Do Creatives Need Educational Publishers?

Posted on 6/20/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Creatives need to start exploring ways to deliver their products – writing, photographs, illustration, video – to students, instructors and educational institutions without the aid of educational publishers.

If I am right in my analysis in From Books To iPads” and “Educational Products For Students” in describing where the delivery of educational information is headed then there will be a demand for significantly cheaper educational products. There will also be a much greater number of potential customers whose needs must be addressed individually, not by categorizing them into larger groups. iTunes has taught us that individuals are often willing to pay small amounts for products and services as long as the charge is consistent with the value they receive individually. They will pay if the information is supplied in an organized way which saves them the time of searching for something that is free. The numbers who will pay these small amounts of money are huge and the revenue generated in this way can be substantial.

One of the keys to cutting costs is to find ways to eliminate some of the middleman cuts. Right now a huge share of the gross fees paid for educational products ends up in the pockets of managers and investors, not creators. Of course, another huge percentage of the cost is in paper, printing and delivery of the product. Technology and the Internet have eliminated much of that cost. In addition the capital investment required to develop an electronic delivery system is much less than what was required previously.

Why would you want to avoid dealing with publishers?
    1 – Publishers and their investors take the lion’s share of the revenue generated from selling the product.
    2 – Publishers have demonstrated that they will not abide by compensation agreements.
    3 – Enforcing compensation agreements has become a hugely expensive, time consuming and frustrating endeavor. In addition those who attempt to enforce agreements are often blackballed so in effect they are told is to accept fees that are way below what is reasonable, and what is needed to cover the creator’s costs, or get nothing at all. Long range this is an impossible business proposition.

    4 – Publishers resist supplying data on actual uses of the creators work.
    5 – Publishers do not want to compensate creators proportionately based on the number of uses of the product.
    6 – No longer is a huge infrastructure required to bring a work to market. As a result of the existence of the Internet, producers can deal much more directly with individual customers than was possible in the past and do it without the aid of as many middlemen.
There needs to be a better way for photographers to make their imagery available to students for educational use without the multiple cuts facing photographers today. I would like to suggest that you give some thought to the following.

What’s Needed

In the educational environment two things are needed.
    1 – Written works from experts in the field
    2 – Visual content – photos, illustrations, video
We must start by considering the written work because that usually drives the need for visual content. If publishers control the written work then there may be no way to avoid dealing with them. But they exploit writers and the scholarly experts as much as they exploit image creators.

Today, noted scholars are contracted to write textbooks that cover the full range of information needed to understand a particular subject. The chapters in most textbooks on a given subject cover the same topics regardless of which publisher creates the book. These topics are usually mandated by state boards of education. There is no reason why all the chapters need to be written by one or two experts.

Instead of dealing with subject like “Science” break it down into individual chapters and lesson plans that deal with smaller elements of the overall subject. There could be multiple versions of each chapter, by different authors. Authors would also need to supply a curriculum vitae online that enables school administrators to determine their qualifications and expertise in the subject being addressed. If such a system were in place school systems and teachers would have more choice as to how to present a particular subject and students would have access to more extensive resources.

Publishers argue that one of the most important things they offer is a “curated collection” of information vs. the great unwashed “user generated content.” They make a good point and if a website of educational resources were to be developed there would need to be some way for other scholars to comment on articles and present opposing points of view. There would also need to be links to the credentials of those who comment. While some might lie about their credentials, others who know them would call them out.

Anyone would be able to search the site free of charge and see brief descriptions of all available articles. Students could access articles for a fee per article of under $1.00. Fees that allow school systems or instructors to use a particular article in a presentation to one or more classes could be negotiated on an individual basis. They would need to be substantially lower than what school systems now pay to use books.

Benefits For School Systems

Adopting material from such sources would have several benefits for school systems.
    1 – It would be significantly less expensive because a major middleman would be removed from the supply chain.
    2 – Work from a variety of experts would be available rather than being limited to the offerings of a few publishers.
    3 – A greater number of experts would likely contribute chapters than will attempt to write a book. The work of creating an entire textbook becomes a full time occupation. Many top teachers will probably be able to carve time out of their busy schedules to write a chapter or a lesson plan where only a few will be prepared to commit to producing an entire book.
    4 – Students will benefit from a variety of styles and presentations rather than being limited to a few.
Visual Content

Universal Imaging Group has created a comprehensive database of educational content. Right now Encyclopaedia Britannica is the only company making this database available to educators. However, other databases may be created by photographers and agencies working through other types of cooperatives.

Such an image database is primarily designed to give students access to imagery they need for reference or for school reports. Clearly, from the information supplied by UIG there is a huge demand for access to a database of this type for research.

Authors looking for imagery to illustrate their articles or chapters would have several choices.
    1 – Research the professional databases themselves.
    2 – Turn the research job over to their graduate students.
    3 - Hire a freelance researcher (like the ones the publishers currently use) to do the job.
    4 – Contract with the freelance researcher to do the work on a royalty basis.
    5 – Hire an illustrator when custom illustrations are needed.
    6 – Contract with a freelance illustrator to do the work on a royalty basis.
    7 – If custom photos are not available in commercial databases the author may:
      a. – take them himself
      b  - hire a photographer on an assignment basis
      c – contract with a freelancer to work on a royalty basis.
One advantage to this strategy is that authors may be able to include many more images in their articles/chapters than would normally be the case in a printed book. They may also want to include videos – ones they have created, or ones that are available in the image database.
Rather than downloading images and inserting them into their articles at some expense, authors may choose to simply reference links to specific images in the database. Or they may choose to do a combination of both. The reader can get full access to the image database by paying a small quarterly fee which entitles them, not just to review the images the author recommended, but all images in the database.

When opened from a link in the writers article the image should appear full screen with the photographer’s copyright either imbedded in the lower right hand corner of the image or under the image. I favor imbedding because then if someone copies the image and uses it on another web site a notice of how to contact the photographer in order to legitimately license use of the image will travel with it. If the notice is under the image on horizontals it could be placed to the side of the image on verticals. There could also be buttons for: a link to more detailed caption information if any is available; copies of available releases and detailed contact information that would enable the viewer to legitimately license rights to make other uses of the image. There would also need to be an easy way to return to the author’s work after viewing the imagery.

Setting Up An Image Database

Assume an organization like PhotoShelter could set up a separate database linked to their main database where some of the imagery hosted on their main site would also be hosted on the supplementary service. Contributors to the main database could request that specific images from their main collection be included in the educational use database. A small quarterly fee would be charged for unlimited access to the images on this site. There would need to be a limited review process to determine if the images were appropriate subject matter for the education database. Contributors could add images on an images-by-image basis from their main collection.

Contributors would need to agree that any image chosen to be included in any instructor’s package would remain in the database on a non-exclusive basis indefinitely. Anytime a preview of the image is viewed a royalty would be credited to the creator’s account. Images not included in an instructor package, but only available to individual students, could be removed at any time.

If PhotoShelter (or whoever sets up this database) were able to do it for what UIG is charging Encyclopaedia Britannica that would enable 80% of the fee charged the customer to be shared with contributors. There may be additional marketing and SEO costs, but eventually students will become the sites best marketers. And photographers would have much more control over their careers.

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:  


  • Mary kate Denny Posted Jun 20, 2011
    Thanks. good comments.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff