Educational Products For Students

Posted on 6/7/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The educational market has always been a big segment of the stock photo business. Some agencies and individual photographers earn the majority of there revenue from sales for educational use.

Until recently, most of the photographs used for educational purposes were published in textbooks. There have always been some ancillary products that use pictures, but the vast majority of image uses have been in books. Publishers design and create books, often with 1,000 or more pages, and sell then it in bulk to school systems. Today, publishers often sell more than 1,000,000 copies of a given title. Textbooks often cost in the range of $100.00 a copy and tend to be passed down from student-to-student year-after-year. Some of the problems with this system of distribution of educational material include: cost of printing the books, cost of distribution, tendency for content to become outdated, difficulty of correcting errors, difficulty of adjusting curriculum to the needs of small groups, etc. In addition, when students need pictures for class projects they either photocopy books, cut pictures out of magazines or do without.

In the new environment there are already many more ancillary uses. Images are delivered on CD’s, electronic white boards and in powerpoint presentations. The Internet and other types of electronic delivery are providing students and educators with much greater flexibility. With books there was a heavy dependence on still imagery. In the new environment footage is beginning to replace many still images uses.

For educators one of the major advantages of the electronic revolution is cost savings after some initial infrastructure investment. Students are expected, even in the early grades, to write reports using a computer and to find educational resources online. Homework and reports are delivered in an electronic format. In the classroom instructional information is delivered on electronic whiteboards and use of such facilities is expected to expand at a rapid rate. Students access the same information at home, using online resources and without the need of books. Instructors have access to more resources and a greater ability to customize lesson plans.

It seems clear that there will be less demand for books; fewer new texts will mean fewer images needed for that purpose.

The term “electronic use” covers a multitude of different types of uses and different levels of distribution. If creators are to be adequately compensated the various types of uses will need to be clearly defined and priced based on the value received in each case. The price charged each individual student to review an image, of necessity will need to vary greatly from the fee for an image included in a text with 1,000,000 print run.

UIG and EB

To understand one of the ways imagery will be delivered in the future we need to look at the new Britannica Image Quest, a database product marketed by Encyclopaedia Britannica (EB) that uses 2.3 million images supplied by the Universal Images Group (UIG).

Early this year EB made its first big sale of this product to the Dallas Independent School System. The contract provides 25,000 students and instructors with unlimited access the database for the school year. In addition to using the database for general research students can download as many images as they want, but there are some limits on how they can use the images. They can put them in electronic and printed reports, email the images, but they cannot post them on Facebook or their own websites or in iPad applications.

Teachers may use the images for presentations in classrooms, and included as part of an online lesson for their own students, but not in any product that they would try to market or distribute beyond their own registered students. A teacher at one school in Dallas would not be able to distribute a lesson plan to another school in Dallas.

In the first three months 177,132 transactions were recorded and the number steadily increased month-to-month as the students became more familiar with the system. The breakdown of these uses was as follows:

Viewing the large images on the monitor 141,513
Placing image in lightbox 14,919
Downloading image 14,579
Emailing the image 3,286
Printing the image 1,835

Compensation for image creators is calculated in the following way. EB retains 50% of the gross fee collected and remits the remainder to UIG which retains 20% of the gross fee collected and remits the remaining 30% to the Supplying Agency. Image creators receive their normal royalty share of the amount received by the Supplying Agency.

At this stage we are not told how much EB is charging for the 1 year license but we do know that one of their competitors, Science Photo Library, is charging about $10,000 for a contract that would allow a school system of 25,000 students to have full access to their library. We are told that EB’s charges more than this, but we don’t know how much more. In this example EB would retain $5,000, UIG would retain $2,000 and $3,000 would be distributed among all of the supplying agencies. Suppose that creators receive 40% then $1,200 would be allocated to pay all the creators.

Based on the 177,132 transactions for three months we estimate that 25,000 students might make about 700,000 transactions annually. Divide $1,200 by 700,000 and each view of an images is worth $0.0017. Thus, 100 transactions or views of images belonging to one contributor would be worth $0.17.

Now, while 17 cents is a pitifully low amount of money the potential volume needs to be considered. There are 52 million students in the U.S. so the Dallas school system only represents 1/2080 of them. If a photographer’s image were viewed at the same rate by all the students in the U.S. he would earn $3.54 for the viewing of a single image during the year. And then there is the potential of licensing to students in other parts of the world as well.


Part of the problem with this system is that as the number of transaction increases within any school system the value of each transaction decreases. One, of the things I had hoped for was that once students and teachers begin to use this resource more heavily the annual fee for access would be raised. I’m told that is not EB’s philosophy. They intend to keep the prices charged school systems about the same and generate more revenue by signing up more school systems.

A lot of the images included in the initial 2.3 million are wholly owned by the supplying agency, library or other organization. For these companies the business is attractive because they get to keep 30% of the gross fee collected by EB and don’t have to split it with anyone. While it doesn’t work anywhere near as well for individual creators with fewer images in their collections, maybe educators don’t need the student and lifestyle images produced by individual creators and will be perfectly happy with the images supplied by museums, educational institutions, and corporations looking to promote their activities. For organizations of this type the revenue generated is not as important as the education of future customers and the public relations value.

Another great concern is that once students have access to these images they will start posting them on Facebook and Flickr and using them in other ways not authorized by the license. While that is certainly a possibility, the dilemma for the photographer is that regardless of whether he chooses to participate this method of delivering and using images will dominate the education market in the near future. Thus, the photographer will shortly need to decide whether it is better to take the risk that some images will be misused or withhold his work entirely and get out of the education business. Traditional book publishing will not continue to be a viable market.

It is also worth considering whether images being licensed for low cost student uses should have a copyright notice, or some other means of contacting the creator imbedded in the lower corner of the actual image. That way if the student does use the image on Facebook, Flickr, or any web site where it can be found through Google, at least anyone else who sees the image will know where to go to obtain a legal license to use it.

Some photographers who have imbedded a small copyright notice at the bottom of the images they have posted online have reported that this has generated other business because other potential customers who found the image were able to find them. One way to think about the EB site is as a marketing venue. It may be a way to train future buyers on the importance of proper rights licensing when they want to use images belonging to someone else.

It would also be useful if there were some way for students to easily license other uses of images found on Britannica Image Quest. Suppose a student wants to use an image on his Facebook page or website. The charge might be $1.00 or $2.00, but if the student could quickly and easily, legally license such uses and pay through his paypal account that would be better than tempting him to steal. Rather than $1.00 and $2.00 credit card payments a credit system similar to what the microstock companies could be employed. If such a system were implemented it should be set up so EB does not share in the fees generated from such uses. Such a system might not produce much revenue, but many were surprised when iTunes started generating a lot of revenue at $0.99 per song. The stock photo industry needs some new approaches to supplying images to the next generation.

Do we need EB? Can we reach the student, instructor and school systems through social media rather than through the traditional publishing network. Could PhotoShelter sell each student a password for $1.00 that would provide unlimited downloads for school research and reports for a year? For the Dallas school system students that would generate $25,000 in revenue instead of $10,000 and the money would be out of the student’s pockets rather than the school system’s. It would also eliminate cuts for two levels of middlemen.

Copyright © 2011 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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