Textbook Market For Photographers Declines - Part 2: Electronic Uses

Posted on 11/6/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

As discussed in Part 1 of this series, textbooks tend to use lots of photographs and are a big market for photographers and stock agencies. Publishers that used to have print runs of 40,000 increasingly want rights to print 1 million copies over 10 years. However, they are also asking for the rights to publish the same information for the same time period on password-protected Web sites, intending to charge for those passwords—and not count such uses as part of the circulation.

This all got started back in the 1990s, when school districts started requiring textbook publishers to supply a certain number of CD-Rom discs with each book order. The discs contained all the same information as the book and were designed to be used by teachers, or in the classroom, not by individual students. Since this was an additional cost to publishers and they were not able to charge more for the books, they argued that they should not be required to pay more for either photographs or text than what they would normally pay for the printed copies of the same books.

Initially, most sellers agreed to not charge anything for this extra use. As publishers started to put the books online, on password-protected sites, it became common to charge an additional 35% for electronic usage.

Now, publishers would like photographers and agencies to believe that the world has not changed in the last 10 to 15 years, and that it will not change in the next 10. Publishers negotiate as if the only thing that has value is the printed copy of a book, while electronic versions are valueless.

Yet there has been tremendous growth in the use of e-learning programs in the last 10 years. These programs cost less to produce and distribute than books and provide more convenient access to the information than is the case with most books. High schools, universities and corporate training centers are already using electronic learning tools extensively. Kids in the first and second grades are using computers at home; my 7-year-old granddaughter is writing a book on her mom’s home computer.

Last week, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced a multi-year $40 million contract with Detroit public schools to provide a customized interactive classroom network called Learning Village. Detroit’s teachers will be able to prepare and assign homework and use Learning Village tools to measure how well students understand the lessons taught earlier in the day.

Houghton senior vice president Wendy Colby said: “The textbook is no longer the center of the educational universe.” It will not be long before every elementary student will have his/her own computer, use few if any printed books, and access most course material online.

In Elearning Magazine, Chris Dede of Harvard University predicted that in 2009, “parents will have high interest in the ways these devices (cell phones, PDAs, games and other mobile technologies) can foster their children’s literacy. Countries will begin to see the value of subsidizing this type of e-learning, as opposed to more traditional schooling.”

Seb Schmoller, Chief Executive of the U.K. Association for Learning Technology said, “During the coming slump, the risk of relying on free tools and services in learning will become apparent as small start-ups offering such services fail, and as big suppliers switch off loss-making services and start charging for them.” (Emphasis added.)

Richard C. Larson, Founder and Director of the MIT Learning International Networks Consortium said: “Poor economic conditions worldwide will require that the ‘paid labor content’ of education be reduced. Taxes cannot sustain what is essentially a 19th Century craft industry. This will open opportunities for new technology-enabled educational innovations in which the repetitive routine lecturing, administrative and related repetitive tasks are replaced with e-learning options and the teachers—though fewer in number—will have more opportunities to serve as student mentors.”

It seems clear to many in the education field that in the next 10 years, if not sooner, there will be a move away from printed texts toward more personalized learning paths that use Web technologies to push appropriate course materials that meet the individualized learning needs of the students. By 2020, there may be little continued need for printed textbooks. Most educational information will be provided online. The big publishers may continue to be the suppliers of that information, but it is also possible that the professors who have been writing the textbooks will be posting their instructional information directly to password-protected sites, no longer needing the publishers and sourcing the pictures and illustrations they need directly from image producers.

Image suppliers need to stop agreeing to terms that allow unlimited electronic use for no additional fee. In a recent letter to publishers and magazines outlining the stock photo industry position on several issues, the Picture Archive Council of America said: “Going forward, many users of educational books will receive the product, including the images via intranet, electronic delivery, on hand-held devices and ways which we cannot even know today. Electronic use is not a giveaway, it must be treated now as a predominant delivery system and members should be fairly compensated for image usage in this manner.”

For the time being, every password issued should be counted as the equivalent to one copy of a printed book. Publishers are being paid to provide information in electronic form. Content creators are entitled to a share of that revenue.

Copyright © 2009 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.  


  • Mark & Audrey Gibson Posted Nov 7, 2009
    Partially explains the flurry of invoice requests for reuses by HMH

  • David Madison Posted Nov 9, 2009
    It seems like we need to move to time period licensing rather than trying to count the diverse media. A fee per year to make an image accessible to a "textbook" program. The fee could vary with the general estimated size of the program, but not be specifically tied to press runs, clicks, passwords, cds, teachers editions, flash drives, phones etc.

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