Technology lets students, parents lay out personalized pages in high school yearbooks
By KAREL HOLLOWAY / The Dallas Morning NewsYearbooks can be a big rush or a real letdown.Lots of pictures of your child and it's great. Just the formal class picture and maybe a glimpse of a cute face at the back of a group and the big book seems a waste.Yearbook companies are springing up to help avoid disappointment, offering schools and parents a digital way to make the books more personal.TreeRing, headquartered in California, says it was the first company to offer schools personalized pages in yearbooks. Parents, or the students if they are old enough, can lay out their own pages with photos and text and add them to the standard book.Co-founder Chris Pratt remembers his daughter bringing home her book with just two photos of her."It didn't capture her memories," said Aaron Greco, who started the company with Pratt.The company started last year, using a digital process to offer personalized pages. Greco said other companies now are springing up to offer similar services. Several area schools, including some in Rockwall and Wylie, are using TreeRing, he said, though he would not say how many clients the company has.The digital process is called print on demand.Instead of setting up pages and then printing them on a large offset press, TreeRing pages are similar to documents on any computer. Pages can be added or deleted almost as easily as attaching a file to e-mail. Books can be cheaply printed, one individualized copy at a time.That means the yearbooks can be truly personalized. Schools using the system no longer have to place large orders, or large deposits, in advance.Schools create 80 percent of the pages online – this is the traditional part of the book. But parents automatically receive other pages they can use as they want, uploading pictures and text of their child.Once the book is finished, parents, students or others, like grandparents, can order the book they want. It can have no personalized pages or dozens.Because of the streamlined digital process, the books are often 20 to 30 percent cheaper than other yearbooks, Greco said."One mom that had three kids at the school had 16 pages for each kid." Greco said. "The pages were beautiful."Parent volunteer Tonya Fenoglio is in charge of the yearbook at Rockwall's Hartman Elementary School. She said TreeRing seemed an easy choice.This is the first year Fenoglio has been the yearbook coordinator. She searched the Internet to see if there was a better option than the company the school had used for years.She found TreeRing and liked the ability to personalize pages and the lower cost."All the other yearbooks seemed really outdated," she said.She has already created the pages for her daughter. They include pictures with her friends and activities from first grade. Other parents have gone online to finish their students' pages as well.Fenoglio says she likes the chance for parents to add personal details such as teacher names and important days."They'll kind of have a Life at Grace Hartman Elementary School," she said.