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Some yearbooks feature an embedded screen into which schools can load slide shows or video.

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Some yearbooks feature an embedded screen into which schools can load slide shows or video.

It's one of the constant high-school staples, along with prom and school pictures: the school yearbook.

But like any printed media, yearbooks have gone through dramatic changes since their inception.

Technology, coupled with a generation of students who can stay in touch via Facebook, means having a yearbook might be a thing of the past.

Dana Felske, vice-president of operations at Futurebook Yearbooks, a Vancouver-based yearbook company, said she's seen sales decline in recent years.

"I think we've seen up to a 30 per cent decrease in the past 10 years. It's a huge number. It's the same thing across the board in publishing," Felske said.

She thinks a large part of that is due to how connected students are through social media.

Growing up with the Internet means most high school students are not used to having a permanent record of their time in school.

"It's a lot harder for them to relate to the idea of holding a tangible product now until eternity. The students think Facebook will be around, and we as publishers are really fighting against that," she said.

To appeal to new generations of students, her company offers a version of the yearbook that has an embedded screen into which schools can load slide shows or video.

But not all publishers agree the industry is in decline.

Gwen Toonstra, yearbook sales professional at Lifetouch Canada, a Winnipeg-based yearbook company, said she's seen demand for yearbooks increase while she's worked there.

"People have gone the way of digital and realized that might not be the way to go, with technology changing constantly. People do want the hard copy, coloured yearbook to look back on," she said.

While the industry may or may not have changed, Felske said the yearbooks themselves definitely have. As technology has become a bigger part of classrooms, so has teaching technology skills through things such as yearbook classes, she said.

"More often in the past, it was a club, it was out of school. More often now it's recognized as a strong class to be provided in the curriculum," she said.

What this translates to is better-designed books from the students, Felske said.

"Quite often we're seeing stronger design, layouts. Quite often they're mimicking magazines, flashy websites or other published material," she said.

Felske said she's not sure what the yearbook of the future will look like, but she thinks it will be around for a while longer.

"Too many times in the past, people try to come up with a digital replacement, and that's never flown," she said.

"I think it will survive."

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 31, 2013 A6

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