Me & my... Taopix 2.5.8 photobook creation software

Jenny Roper
Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The year is 1881, and brothers Herbert and Burgess Headley have just set up a printing press in a small room above their father's grocery shop. Their main aim is to print vegetable bags for the grocers, but they hope to also make a bit of cash by printing paper bags, billheads and circulars for other local traders.

Fast forward 130 years and the Headley brothers’ ambitions have been surpassed beyond their wildest dreams. The Headley Brothers business, although still in the family, has gone through many evolutions, first branching into producing a local Kent newspaper with "a strong emphasis on temperance and morality" in 1883, then gradually adding books, educational pamphlets, colour work and magazines to its offering, to become one of the biggest employers in the Kent area.

The latest chapter in the Headley Brothers’ story would perhaps have been particularly mind-blowing for Herbert and Burgess to contemplate back in 1881. To complement the company’s core offering of magazines – and side offerings of journals, brochures, catalogues, annual reports, fine art prints, books, posters and calendars – Headley Brothers has recently branched into photobooks and has invested in Taopix software to allow it to do this.

Digital print manager Will Inshaw says sophisticated software has been crucial in making this offering work.

"Before this software was installed, in November, if someone came to us with PDFs and they wanted a photobook doing we would have said ‘yes’, but we weren’t able to offer photobooks on the scale we are now," he explains.

The Taopix 2.5.8 photobook creation software enables users to create and customise their own books by downloading the Taopix program to their computer then uploading the finished product back to Headley Brothers, paying through an online e-commerce platform. It also means that Headley Brothers can manage everything better at its end.

It was the comprehensiveness of the package that attracted Headley Brothers when it was shopping for photobook software, says Inshaw.

"We looked at lots of different software vendors and the difference between them and Taopix is that Taopix gives you a solution straight away," he says. "You can take the product off the shelf and you have a whole photobook business. Not only do you have an application to build them in, you have the back end and the shopping cart; it’s all tied up into one package, instead of requiring lots of bolt-ons."

Another key attraction was the
flexibility given to printers in dictating the kinds of products their customers could build.

Headley Brothers opted for an interface with limited types of photobook to choose from, but was still able to leave plenty of room for creativity.

"Customers choose a category, such as a new baby, family, holiday or wedding album, and then they choose what size they want within that category; the standard for us is 20 pages but we allow them to add more," says Inshaw. "Some people just have simple picture boxes and just drop their pictures in, but some really go to town with the design. They can do that because we don’t lock anything down in the pages."

"One of the benefits of Taopix is that it can be left down to the individual how creative they want to be," he adds.

Download, upgrade
Crucial to ensuring the company caters for the more ambitious customer has been the download model of the Taopix software, says Inshaw.  While some would argue that an online photobook creation platform is better for providing a more instant creation method, Inshaw maintains that downloading software to the desktop works best.

"We’ve gone for download so people can create more complicated books if they want," he says. "Also, we prefer the download solution because we know everyone’s very busy and so an online application is not as good when people are doing a bit of their photobook and then coming back. And broadband speeds are still not that fast in some areas."

So far this download model has been working very well, says Inshaw. "It’s been very stable, touch wood," he says. "We’ve not had any issues with people not being able to download the software or not being able to operate the software, because it’s stabilised by our server," he adds, explaining that the solution is hosted by a server rented from a company recommended by Taopix.

This set-up, he explains, has been very helpful in keeping costs down. "We pay very low rent on our server, around £500 a month for a good-spec server in a secure database," he says. "Taopix will give you help even in that way, they’re not just saying here’s the software and now you’ve got to go and find a server. They actually hold your hand right up to the point where you’re ready to launch your first application."

Such support included three days of "very intense but very helpful" training when the system was first installed, and now entails ongoing support, particularly with marketing the offering to consumers.

"That’s very helpful when you’re used to selling business-to-business," says Inshaw. "We have sold some consumer items before, so we’re used to that market, but in selling to the masses, it’s very useful to have support."

Such a reliable and creative platform should enable Headley Brothers to grow the photobook part of the business, currently only a very small offshoot, says Inshaw.

Double act
The company has already set up a partnership with another business whereby Headley Brothers outsources the software to them. And it hopes to enter into more of these kinds of relationships, with photographers for example, in the future.

"It’s been a steady growth for us, it’s not our core business so we’re looking to grow it organically," says Inshaw. "But we see photobooks as a growth area and we’d like to see it maybe become 15%-20% of the business eventually."

Integral to this growth will be the purchase of upgrades to the solution as they come out. Inshaw currently has his eye on the Portfolio upgrade recently launched at Drupa, and its e-commerce features and enhanced social media integration.

"The e-commerce side is a lot nicer-looking now," reports Inshaw. "You can up-sell in the new version so when someone clicks on a particular product they’ll now get a message to say ‘why not upgrade’. You can also now draw pictures from sites like Facebook and Flickr directly into the software, and share your photobooks with people electronically. That really appeals to us because social media is something that we want to start getting ourselves really tied in with."

The rate of progress that has characterised Headley Brothers’ history is showing no signs of slowing, then, with brave new software frontiers taking the business even further from its humble beginnings.

And Taopix has been instrumental in ensuring that Headley Brothers capitalises on the future growth area of photobooks, says Inshaw.

"I don’t think there’s another photobook product out there that’s close to the Taopix software at the moment," he concludes. "It knocks spots off the competition."


SPECIFICATIONS

Operating platforms Mac or PC
Payment
Choice of nearly 50 payment gateways
Data
Compression, encryption and decryption only at printer’s site
Output
TIFF, JPEG or vector PDF output to print queues
Versions available
Taopix Portfolio is available in three business models: Solo, Professional and Enterprise
Price
Taopix Solo costs from £11,750
Contact
Taopix 0845 017 8660 www.taopix.com


COMPANY PROFILE

Headley Brothers was established by Herbert and Burgess Headley in 1881 and has remained in the family ever since. It started life to supply letterpress-printed paper bags for the greengrocer owned by the brothers’ father. Today it is a 300-strong commercial magazine printer offering materials including journals, brochures, catalogues, annual reports, fine art prints, examination papers, books, posters and calendars.

Why it was purchased...
Having enough printing firepower to create photobooks, Headley Brothers was already producing the odd book for customers that requested them, but the company decided that, with downloadable software to easily create and submit photobook designs, this could be a lucrative sideline to its core business.  

How it has performed...
Digital print manager at Headley Brothers Will Inshaw says that the Taopix 2.5.8 software has proved a highly comprehensive solution that offers customers an easy-to-use and creative platform. Headley Brothers is very impressed, reports Inshaw, with the support given by Taopix and is looking to invest in the latest upgrade, Taopix portfolio.

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