlet. After spending 8+ hours at
work in front of a computer, the last thing I want to do is spend
more time with the computer at home. Instead, I head to my scrapbook
table and get creative with paper, scissors, adhesive, etc. I would
think with our technology-driven society that others would want this
creative break as well. – Nicole Hoch, Editor, The
ScrapBook Club, F+W Publications
CLN Responds: We feel exactly the same way after sitting
in front of a computer all day, but consumers who've grown up with
so much technology may not feel the need to escape from it, and may
like channeling their creativity through a computer.
A View from Australia.
When you create a scrapbook page, a mini-book, etc., you’re
creating a personal record of your family today for the future
generations. It is a tangible keepsake than can held, touched,
looked at, and sadly for some, it will be one of the only creations
that someone dear to them left behind that was created with their
Just spare a thought for your ancestors looking back on their
great grandmother’s family historical record (your scrapbooking
projects). How much more emotion and personal touch is there in
something that someone can hold, feel, and look at that you created
with your own hands?
Can the same be said about a digital scrapbooking page?
Personally, I don’t believe so. – Mark Ripper, CEO,
Helmar Australia Pty Ltd
CLN Responds: We don't think so either, but younger
consumers – the future – may disagree.
You can’t put all of the original ephemera (tickets, award
ribbons, programs) on a digital page. You can scan them, but copies
are just not the same as the originals. – Laurie Dambrosio
CLN Responds: Good point!
The Real Deal.
Hard-copy scrapbooks are the real deal. I use the computer for
special effects on photos and text, but that is all. I don't
scrapbook because I need to and therefore want speed. I scrapbook
for the love of my family and friends, for the pure joy of creating
something with my own hands, for the smiles and admiration my pages
bring others. I love lumpy, bumpy pages and enjoy running my fingers
over the beads, buttons, and more that I put on my pages.
My grandkids love the tactile nature of my pages. They smile as
they touch the sand, beads, dried and silk flowers, leather tags,
and more. They giggle over how "mamo" made little acrylic
water splashes on their pages of slippery slide layouts.
Doing everything digital might look pretty, but would be no more
fun than just looking at a book or a magazine. The textile (and
sometimes smell) is part of the memory. I'll never stop making my
hard-copy scrapbooks. – Dianna Longoria, Jennis Group
CLN Responds: If making a family scrapbook was the only
item a consumer had on her "to do" list, then yes,
time/speed would not be a factor. The texture of a hard-copy
scrapbook is wonderful, but for generations from now, a digital
album is better than nothing.
Playing Both Ways.
Why do consumers have to choose? Most of us eat meals at home and
in restaurants, wear inexpensive clothes mixed in with the
occasional splurge, and mail holiday cards and Valentines as well as
last-minute email greetings. Most people don't feel the need to
narrow our choices. The more we can broaden consumers' choices, the
After all, the person who starts with an online album can also
own a nice leather album filled with heavily embellished pages for
those times when she is sitting on the sofa with friends and family.
You can help your customer make tiny albums a) to tuck into her
husband's suitcase when he is deployed in the military or heads off
on a business trip, b) to send to camp in a child's duffle bag, or
c) to give as a birthday gift to a friend for a milestone birthday.
Even if you send them email, too.
Just because her first layouts were digital doesn't mean she
won't also love paper and prints. Young brides who plan their
weddings and honeymoons online still cherish traditional albums.
Small children who spend hours at a computer still want to cuddle,
poring over the pages that document their activities. Teens who wear
out their thumbs on text messages still like making cards, banners,
Introduce this audience to scrapbooking supplies in ways they
already embrace, and even if they don't make albums you've sold a
lot of merchandise. Or if you look at it differently, a banner is a
scrapbook, only long and narrow instead of made of pages.
Computers connect people in ways that nothing else can. I can
show a photo of a puppy to a friend in Norway in a matter of
seconds. That said, I've never read a story to a child from a
computer screen. For that, I turn to lap and rocker, just like my
I think the trick is to make sure that no one thinks they have to
be "either-or" about the whole issue. The more time people
spend in a virtual world, the more valuable the tangible one
I think it's risky to say one is better. Making that kind of
judgment sets up a divide instead of building something that can
include a lot of different pieces. It implies that you have to make
a choice and that there is only one choice.
I'd much rather have a store owner say to me "Here are some
great ways to spend time with friends and family" than say this
kind of album is better than what you might be doing at a computer.
Having a personal web site, online album, AND a thick, juicy album
with pages from the last twenty Christmas celebrations, AND a mini
album with photos from soccer camp, AND a series of framed album
pages in the den, AND a magnet backed-scrapbook page on the fridge
ALL go hand in hand.
Picture a little boy sitting at the computer playing games. Then
picture him running around the room with a paper crown he's made
from construction paper and leaves on his head. He can play both
ways. Now picture his mom sending photos to a college friend via the
computer. Then picture her sitting in your classroom making an
accordion book filled with those very same photographs to give to
her mother for her birthday. We can play both ways, too! – Judi
Kauffman, Deborah M, Inc.
CLN Responds: Wonderful, wise thoughts. The challenge for
retailers is convince consumers, especially younger potential
customers, that they need more than computers for a fulfilling
If You Can't Beat 'Em ....
Scrapbook manufacturers might want to consider "if you can't
beat em', join em'" as a product mix strategy and offer options
for the digital scrapbooker as well hard lines for the traditional
scrapbooker. Every designer and manufacturer out there who has a
scrapbook program could develop a package of coordinating digital
templates. This complimentary digital product can be designed to
support traditional papers and embellishments so that
non-traditional products are still being pushed.
A whole new product could be introduced to the industry, a hybrid
scrapbook. The consumer can create a digital scrapbook but also
embellish by hand. This hybrid undercuts the objection of "It's
too time consuming." The crafter can spend as little or as much
time as desired on the hand embellishments.
Think of the design time saved by the manufacturer. Much of the
product is already designed. No need to reinvent the wheel. Just
take your bestsellers and do a line extension of digital templates.
Of course, a top-notch computer department is critical as the
software must work as promised.
For those who are concerned that this still cuts into actual
product sales, they are right. But for those consumers who will not
consider non-digital options – and they do exist – a hybrid
product would sell some product to these folks rather than no
product at all.
Marketing is a key issue for digital product. Traditional
in-store displays won't necessarily reach these consumers. These are
folks who blog, podcast, etc. – a different animal entirely than
the traditional crafter.
The industry has also often positioned itself on "acid
free", "archival," etc. However, there are
scrapbookers who are not concerned with longevity. These tend to be
the younger scrapbookers. You can't get them to wear sunscreen
either. – Michelle Temares
CLN Responds: But can the retailer sell enough to stay in
My primary reason for scrapbooking is to "do something"
with the filled magnetic albums and boxes of old photos I have from
my family, my husband’s family, and, to a lesser degree, of my own
young children. We have a digital camera, so most digital photos we
take of our kids end up on a shared site (specifically,
Shutterfly.com). However, we’re always getting the doubles of cute
photos of our kids for grandmas, aunts, and other folks who haven’t
yet gone the digital-camera route. And even in this so-called
"digital age," we are still ordering hard copies of soccer
team photos, ballet recital photos, school year photos, etc. We get
similar pictures from our nieces, nephews, and our friends’
children. All of these are on my "to-do" list for albums!
I think there’s room for both types of scrapbooking, but
retailers should play up the angle of caring for vintage photos. For
example, I recently took my grandparents’ wedding photos (circa
1945) out of a magnetic album and into a 12x12 book. I interviewed
my widowed grandmother, who is now in a nursing home, for details
about the wedding – who was in her wedding party, how she got her
dress, etc., and journaled that throughout the pages. I’ve think
Vu brand is a nice example of how to cater to people looking to
preserve family heritage this way.
I also prefer the look of handwritten journaling over typed
fonts. The latter may be easier to do and read, but doesn’t
reflect the character of someone’s own handwriting. – Heather
Gooch, Vice President, Gooch & Gooch, www.goochandgooch.com
CLN Responds: the vintage photo idea is a good one. Yes,
old photos can be scanned but then what – throw away the
Our company is not in scrapbooking, but my wife is an avid
scrapbooker. One of the greatest pleasures she has is when we have
company and one of our guest picks up one of her photo scrapbooks of
our family. These coffee-table pieces are treasured heirlooms.
Digital photo albums just don't provide this same spontaneous
enjoyment. Both hardbound and digital scrapbooks have a place in our
future. I don't believe the later will replace the former but will
simply complement it. – Jan Kahn, Caron International
CLN Responds: Yes, who wants to crowd around a computer
at a social gathering?
The Joy of Creating.
The answer is simple and easy; it's the hands-on making of the
scrapbooks that is the biggest reason for not doing them online. But
of course doing them online is also a creative process and should
also be included in our industry's offerings. It's not being a
"family historian" or making gifts, or making
"things" that inspire people to do crafts. When we get
right down to it, the basic reason for scrapbooking (or doing any
craft or art project) is the creative process, not the product.
We just love the process of creating, and that is what our
industry should be selling. With that in mind, every creative
process should be honored, no matter how simple or kitchy, elaborate
or elegant. Let's get together and give everyone permission to be
creative and they will discover how wonderful it makes them feel!
Okay, a bit corny, but I strongly feel that if we can get people
to be more creative, it will improve their lives – and really grow
our industry (all aspects, not just the 'hot trends'). – Marie
Browning, Marie Browning Creates
CLN Responds: Marie is absolutely right, but how does a
store project an image as the center for creativity?
Both Have a Place.
For the sake of Westrim’s new Digital Designs product launching
at CHA, I am hoping that people see the benefits of being able to
quickly assemble an album, then duplicate it to satisfy an entire
bridal party, scout troop, or family reunion group. But nothing can
replace a dimensional album, filled with details, ticket stubs,
dried flowers, and other memories.
How else can a parent save a newborn baby bracelet from the
hospital, a lock of hair, and all those other trinkets? Not to
mention that after hours at work on the computer, a little hi-touch
combats the fatigue of hi-tech.
I can knit either by hand or machine; while knitting by hand may
be slower, it always feels better. The owner of my favorite knitting
shop in Studio City, CA just invented needles with tiny lights in
the tips – for knitting in the movies, or in dimly lit areas –
apparently Clover will be distributing these semi-hi-tech needles.
– Terri Seiden, Marketing Communications Manager,
Creativity Inc. (Autumn Leaves, Blue Moon Beads, Crop In Style, DMD,
CLN Responds: But will the younger generation learn the
pleasures of "hands-on" rather than just moving a mouse?
Our instant society.
1. Emotional. In visiting workshops and cropping parties, I
see the emotional angle to scrapbooking. In my view, true
scrapbookers aren't as interested in "getting the job done
quickly" as they are with preserving a moment in time with a
special flair and accent. You cut the grass or wash the car to
"get it done."
2. Sociable. The sociable part of scrapbooking is almost like
a marriage of cultures as people always leave cropping parties with
new friends and new ideas. I can picture a cropping party with 600
laptops, stacks of CD's, and nobody saying a word, just clicking
3. Safety. The opportunity for problems to arise from digital
scrapbooking is greater than using the hard-copy approach. Computer
viruses, media format changes (anybody remember the 8-inch floppy
disk?) and materials used to print a copy of the scrapbook could be
some of the challenges a casual scrapbooker would face.
However, we live in an instant results society: coaches are fired
who don't turn programs into winners in three years or less; instant
messaging versus the personal contact of a phone call; and email
cards versus Hallmark. Today people want Michelangelo's results in
the time it takes to drive to work.
The bottom line is you will always have people who prefer to take
the easy way out. This is not a condemnation of that approach, but
merely a question of personal satisfaction. There really is not any
wrong way to scrapbook, as long as you are using safe products. The
question becomes your personal satisfaction with the results and the
level of enjoyment you've experienced scrapbooking. – Tom Vasko,
VP-Sales, North America, 3L Corporation www.scrapbook-adhesives.com
CNA Responds: Hard-copy scrapbooking is getting an image that
it's time-consuming and complicated. How do retailers explain to the
non-believers that scrapbooking can be as quick and easy as the
crafter wants it to be?
Although I think digital scrapbooking will have its place, I don’t
think it will replace hard-copy scrapbooking because of the
Scrapbook crops and private parties need to be hands-on because
no one is going to supply everyone with computers and printers.
Also, most people who go to these activities are into the craft of
it and the touchy feely-ness of hands-on scrapbooking. People like
layers and dimension which you don’t get with digital
Furthermore, I haven’t seen a company really offer all the
pieces and programs that digital scrapbookers would need to do
digital scrapbooking very easily. Consider:
1. Photoshop is not an easy program to learn to use.
2. Do any 12 x12 printers really print the quality
scrapbookers want? It's way too expensive to purchase the printers
that are top quality. Some companies offer pre-done books, but they
3. Middle-aged consumers (the main consumer base in
scrapbooking) are generally still not comfortable with computers and
are not computer-savvy enough to take on digital scrapbooking.
4. Twentysomethings who are more computer savvy may push the
industry in the digital direction, but it will not replace the real
thing, because the fun of scrapbooking is the craft as well as the
5. Digital scrapbookers would have to spend big chunks of
money on software, printers, computers etc. To buy hard-copy
scrapbook supplies, they buy smaller pieces. They may eventually
spend a lot of money, but it doesn’t seem like as much.
6. The thing that makes a craft survive and live instead of
just being a fad is that it fills several basic human needs. First,
it is an artistic outlet; second, it fills a social need; and third,
it creates something of value to the crafter. Quilting is an example
of a craft that has survived because it fills all those human needs.
Digital scrapbooking leaves out the social aspect. Although it may
have its place, I don’t think it will replace regular
scrapbooking. – Karen Foster, Karen Foster Design
CLN Responds: Crop parties have been called the quilting bee
of the 21st century.
While I am not in the scrapbook business, this hit home for me.
My daughter is 15 and just came back from a Christian camp called
Sky Ranch in Texas. My daughter returned with several projects in
mind. She wanted to start reading the Bible (I was shocked, but she
said, "I’ve read everything else in the house.") She
also wanted to make a scrapbook for her favorite counselor. Over the
years we have bought a fair amount of scrapbook supplies, but her
baby book stopped at about year 3. It is a lot of work to get it all
out, sort the pictures, and such. Once a year, we try again to
update it, but maybe finish one page.
But I was game, so I pulled out a magazine, Simple Scrapbooks.
I like it because it emphasizes just two things – the photo itself
and the journaling. Not much on tags, ribbons, busy backgrounds,
etc. I thought my daughter could do a lot with her camp pictures and
some Bible verse for the counselor.
Two days later, I came back and she had composed two pages – on
the computer. Now, we don’t have scrapbook software. She had done
this with other tools we have (Microsoft Word and some photo editing
software). She wanted her counselor to know about her as well as
about the camp experience, so she surfed through my computer finding
photos she could use. The pages were very nice – simple,
sophisticated, and carrying out a theme in both subject and color.
So we have a newbie with access to a fair amount of supplies, who
has decided in the first instance to design using the computer. She
says she’ll print it out and glue it to the nice acid-free, unused
scrapbook we have lying around, but I doubt it. She has it just the
way she likes it on the computer.
If I was really concerned about durability and permanence, I’d
wait until she had a half dozen pages, and then we’d get the
photos printed professionally (assuming I can find the negatives or
the photos) and then buy paper that matches her color scheme so that
she could manually duplicate her pages. But this book is a gift, and
I assume the recipient isn’t really interested in keeping a camper
scrapbook forever. She could probably just print and mail it and get
the desired effect.
So just like you pull on your experiences with your wife Barbara
the new jewelry designer, I pull on my experiences with my daughter
(also Barbara) the new scrapbooker (a 15-year-old, the new
generation). She has tried and quit beading and we have $100 of
supplies in a closet. So I am thrilled that this new project can
inspire creativity without separating me from $100.
As a retailer, of course, my goal would be to separate as many
people from $100 as I could. But my daughter lives on the computer.
I’d probably be pushing my newbies to compose online, then
reproduce the design in safe, permanent, and tactile materials. I’d
probably be looking at ribbons and threads (they lie flat, but add
tactile dimension to the 2D experience of the computer.)
But frankly, all this stuff makes the scrapbooks, well, scrappy
and my daughter didn’t respond well to that. She wanted it clean
and a bit edgy. So I’m not sure the market can support all these
image designers any more than the cross stitch market could support
every homemaker that wanted to turn her designs into a viable cross
stitch pattern business. Many tried, few succeeded. We can’t all
make money at our craft or at our passion, and that’s just how it
is. – Catherine Bracken, Discount Needlework.com
CLN Responds: Daughters like Catherine's are what we're
afraid of, and need to attract if our scrapbook stores are to
Don't Ignore Digital.
Maybe the Times article is a realistic wake up call to the
industry? As an industry, we had better not ignore this. Digi-anything
is NOT going away any time soon, and yes, they will continue to
generate new forms to a point, in the not so distant future, where
they are three-dimensional, like our favorite scrapbooks.
The question should be, "What can we do to integrate digital
scrapbooking into our offerings and take advantage of this
movement?" not "Why hard copy is better than computer
versions." This is evolution rather than a trend, and it really
can not be stopped.
To put it into perspective, let’s look at what happened with
photography. My family started with the studio shots back in the
1800’s done on tintype in some fancy studio. Then they went to
field shots taken by a family member who was fortunate enough to be
the town’s newspaper guy. Circa 1940, my grandparents bought their
first camera and carried it around like a fourth child. This setup
required the assistance of a commercial film processor only – no
do-it-yourself here. Those films are fragile, over 60 years old, and
we are paying a fortune to change them to DVD format.
Then along comes Polaroid, by-passing the expensive film
processing, but not too "archival." Most of my family's
Polaroids look like altered art at this point, but then they are
about 30-some years old as well.
With my children, came camcorders. We have no photos from this
era; we were too busy taking movies of the little ones' first
"everything." We are thinking that we will next have to
buck up and pay for all of this to be transformed to a DVD –
unless I spend a few days on my hands and knees with video
input-and-output cables from the VCR to my laptop, (which
incidentally cost less than the camera and VCR tape player
individually) – which I am NOT doing.
My 24 year old knows how to translate all of this to something
that can be used by his iPod, so he can show the hysterical home
movies (generated from real movie film) of my husband in his Howdy
Dowdy outfit, shooting BB’s at the neighborhood cat invaders. This
is funny to him because he used electronic BB’s to shoot at space
invaders and aliens with his Atari system.
And here we are discussing ways to sell against digital
scrapbooking technology? Why don’t we integrate it? Independents,
for under $ 1,500, can set up techno-scrap craft area. They could
feature oversized printers and other tools the average consumer is
not ready to invest in. Real crops become computer lab time and
perhaps, you can use embellishments or rubber stamps to take the
hobby and INTEGRATE it into traditional products and materials would
evolve. ADD it to your offerings.
Selling against it would alienate you from a big number of
consumers – a younger, newer, "next generation" of
customers. Scrapbooking is a highly personal craft and if you expect
to make money or stay in business you must INTEGRATE technology into
your market offerings. Maybe your website should consider offering
branded electronic product?
Maybe you can get a young adult to work part-time teaching
computer basics and you can help your consumer get up to speed?
Maybe you can offer an entire department of digital-friendly
materials; if the scrapbook is on a disk – the disk needs a snappy
creative cover made from paper. For that matter, maybe you start to
offer CD’s where once you offered organic papers.
How about offering a website that your customers can use to
download files for their digital scrap booking needs? Maybe you pay
a graphic designer to develop your branded line of digital stuff?
Maybe just download some digital art stamps™ from crafterstudio,
and with your wholesale license, offer them to your clients? Lots of
people can drop the pictures into the files, but not everyone can
create the embellishments or the "feel" of the graphics
that they easily can with paper.
Whatever we offer to our retail partners, it should be in line
with how the rest of the world thinks. We can not change the world,
but the world can change us. Trying to sell against digital
scrapbooking instead of recognizing it and effectively integrating
it all of our businesses, would just be a recipe for obsolescence.
But if you must:
"Why Paper Scrapbooking is better than Digital
1. The entire tactile sense of scrapbooking is missed when it
is digital; you can not "feel" the memory.
2. DVD’s have their own set of "archival"
features/care requirements that require full attention as well as
3. No "back up" copy of your work is required with
the paper version. (Although many hurricane victims would likely
argue this point. A digital back up, in New England, for example,
would have allowed them to still have their precious pictures and
journaling – regardless of the weather.)
4. Hard-copy scrapbooking consumes more time than digital
5. Digital scrapbooking requires some pretty advanced
computer skills – more than emailing.
6. Did paper cards go away when e-cards became available? In
fact, it became a new craft sub-category.
7. Most people (over the age of 40) do not think of the
computer as a craft tool; it is more like the ATM at the bank – a
necessary evil – this works in favor of paper scrapping, for now.
8. The "focus" of it changes from hobby and leisure
to yet another computer maintenance "chore" to be
performed (for some).
Then if you are pro-digital, you are likely to hear:
1. No storage space required for digital scrapbooking.
2. You can ‘take it’ with you with little need for
anything but a key stick – anywhere. Just try to take a pair of
scissors on a plane.
3. Computer scrapbooking is cheaper, after the initial
investment of equipment; the only ongoing investment is paper, ink
and CD’s if you share the results.
4. It is user friendly for sharing. Do you want to lug 10
pounds of paper to your mother's across the country to show her the
baby’s first spaghetti dinner?
5. Digital scrapbooking is less time consuming that paper
6. You can add music or voice-overs for journaling as well as
the written words.
7. You can make multiple copies without purchasing multiple
sets of supplies.
8. You can resize it to fit your paper needs.
9. Requires no hands-on capability.
10. Great results regardless of crafting ability. – Ann
Krier, Crafter Studio www.crafterstudio.com
CLN Responds: Ann has touched all the bases!
My instinct tells me people don't just want to look at a photo
album. They want to touch it. I would venture that if you conducted
a focus group and observed individuals looking at hard-copy and
digital scrapbooks, individuals would be observed touching the
pages, running their fingers across pictures and embellishments.
There's got to be some psychological connection that is easily made
holding the albums, versus clicking through pages using a mouse. –
Jennie Stagliano, Marketing Communications Manager, Glue Dots
CLN Responds: Yes, but does the younger generation insist on
touching the pages, or are they enthralled with the special effects
a computer can produce?
(Note: Want to add your thoughts to the discussion? (This
topic will not be going away anytime soon.) Email CLN at www.clnonline.com.
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