Occupy Book Publishers

Posted on 11/11/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The Occupy Wall Street movement’s “we are the 99 percent” campaign is basically about a fairer distribution of wealth. Photographers and those who handle the distribution of images to end users need to launch an Occupy Book Publishers movement.

Economic outcomes are shaped by political decisions to a great extent, but they are also shaped by the 99%’s unwillingness to stand up for fairer treatment and to organize in a way that their individual voices can be heard.

Here’s a few facts about the general shift in wealth in the United States.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that in the 28 years between 1979 and 2007 after tax income grew by:
    •    275 percent for the top 1 percent of households,
    •    65 percent for the next 19 percent,
    •    Just under 40 percent for the next 60 percent, and

    •    18 percent for the bottom 20 percent.
According to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute between 1979 and 2007 the top 0.1 percent (approximately 115,000) households received 36% of all the gains in income during the period.  Another 23.9 percent of the gains went to the rest of the top 1%. 31.5 percent of the gains went to the rest of the top 10 percent and only 8.6 percent of income gains have gone to the bottom 90 percent. (During this same period inflation rose $173.84% or something that cost $1.00 in December 1979 would have cost $2.74 in December 2007.)

To grow the economy the 1% wants the 90% to get out to the malls and buy more products, but they are not leaving the 90% any money to spend on those products.

The top 1 percent of Americans possess more wealth than the entire bottom 90 percent. The 400 wealthiest Americans have a greater combined net worth (cash, stock and property) than the total assets of the bottom 150 million Americans.

In 2009, the average wealth held by the wealthiest 1 percent of U.S. households was 225 times greater than that held by the median household.

In the Bush expansion from 2002 to 2007, 65 percent of economic gains went to the richest 1 percent.

So how does that relate to textbook publishers?

North American Education is Pearson’s largest line of business. In 2010 this division of the company had sales of £2.6 billion (over $4 billion) and operating profits of £469 ($725) million. But they can’t afford to share a little of that with the creators of the content.

In 1989 I started publishing the first of five editions of Negotiating Stock Photo Prices. The following were the recommended prices for 1/4 page use of an image in a textbook with a circulation of 40,000.

  1/4 page Circulation Territory
NSPP 1989 $175 40,000 U.S.
NSPP 1992 $190 40,000 U.S.
NSPP 1995 $200 40,000 U.S.
NSPP 1997 $200 40,000 U.S.
NSPP 2001 $219 40,000 U.S.

During that period the contracts we had with the publishers said that when it came time to print another 40,000 books the publisher would notify us and pay 75% of the original fee for an additional 40,000. It turned out that in many instances publishers failed to notify creators as they printed and sold for ever higher fees hundreds of thousands of additional books.

Today, the following are the list prices the major distributors charge for 1/4 page use of an image in a textbook.

  1/4 page Circulation Duration Territory
Corbis Standard $220 40,000 5 years U.S.
  $430 1,000,000   U.S.
  $245 40,000 7 years U.S.
  $475 1,000,000   U.S.
  $275 40,000 10 years U.S.
  $535 1,000,000   U.S.
Corbis Ivy (Premium) $275 40,000 5 years U.S.
  $535 1,000,000   U.S.
  $305 40,000 7 years U.S.
  $590 1,000,000   U.S.
  $345 40,000 10 years U.S.
  $670 1,000,000   U.S.
Alamy $240 50,000 10 years U.S.
  $335 1,000,000 10 years worldwide
  $385 50,000 25 years U.S.
  $535 1,000,000 25 years worldwide
Getty Images        
TIB (Standard) $387 unlimited 7 yearrs worldwide
Stone+ (Premium) $425 unlimited 7 years worldwide

At first glance it appears that prices might have increased somewhat, but that does not take into account a few additional facts. All these companies have “preferred provider” agreements with the major publishers. These agreements offer the publishers substantial discounts on the distributor’s publicly quoted list prices.

In addition the above prices include unlimited electronic use as well as print use. Electronic use was not a factor in the 1990s. Publishers are moving rapidly toward massive electronic use of imagery. And finally, the ridiculously low fees charged for higher circulations do not adequately compensate creators for the value publishers receive.
Occupy Book Publishers

There is general agreement among image licensors that the current system of compensation for the use of creative content in educational materials is no longer working. (Carl May, among others disagrees. See here.)

The first thing that is needed is general agreement among the 99% on an alternative strategy that would be fairer to creators. One of the major problems for Occupy Wall Street is that there is no focused alternative suggestion.

The strategy must:
    1 – Be workable for the publishers from an administrative point of view. (Publishers seem unwilling or unable to track each new use in the rapidly changing technological environment in which they operate today.)
    2 – Allow creators to share the wealth of successful projects without making it too expensive for publishers to test new ideas that may not generate much revenue.
    3 – Get back to the idea that at least 10% of gross revenue generated from sales of the product should be shared among the creators. This is not an unreasonable expectation on the part of creators.
Creators need to mobilize to discuss possible solutions. Creator organizations need to join forces to represent the interests of their members with regard to this issue. To some extent this is happening, but it is taking place behind closed doors and progress is painfully slow. The fear is that if the substance of discussions is revealed before an action plan is formulated publishers will stop purchasing the work of anyone engaged in such discussions.

The danger in this approach is that the 99% are not given a chance to weigh in with their ideas, or even be aware of the various aspects of the debate. As a result they have an insufficient understanding of their options and are marginalized and excluded from meaningful participation in solving the problem.

An additional problem is that much of the work obtained by the publishers is supplied by distributors. These distributors are worried about covering their overhead next week and immediate profits, not the long range value of the work they represent, or even of their own businesses.  Individual creators have no power to demand that their representatives not license their work below certain fixed prices.

Instead of camping out in a physical location everyone engaged in producing and selling images for educational publishing should be camping out in a central location on the Internet and engaging in the debate.

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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


Be the first to comment below.

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