Flickr Gets into the Photo Book Market

David Haueter
Nov 22, 2013

Flickr announced this week the addition of Flickr Photo Books, which allows users to create printed photo books from the photo sets they have on their Flickr site. It’s the first time the Yahoo-owned site has offered a printed product directly to their users, though users have had the option of sending their Flickr photos to the HP Snapfish site for creating printed products since 2009. The new book option was announced just in time for the busy Holiday season, which is when most consumers order photo products.

Flickr Photo Books Page View

The Flickr book creation process is quick and easy, though not without its drawbacks. Flickr has decided to keep it simple — with books only available as 8.5” x 11” hardbound twenty-page books with a photo-wrapped cover and matching dust jacket for $34.95, with additional pages costing $0.50 apiece. Photos are printed on heavy stock photo Lustre paper, and users have the option of eight different colors for the back cover. To create a book, simply put the cursor over the thumbnail for a Flickr photo set and a “Make a book!” option will pop up. Clicking on the book icon will automatically place the photos from the photo set into a book (with some pages using a full bleed and some with margins) and put the name of the set onto the cover and the spine. The book can then be reviewed page by page or in storyboard format and if you’re happy with the way Flickr did things, you can click on “Checkout” and order your book. The process literally could take less than two minutes.

For those that want to have more control over their book, Flickr also allows the user to remove and add photos, reorder pages, or zoom in and out on the photos to adjust the crop. Users can also control which pages use a full bleed and which ones have margins by clicking on a margin controller icon on the top right corner of each page. Additional photos can also be added during the editing process, but they first must reside within the Flickr photo set the user is working from. Besides the title on the front cover and the spine, users cannot place any text into the book, which avoids “awkward descriptions,” as Flickr says on its blog site. The book may look better without text muddying it up, but the lack of a text option could turn off some users that would like to identify people or places in their photos.

Flickr Photo Books Storyboard View

One potentially confusing element of the Flickr Photo Book offering is that Flickr still allows users to order a variety of printed products, including photo books, from the HP Snapfish site, although it’s not easy to find. If the user happens to go into the “Edit” menu once they open their photo set, there’s a “Print & Create” menu option at the top of that page that gives the option to send photos to Snapfish and order printed products, but there’s no mention of Flickr Photo Books anywhere on that page. If the “Sets & Collections” menu that’s on that same edit page is chosen, it will take the user back to the photo set but again, there’s no mention of Flickr Photo Books. The only way to see the Flickr Photo Book option is by going into the “Sets” option from the main page, which is the easiest place to start from but could create some confusion among users and lead some to end up printing their books from Snapfish instead of Flickr.

Flickr Link to Snapfish Products

InfoTrends’ Opinion

All in all, the addition of photo books as a creative option for Flickr users is a good thing. Photo books are still a growing market that delivers strong profit margins. InfoTrends 2013 U.S. Photo Merchandise Forecast projects a 13% increase in sales from 2013 to 2014, and another 11% from 2014 to 2015. Flickr’s photo book option gives them an advantage over competition such as Facebook (which only allows access to photos through its API for use by third-party services for printing) and Google, which doesn’t offer any print options via Picasa Web Albums and requires users of the Picasa desktop app to send photos to other partner sites if they want to print anything.

Flickr could use a shot in the arm, as they’re ranked ninth in popularity among sites used for photo sharing in the recent InfoTrends 2013 Social Network and Photo/Video Sharing Survey. Less than 8% of respondents to that survey had used Flickr for photo sharing in the previous twelve months, well behind category leaders Facebook (more than 70%), Instagram, and Twitter. The option of printing photo books along with the 1 terabyte of free storage that Flickr gave users earlier this year are a couple of compelling reasons to use the site, but Flickr should expand their photo book selection to other sizes and styles (such as lay-flat books) if they want to compete more directly with other companies in this market that offer a wide range of book options.

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