Tech vs. Trees: Images go from digital to print via 'fotobars,' magazine digital subscriptions show boost despite setbacks, e-bookstores' global presence growing

LOS ANGELES , January 4, 2013 () – A roundup of recent trends pitting technology against the printed word:

Trees: Fotobars help picture-takers make hard copies of their digital images

With 1.5 billion pictures taken every day thanks to the ease and quality of camera phones, most of those images are trapped inside mobile devices and other gadgets, according to the CEO of Fotobar LLC. The company expects to bring back the hard copy image via at least 10 Polaroid Fotobar retail locations across the U.S. this year, aiming to make it easy to transfer those pictures onto posters as well as canvas, metal, acrylic, wood and even bamboo—thus turning people’s best pictures into pieces of art, the release said. The first store will open in February in Delray Beach, Florida, followed by others, including New York, Las Vegas and Boston. Customers who visit these locations can wirelessly transmit their camera phone/tablet pictures to the Fotobar workstations in addition to uploading photos from Facebook, Instagram, Picasa and other social platforms, which can then be enhanced with photo-effect technologies. If print photos take off again, maybe that could benefit related accessories such as photo albums, frames and scrapbooks.

Tech: Hearst reports record digital subscriptions

The New Year appears to hold promise for magazine digital subscriptions as Hearst Corp. boasted 800,000 digital subscribers by the end of 2012—“the highest in the industry,” according to Hearst President David Carey, Mashable reported Jan. 2. In comparison, its closest competitor Conde Nast reported 500,000 digital subscription and single copy sales while The New York Times reported 592,000 digital subscribers as of October. Hearst’s figure takes into account monthly subscribers across all its magazine titles, including Cosmopolitan, Elle and Road & Track, via iPads, Kindle Fires, Nooks and Android devices, with more than 80% accounting for new Hearst subscribers, Carey said. If those numbers translate to comparable success for other magazines, Newsweek could be in luck as the venerable newsmagazine just printed its last hard copy edition on Dec. 31 and will exist solely as a digital publication. Moreover, 90% of Alliance for Audited Media publications have a mobile presence compared with 51% in 2009, with the remaining 10% to follow suit in the next 12 months. However, not all digital-only publications have fared well, as News Corp. shuttered its iPad-only national publication The Daily on Dec. 15. Rupert Murdoch called it “a bold experiment in digital publishing,” but conceded that the publication “could not find a large enough audience quickly enough to convince us the business model was sustainable in the long-term.”

Trees: Independent bookstores see boom in Christmas sales

Despite the closure of several high profile brick-and-mortar booksellers as well as the general doom-and-gloom feel of the print book market, independent bookstores that participated in Publishing Weekly’s Daily’s Christmas 2012 survey reported a surprisingly positive holiday season overall, Publishing Weekly reported on Jan. 2. Stores reported sales ranging from mild declines in December to double-digit increases. Bookstore owners noted that sales increased following the 2011 closure of the Borders chain. Suzy Takacs, the owner of Chicago-based The Book Cellar, said her 2011 sales rose 38%, and that the increase had carried over into 2012. Not all news on the indie front is positive, however; while the number of independent booksellers has increased since 2010, both chains and independent booksellers have continued to close their doors. Booksellers remain optimistic about 2013, with owner Valerie Koehler of Houston-based Blue Willow Bookshop saying, “I am just looking forward to a great year,” as reported by Publishing Weekly.

Tech: E-bookstores’ presence growing worldwide

Globally, the world’s largest sellers of digital content such as Apple Inc., Inc. and Google Inc. are rolling out their e-bookstores to more countries as tablets and other e-reading devices surge in sales. To kick off the New Year, Apple is reportedly introducing the iBookstore in Japan and has signed up several Japanese publishers in the process, sources said, according to various reports. Given that Apple commands 60% of the total market share in Japan’s tablet market, it can now offer its Japanese customers titles from domestic publishers as well as encourage growth in the e-reader market, Digital Trends reported Jan. 2. E-booksellers have eyed other countries with recent launches, as Google, Amazon and Kobo all introduced their e-bookstores to Brazil in December, Publishing Perspectives reported Dec. 6. Like Apple, Amazon has also set its sights on Asia, as the online retail giant entered China’s e-book market with a range of free and priced e-books, though the Kindle has not yet arrived in China. Plans are being made to introduce the e-reader soon, according to Digital Journal on Dec. 13. Meanwhile, Amazon has launched a Kindle bookstore closer to home from its corporate headquarters, offering its neighbor to the north its own Kindle book section, highlighting notable Canadian authors, Engadget reported Dec. 9.

Tech + Trees: San Francisco continues phone book distribution, but Alaskan urban areas end deliveries

As local governments across the U.S. consider or take steps to eliminate the automatic delivery of phone books, a recent court ruling has sidelined some efforts, including a San Francisco ordinance that would have restricted distribution of print directories. A local industry group challenged San Francisco after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, citing First Amendment protections, ruled against Seattle’s effort to impose similar restrictions on distribution of the Yellow Pages, The Bay Citizen reported Jan. 3. However, Alaska’s state regulators have approved ending automatic deliveries of residential white-page directories in four urban areas: Fairbanks, Anchorage, Juneau and the Kenai Peninsula, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Dec. 26. Alaska Communications, which called on the regulators to support the move, said that almost 15 million pages of residential listings were printed just in 2011. The regulators’ ruling allows publishers to opt out of delivering the affected directories to every household, but requires them to inform residents that they can still request a print copy. And for those households who live in cities around the country that require automatic deliveries, Mother Nature Network published “17 creative ways to reuse your phone book” on Dec. 6, which includes using the thin newsprint paper for kindling, papier mache, composting and gift wrap, among other uses.

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