By Fred Swegles
What if parents could order a school yearbook, knowing it would include at least four pages custom-built for them and their children? What they could contribute photographs they love?
At Our Savior's Lutheran School in San Clemente, this is the year they reinvent the yearbook.
Our Savior's is teaming up with a new company called TreeRing that aims to use digital technology to change how yearbooks are conceived. Aaron Greco, a 1995 graduate of San Clemente High School, is a co-founder of TreeRing. He tells how originator Chirs Pratt came up with the idea:
"His daughter came home from school and said very proudly, 'Look, Dad, here's my yearbook,' and pointed out her one head shot, and then she was kind of in the back of another picture."
Dad wasn't as proud. He was in the digital printing business. his first thought was, "There's got to be a better way of doing this."
TreeRing came up with a website that promises schools an easier, more cost-effective, no-surprises way to produce a yearbook that can be personalized for each student.
"We've signed up dozens of schools all over the country," Greco said. "We're growing pretty fast. The idea is really catching on."
Dunya Shaw, principal at Our Savior's, said the school traditionally has charged $20 for a 60-page black-and-white yearbook.
"We're going to be able to offer color for about the same price," she said. Because of digital printing, "we have the opportunity to customize the pages. Every parent wants to see lots of pictures of their kids in the yearbook. In fact, I've had some of the parents take the yearbook and look at it and count the number of pictures of their child. This way, they can customize up to four pages of their own child, and they get to choose the pictures that will go in there."
The other pages, as in years past, will be under the direction of Patrick Wallace, a local professional photographer. He will continue to take most of the photos, but because the book will be conceived online with templates and there will be more parental involvement, there could be some interactivity.
"We can preview the pages," Shaw said, "instead of just waiting until it's print time and print off all the pages. It'll be evolving."
Wallace and parents who signed up to work on the yearbook will decide which pictures go into the master book. Wallace will have access to parents' photos, and Greco figures it'll make for a better yearbook.
"He's not at all of the events," Greco said. "He's not in 50 places like all the parens are, taking shots. Even though he's a professional and most parents are not, there'll just be more options for him to choose."
Bringing parents into it is easy, Greco said, since people already are using Flickr or Myspace to upload photos.
"It's not a major behavior change," he said. "Parents are already using SmugMug to look at school pictures every day. It's just combining these two things that people are already doing out there into this huge space that has been completely ignored."