Yearbooks Still Popular Among Digital Era Teens

High school teens standing around holding books
A yearbook is a powerful memory jogger that can mentally take people back to a time when life was different.

Printed high school yearbooks aren’t as popular as they used to be. But contrary to what some may think, they’re not going away any time soon – which is why Printivity continues to offer fast, professional yearbook printing services.


Yearbooks have been around for around 400 years. The first yearbooks were created in the 1600s and consisted of very simple scrapbooks. Since photography was still more than a century away, photos weren’t available. Instead, people filled the books with notes, articles, flowers – and sometimes even hair – to memorialize events. Yale University published the first college yearbook in 1806, but it would be another 39 years before the first high school yearbook appeared on the scene. Over time, yearbook printing at the high school level became a tradition. Despite the recent impact of social media, this tradition remains deeply embedded in American culture.

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A high school yearbook is a publication that captures the people and events of their school lives during a particular year. More than just a history book, a high school yearbook is also a memory book, a record book, and a reference book. It can also serve as a public relations tool for the school that publishes it. In many ways, a yearbook is like a photograph – a snapshot in time that, once captured, will remain forever unchanged. In a world that is changing faster than ever, this is indeed a tradition that many people want to hold onto and treasure.  

Historically, high school yearbooks were little more than picture books, with brief captions about the people and events documented in the photos. Today, yearbooks are constantly evolving. Since the advent of desktop publishing, they have taken giant leaps forward in quality and content. In particular, high school yearbooks have become more journalistic. Using computer software programs, today’s yearbooks now reflect the latest design and photographic capabilities available. The content has also expanded to cover everything from reporting of events to first-person profiles. Many yearbooks are also incorporating QR (quick response) codes into their pages. By scanning the codes with smartphone apps, readers can view videos and slideshows captured during the school year.

Capturing An Unchanging Past

Despite the many advances in yearbook printing, high school yearbooks still lack the immediacy of Facebook, Snapchat, and other social media. In particular, they lack the immediate two-way communication available with these social media tools. For today’s younger generation that doesn’t know a world where you can’t instantly communicate with anyone anywhere at any time, yearbooks seem as primitive as painting pictures on cave walls. And yet, it is the unchanging nature of yearbooks that remains their primary appeal.

Social media is all about what’s happening now. As a result, communication is fleeting. Messages are sent, pictures are posted, and then they go away in a very short time. Yearbooks are about yesterday. They’re built to last. You know that the next time you crack the pages, even if it’s 10, 20, or 30 years from now, the same pictures will still be there.

As human beings, a large part of who we are is captured in our memories. Using a high school yearbook to take a stroll down memory lane can be a powerful, evocative experience that reminds us of who we were at that point in time and who we have become. A yearbook is a powerful memory jogger that can mentally take people back to a time when life was different. People may not remember what happened in their day-to-day lives, but they’ll get out their yearbooks to remind them how it was.

There’s also something about the sensory experience of holding a yearbook in your hands that creates a more tangible connection to the memories held in the book. As many high school students have commented, “It’s the one tangible thing from high school that you can keep with you and look back at when you’re older. It’s nice to have something that isn’t so plugged in.”

Keeping Up With the Times

Another reason yearbook printing remains popular is that people are finding ways to keep up with the times while still maintaining the historical “in the moment” feel that has always proved so compelling.

For decades, high school yearbooks served as little more than a repository of tiny posed photos, most of which consisted of the cheerleading team, homecoming court, and other members of the “in” crowd. Today’s high school yearbooks document school life in a more dynamic and inclusive way. For example, instead of a posed photo of the National Honor society sitting in neat rows in a classroom, the photos might show them staging a blood drive or some other activity that tells a story.

Modern smartphones and digital cameras are also making it easier (and cheaper) to take spur-of-the-moment photos that tell more of a story than traditional posed photos. Increasingly, staged photos are out; candid photos are in. At the same time, more yearbooks are looking to include as many students as possible rather than just the big names on campus.

Getting a candid photo in the yearbook used to be a popularity contest. Now the feeling is that everyone should be covered because it’s everyone’s school. Not only does this make the yearbook more inclusive, it also creates a more accurate history book as well.

Teaching Valuable Skills

One benefit of yearbook printing that often gets overlooked is the wonderful learning experience it provides the students who put it together. Students learn a wide range of skills, ranging from interviewing and writing headlines to designing pages, photography, and uploading photos. These days, most yearbooks are produced entirely online and then sent to a printer for yearbook printing – an endeavor that teaches many skills suitable for today’s job markets.

In the end, it’s the permanence of the high school yearbook that so many value. Some schools are publishing yearbooks online instead of printing them. But websites come and go. New apps replace old ones. Digital devices become outdated. Today’s technology will soon become yesterday’s news. Who can say that the technology required to look at today’s virtual yearbooks won’t go the way of the floppy disc? The only way to guarantee that a book will be readable 100 years from now is to print it. 


Lasting memories are priceless, and a printed high school yearbook never changes. For now, that’s something millions of parents and high schoolers aren’t willing to let go of. Printivity offers six different types of binding to produce a yearbook that is just right for your school or organization. These include Saddle-Stitch, Wire-o, Spiral Bound, Perfect Bound, PUR Perfect Bound, and Hard Cover. Get started on your yearbook today with our booklet printing Instant Price Quoter. Or, call Printivity at 1-877-649-5463 to speak to a customer service representative.

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