If you look at the Internet today, with everyone’s photos, movies, and lives chronicled across every forum imaginable, you might easily believe that paper holds no candle to virtual documentation. I was surprised, then, to see what I thought was a very large section of a well-known craft store dedicated to scrapbooking, and at the very front of the store —not buried in a back corner. I saw bins and large freestanding displays filled to brimming with decorative paper of every color and texture taking up at least four aisles. Behind the paper section, yet more shelves and hangers shouted with stickers, sparkles, buttons, ribbons, stamps, cutters, scissors, and containers to hold all of the stuff. It seemed like the industry is alive and well. It’s not.
The traditional scrapbooking industry is in decline. Large craft and hobby chain stores carry the inventory because the independents have been shoved out of business by digital everything. Peaked in the years 2004-5, traditional scrapbook sales have stair-stepped down at an expected slide. The Craft and Hobby Association of America (CHA) still marked scrapbooking (in 2010) as the fifth highest segment in the overall hobby/craft industry’s consumer spending lineup with $1.4 billion in sales, and second in household participation with 18.4 million households making hold-on-your-lap albums. The burgeoning store aisles aside, the overstuffed bins notwithstanding, the $1.4 billion 2010 sales represents a decline of over 40% from $2.5 billion in 2005.
I feel stupid. I purchased a glorious hardbound scrapbook, and then added to my investment by choosing a delightful cross section of colored insert pages (some with patterns, some with sparkles, and yet others with unique textures) and stickers to make a gift for my son and his new bride. But I guess I’ll claim the out-of-step award for the day. In fact I’m a dinosaur with a glue gun in one forepaw, and a husband dinosaur with a real (not smart phone) camera in his claw. Both of us are eager to print (huh?) and stick (why?) the photos he took.
We’ll do what any self-respecting dinosaurs would do before being sucked into the black muck of technology: Park the photos we took in an album the kids will like for the thought, but shove in a cabinet tomorrow. It would seem quaint to show to their kids someday, but even if we were that lucky, they could all turn to the nearest computer screen, and flip through hundreds of pictures in the time it took us to stick one photo on one page. We dinosaurs will have a great time as we share a dying hobby, but promise to keep our nostalgia from splashing on the pretty pages.
Tactile art — the kind that you visit museums and galleries to see—is disappearing too fast. The past has, um… passed, and the present slips past too fast. Our memories are amassed behind a vast glassed caste. Hopefully no blast will caste our past in a morass of classless trash. Maybe, just maybe, our traditional scrapbook will survive, and remind our kids of their old-fashioned mom and dad, who took the time to print photos, pull papers, stick stickers, and keep the industry alive for another month or two.