| Christina Antoniades |
WASHINGTON (WP-BLOOM) – There are two shelves in my living room bookcase devoted to family photo albums — weighty faux-leather books with their spines neatly labelled by year and their pages packed with the four-by-six-inch images of my kids as babies. They’re great.
Right up until 2008, after which they are nonexistent. It’s not that we stopped snapping, of course. We just stopped printing.
All but the best of our photos live on our phones, tablets and hard drives, or in the cloud. And although I’d never want to print every one, I do wish more would make their way into books to flip through or prints to pass along. Groovebook offers a simple, inexpensive solution.
In 2012, print shop owners Brian and Julie Whiteman developed a binding tweak — cutting a groove into one end of a small photo book — that made their products flexible enough to qualify for the US Postal Service’s bulk mail rate.
A smartphone app followed in 2013, and in early 2014, the Whitemans scored a US$150,000 investment on ABC’s entrepreneurial reality show “Shark Tank”.
The free app requires a Groovebook subscription, which allows you to upload and print 100 photos each month for US$2.99, including shipping.
Your photos arrive in a glossy 4.5-by-6.5-inch photo book, printed on archival-quality paper, perforated for easy removal, if you wish, with date, time and location phone data printed inside the perforation line (some locations are missing, and my family’s White House snapshot was labeled simply “President”, which made me feel fancy for a moment).
If you’re like me and don’t take 100 print-worthy shots each month, you can opt to print multiple copies of select photos in your book. And although you’ll pay even if you goof and miss your monthly deadline, Groovebook sends you reminders to upload.
There are a few catches. The low cost of less than three US cents per print means you forfeit your right to speed.
The app says books take two to three days to print (mine have taken six or seven), plus 10 to 14 business days to ship.
I also found Groovebook’s customer service a little uneven.
It might just be a matter of growing pains: The number of subscribers ballooned from 35,000 before “Shark Tank” to 350,000 after.
Brian Whiteman says the company is hiring people and adding equipment to speed production, and aims to improve delivery speed and the photo selection tool.
Groovebook will no doubt also get a boost from its new parent company, Shutterfly, which snapped it up in November for US$14.5 million (though Groovebook will continue to operate as a standalone app).
In the meantime, if you have a phone full of photos and a soft spot for prints, the arrival each month of a cute compact photo book is almost certain to put a smile on your face.