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Flickr to Add Print to Photo Service

Flickr, the online photo service owned by Yahoo , is gearing up to launch a new print-on-demand service, internetnews.com has learned.

Flickr will partner with Qoop to offer a service that lets users select photos and formats to be printed into bound books.

Qoop, which has not yet launched, plans to offer its own print-on-demand service, while supplying the back-end to enable other Web sites such as Flickr as well. Qoop also plans to provide a software developers kit so that ISVs can deploy Qoop within their applications, according to sources involved in the launch.

Those who want to publish books can sell their books on their own Web sites or through online ads, including a link that takes the buyer to Qoop for payment processing, ordering and fulfillment.

Flickr lets users upload digital photos, arrange them in online photo albums, add comments, and share them by publishing them in blogs or inviting others to view them. The images can be made open to public searching or browsing or controlled with invitation-only access.

Flickr is growing rapidly. A company spokesman said the service has 775,000 registered users and hosts 19.5 million photos, with growth of about 30 percent per month. He said that prints were in Flickr's future, but would not confirm the time of the rollout of the photo book service.

Ofoto offers a similar photo-oriented service that lets people print books containing ten single-sided pages or 20 double-sided pages starting at $29.99.

Print-on-demand services seemed ready to take off in 1999, with the launch of FatBrain, a print-on-demand service focused on business content. The next year, FatBrain started up a subsidiary, MightyWords, aimed at professional authors and wannabes. FatBrain was sold to BarnesandNoble.com later that year, and MightyWords went dark.

But the gush of online media has given the genre new urgency. In April 2005, Amazon.com bought BookSurge, a company that offers book fulfillment services to publishers and authors.

Three-year-old lulu.com lets people sell books that are printed one-off after they're paid for. It also enables paid downloads of photos, video and music, while six-year-old Cafe Press lets users sell and print digital photos on mugs, calendars and cotton clothing items one at a time.

The new genre of print-on-demand services targets both professionals and consumers who want an easy way to offer their work over the Internet without having to purchase inventory in advance.

Meanwhile, sites like Flickr, Ofoto and Snapfish appeal to people who want to share their digital photos without the bother of having them printed on paper.

According to Jupiter Research, 47 percent of consumers don't print their photos at all. Although printing is moving from the store to the home, Jupiter says that 10 percent of consumers with computers don't even have a printer. Sixteen percent of the consumers Jupiter surveyed prefer to share photos via e-mail or the Internet. (Jupiter Research and internetnews.com are owned by the same corporation.)

Print-on-demand photo books open up new markets to photo services like Flickr, letting the digerati share their photos with those who prefer paper.