Watch a Book

Posted on 11/23/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Books and education are changing. Consumer looking for information or entertainment will turn to “vooks”—books they can watch, instead of the old paper kind they can only read or audio books where they can only listen to narration. These vooks blend text and video into a single integrated and uninterrupted reading and viewing experience that can be accessed and read on the Web or an iPhone.

Among first titles available through Simon and Schuster and found on the vook site are: Promises, a romance novella; Embassy, a suspense thriller; The 90-Second Fitness Solution, a fitness program; Return To Beauty, which discusses skin-care recipes; and The Breakway Japanese Kitchen, which features cooking demonstrations.

Each vook contains between 10,000 and 20,000 words and 10 to 16 videos, ranging from 60 to 90 seconds in length. Simon and Schuster, in partnership with Atria Books, started producing its first four vooks in July and released them in October.

When we move to classroom education (elementary, secondary, college and continuing education), interactive electronic whiteboards are scheduled to replace printed books to a great degree in a very short period of time. To get an understanding of the potential of electronic whiteboards, check out these videos: video 1, video 2, video 3 and video 4. Also, note that all these videos are delivered on YouTube. says there are almost 1 billion videos on YouTube, and the numbers are growing at a rapid pace. They are not all music videos or high-school kids shooting silly footage of their friends.

Why should still photographers care?

Sales of still images for book uses generate an estimated $150 million to $200 million worldwide annually. Vooks are a new market for photography, but in many cases video will replace stills, not be an add-on to existing still photo sales. Production teams working to a script, often with the author directing, will shoot imagery for vooks. There will be little to no need for stills or random clips from a clip library.

In the education arena, the images that excite teachers and students will be ones that tell a story or explain a subject in a linear fashion, providing students with a better understanding of how things work. In nearly all cases, such stories can be better told with a 30 to 90-second video than with still images.

With electronic whiteboards, it is certainly possible to use stills, but it seems likely that there will be fewer uses of stills and many more uses of video. Photographers should think about the still pictures they have sold for textbook uses over the years—for example, subjects such as a student conducting a science experiment, a manufacturing process or something illustrating a physical fitness or health issue. In how many cases would a 30-second video story of the same situation have supplied more information and been more interesting for students? Given the level of today’s technology, in how many cases would a teacher or student have been able to produce a satisfactory 30-second video for classroom purposes?

As teachers and school systems design and modify lesson plans to fit their local needs, there will probably also be less dependence on publisher-produced materials. Where will teachers get still images? Will they go to Getty Images and Corbis and purchase them out of a school budget, or will they go to Google and download whatever they find for free? Will there be a system where they could pay $.50 or $1.00 per image when they need one? Educators are not likely to be willing to pay more, if that.

Once teachers have created lesson plans, will they store the images used as part of a PowerPoint presentation and share it? This is highly likely; already makes it easy for people to share their PowerPoint slides.

Today’s kids are used to an interactive lifestyle and will be more receptive to the newer digital methods of learning rather than to traditional books. Teachers will definitely move in the direction of delivering educational materials in ways that best motivate students. Last month, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced a multi-year $40 million contract to introduce its Learning Village system into the Detroit public school system.

E-learning cuts the cost of high quality content. For eco-friendly individuals, e-learning eliminates the destruction of lots of trees. All ages of students respond favorably to electronic whiteboards and interface well with other peripherals. The burden of heavy books is eliminated when all resources are available online. Companies can easily integrate e-learning modules into staff communications and education, and a system that relies on computers and the Internet is excellent for distance learning. Small modifications to the curriculum are much easier to make. All these factors will drive a rapid transition from printed textbooks to e-learning. The technology needed is already here.

Today, a typical request to license a still photo for textbook use asks for “unlimited electronic rights in any format now known or yet to be invented for 10 years.” Major agencies are granting these rights and charging very little beyond what they charge for the use of the same image in a printed book. Publishers have already acquired the rights to make unlimited use to most of the photos in their current list of titles. As these new uses develop, there will be no additional compensation for the creators of these still images. By the time the 10-year rights expire, publishers will no longer be interested in purchasing still photos. Any sales you are about to make will be the last shot you get at licensing rights to that photo to that book publisher.

In 10 years, a still photograph will be about as useful a tool for education as a platinum print is today.

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, 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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