Pricing Extended Educational Uses In Today’s Market

Posted on 8/17/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Recently a photographer asked how to price extended educational use of an image that was first licensed by the publisher for textbook use two years earlier.  Initially the image was printed full page, inside. Now the publisher wants the following additional rights:
    Territory: Worldwide, All Languages, Print & Electronic: all-inclusive electronic rights (CD, PDFs, on-line, e-texts, e-book, website, database, downloadable, for classroom use projection on Smart/Whiteboard.) Term: 20 years, print run: 300,000, includes all electronic usages.
The following were my suggestions.
Educational use has changed dramatically. In the first place all print runs have become suspect. For more than a decade virtually all the major publishers have been printing many more copies of their books than they licensed rights to print. In the last few years most publishers have been sued many times for unauthorized use and there have been a number of out of court settlements .(See Harmon & Seidman’s web site here and here.) Thus, you cannot trust the print run information publishers supply.

If two years ago you licensed rights for a print run of “under 40,000” then my bet is that they have already printed more copies than your license allowed. One of the first questions I would ask the publisher is how many copies they have already printed. If they won’t tell you, or want you to sign a non-disclosure agreement before they will tell you, that is certainly an indication they have something to hide.

The second thing to consider is that educators are predicting that in seven to ten years there will be no more textbooks. Everything will be electronic. When that happens it will become much more difficult to try to establish price based on print run.

1 – Assuming the publisher will count every app that they license for tablet use (iPad and others) as one print run, how many is that likely to be? 300,000 sounds like a big number, but is it? When schools buy textbooks they normally keep them for several years and pass them on to different students each year. So, conservatively 5 or 6 students may end up using the same book. Will the schools pass around iPads in the same way? Or will the students purchase their own iPads and be supplied by the school with the apps they need for each year’s classes? Both systems are being tested. If a new app must be purchased for each unique student who takes 4th Grade Math, Algebra 1, Chemistry 1 or basic Science the total number of units licensed could be much larger than the number of paper books printed and distributed today.

2 – When lessons are projected on an electronic whiteboard, how will they count that circulation? Will one lesson delivered to one teacher be counted as one unit, regardless of how many times that teacher uses that teaching tool over many years and how many students benefit from the app? Should the value of an app designed specifically for teacher presentations be the same as one used by one student? Will the publishers charge the same for electronic tools designed to be used on whiteboards as they charge for apps designed to be used by a single student?

3 – Your customer is asking for 20 years. This is basically lifetime. You’re not going to carefully track when the usage of every image you license will expires and the publisher certainly isn’t going to bother to tell you. Four years ago publishers were asking for 5 year rights; two years ago 10 year rights; now it is 20 years and recently Alamy licensed rights to one company for 50 years.

Things To Consider Before Offering A Price

The first thing I would try to determine is whether the image will be used in a general text on a subject every elementary student will be required to take like basic Science or Algebra 1, or whether the text is on some esoteric subject like Bird Anatomy which many fewer students will be interested in. The circulation figures might turn out to be more accurate for the esoteric subjects. If it is a major subject and the duration of the license is 10 years or longer I would think in terms of a circulation of at least 2 million. The same image might be used in either type of book, but chances are that the company will be willing to pay more for an image used in a big circulation book than if it is used in a specialist book.
The next most important thing to consider is the uniqueness of the image. Is it an image for which there is no conceivable substitute? It may be the best image you’ve ever taken, but if another image can be found for a little less that illustrates the same point, but is not quite as good, you can bet the publisher will go with the cheaper image. Check out Getty, Corbis, Alamy and the microstock sites. Seldom will there be an image that a textbook publisher must have regardless of price.

You can go to Getty, Corbis and Alamy and price something similar to yours. However, keep in mind that if you are dealing with a major publisher all three of these distributors will offer those publishers dramatically discounted prices based on volume. They seldom, if ever, ask for the prices listed in their online pricing schedules. One UK photographer reports that one of his educational clients gets images from Alamy for £25 per picture and from Getty for £40 per picture. However, when dealing with individual photographers they pay £260 for the same usage.
Consider that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt just came out with a new 950 page Algebra 1 book and they immediately turned into an app which they sell through iTunes for $59.99. Every picture in the print book is also in the app. I estimate that there are about 500 pictures in the book. If they paid $1,600 for every image they use the total image cost would be about $800,000. Of course they will get a lot of the pictures for a lot less from Alamy, Getty and Corbis. But consider if they sell 1 million apps. In 10 years they are likely to sell a lot more. At 1 million their total cost for all the images in the book would be 1.33% of total revenue. Publishers should be able to afford to pay more for the creative content in the book..

What Should You Charge?

Taking all these things into account, I would like to get something between $1,600 and $2,500 for this usage. That’s a fair price and where I would start.  However, don’t be surprised if the most you can get out of the publisher is something in the range of $500.

If you’re interested in more information check out these two stories: Pricing Textbook Uses
and Back To School.

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:  


  • Bas van Beek Posted Aug 18, 2011
    Just spoke to a NL photo editor who specializes in research for schoolbooks. His latest assignment for one of the biggest schoolbook publishers in The Netherlands was not to source for imagery within his network but to download 121 specific pre selected images from I Stock. I think this illustrates the daily reality of illustrating schoolbooks.
    Bas van Beek HillCreek Pictures

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