It’s no secret that analog goods are making a comeback in many areas of American life. From the massive rebirth of vinyl records, to the rising popularity of instant Polaroid cameras and board games, people of all ages are buying old school analog goods in droves.
Then, of course, there’s the classic photo album.
Classic photo albums are trending up again. At Kolo, we saw more than 50% growth in our classic album business in 2016 across the United States. But what’s most interesting is that the bulk of our customers are millennials, whereas 10 years ago they were people in the 35-45 age bracket.
Some may find the rising interest in photo albums peculiar, particularly when you consider photo book craze of the early 2000s. For a few years, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers jumped at the opportunity to design photo books online, instead of printing photos individually and arranging them by hand in a photo album.
But many millennials haven’t embraced the photo book medium. It’s not just that they’re buying more photo albums – they’re also printing more photos. In the U.S. alone, market research firm InfoTrends estimated that an astonishing 12.3 billion photos would be printed in 2015.
In an age where people can simply view photos and create photo books on their devices, why are so many people embracing printed photos and photo albums?
Here are a few reasons:
Smartphones Have Made Us Crave the Physical World
Thanks to our smartphones, not to mention digital cameras, we take thousands more photos each year than we did 15 years ago. But we’re also losing track of these photos and, in turn, our memories. Being liberated to take more photos has caused the images to become trivialized. Printing photos is a way for people to signify the importance of life’s most special moments.
Photo Books are Inherently Low-Quality
Somehow having photos printed onto pages of a flimsy book seemed to cheapen the photographs. After all, the print quality in photo books is not the same as that of photo processors who print premium prints. Photo books are more like offset printing. Real prints are done in a lab by trained technicians. The quality of premium prints is superb and they are printed to last.
Nostalgic influences of vintage “real” photo albums are surely driving this photo album trend with millennials. This generation likes tangible items with a DIY twist, like real photo albums with black pages or photo corners that hold real photo prints.
One only must think about the photo albums of Grace Kelley and other luminaries from the past looked like. It’s hard to imagine them in a flimsy printed photo boo” with little duck designs in the background.
Similarly, we all remember the predictions of the book being rendered extinct by digital books and reading devises. It turned out that the experts were wrong there, too. Over 500 independent books stores opened in the USA in 2016 after years of closings. Why? Many people love real books.
The love of photo albums is a lot like the love of books. For centuries, the art of book binding has been revered like many other artisanal trades. Holding a beautifully made book in your hands is one of life’s simple pleasures, much like flipping through a photo album from a wedding vacation.