Battle of the Books: Usborne Books and More vs Scholastic

Usborne normally tells consultants not to compare Usborne to Scholastic. Well, Team Leader & Educational Consultant Gail Sawchuk decided to make the comparison and video herself while doing it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTuxZ0MOqhY.

In case Gail decides to pull her video entitled, “What’s the story with Scholastic? How does Usborne compare?” from March 2, 2016, I have the transcript below with my comments in red. To those who say the video is out dated.. not so fast. The comparison of the two continue today.

Hey everybody. This is Gail Sawchuk. I’m an educational consultant in Colorado and wanted to share a video about Scholastic how they are similar to Usborne, how they differ, and how we can approach schools that are already working with them and show them that Usborne is a great alternative.

A little background. Scholastic has been around since nineteen-twenty, primarily working in the school market, so they have a long history of being kind of the only player on the block providing book fairs and programs to schools. So, they have some great advantages there in comparison. Usborne’s really in the infancy of working with schools and libraries and we only have a fraction of our consultants who are working with schools. And so we’re just beginning to build our reputation for the services that we have to offer some of the benefits that Scholastic has.

Just so you know when you’re approaching schools and get an idea of why they have selected to work with Scholastic and may choose to continue to work with Scholastic. Probably number one is that they have books the kids recognize they’re going to have the Star Wars, Legos Minecraft, Harry Potter. That’s so their books that kids love and that makes them easy to sell.

Please note that Usborne can no longer state that they are a commercial-free company. Usborne Publishing is releasing the Bear Grylls series of books. If you are not aware, Bear Grylls is most known for his television series called, Man vs. Wild. It’s a complete disappointment to us that Bear Grylls decided to partner with any MLM. Funny that all of a sudden UBAM isn’t so against commercial books when it means more money in the company’s pocket. Since we are doing the comparison, Bear Grylls would have been smarter to sign with Scholastic.

There’s a misconceived notion that their books are cheaper and really probably their average price points about the same as ours. We offer plenty of five dollar books and they offer plenty of books and sets and kits in the thirty and forty dollar range. But what they to offer are some discounted books typically ones that are a little outdated and those can go I’ve seen as low as $2.50 or three dollars.

This also is not true. If you shop via your child’s Scholastic Book Club Link, you will find that Scholastic offers award winning books for as little as $1 as shown here:

 

 

The classics never go out of style, never outdated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To give you further proof regarding Scholastic’s price points, we went onto the Scholastic Book Club website to view Scholastic’s price points. In parentheses to the right of the dollar amount is the number of books available at that price. See below:

Scholastic Price Point

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To be completely fair, we’d like you to see exactly what you get at the most expensive price point:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Examples of Scholastic’s higher price points

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Usborne’s site is a little more difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, it is not possible to search for all of their books by price point. But to give you an idea, below are sets we found in the $99.99+ range. Please note that some of these books are going out-of-print and/or may be out-of-stock unlike Scholastic’s website.

Usborne price points

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Currently, Educational Development Corp. (NASDAQ: EDUC) is offering a sale on their old inventory. The reason for this sell-off we believe is due to new terms with MidFirst Bank. Since MidFirst Bank will not recognize inventory that has been in the warehouse for over one year, the company is scrambling to get rid of it. Any sale items you see listed in the Fall Frenzy are most likely books that are going out of print such as Conspiracy 365 and The Last 13. Although the series is going out-of-print (on sale for $2.99/book), notice that the complete collection is not on sale.

We must be missing something. I’m not seeing a drawback to Scholastic’s prices.

Another thing that Scholastic offers which is fantastic is that their books come in these gigantic metal cases and that all the librarians have to do is open them up and put up the signage and that portion of the book fair is all ready to go. However, they do also send a lot of books in boxes and those still need to be set up in table so there’s definitely work to be done there.

Gail is right about this. The containers that are drop shipped to the school are amazing. Since Educational Consultants are not employees of Educational Development Corp aka Usborne Books and More,, they are required to purchase their own bookshelves and racks in order to look professional. This comes out of the consultant’s own pocket.

Their 17% book fair commission just isn’t worth it.

Cash registers are fantastic. They’re very easy for a volunteer to learn how to use and it makes it easy for people to participate in their book fairs. You know another great advantage is just that they have a history, that they’ve been around for a long time, that librarians know what to expect and what they’re going to get; and so it’s easy for them to just continue.

Again, I cannot disagree with Gail. Educational Development Corp does offer their own software for consultants to use for a minimal monthly fee. The downside to the software is that it is only compatible with a PC. But it is very easy to use with a scanner and small receipt printer.

However, most consultants will either use Paypal/Square or write receipts to charge through the system later. Why is this? My guess is that it easier for consultants to offer discounts that are not offered by their company to spark interest in the books. Any discounts given is a direct hit on how much a consultant will actually make at a book fair. That means consultants will start to see their 17% book fair commission slowly dwindle down. This is why consultants beg other consultants to use their Square code when setting up a new Square account to make sure they keep getting $1,000 in free transaction fees.

If consultants were smart, they would track all of their expenses so they would know just how much of a net profit they made doing a book fair. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

Let’s say you did a book fair over 5 days and sold $3,000 worth of books. I’ll pretend this amount already excludes sales tax. $3,000 * 17% commission = $510. But it does not include all of the marketing materials you need to advertise the book fair or the business supplies.

You have to remember to deduct the cost of printer paper and ink along with the time spent creating fliers. You also have to deduct the cost of stickers if you label your books with your contact information. Don’t forget about the cost of bags, catalogs, and business cards you may have purchased to ensure each customer has a way to carry their purchases and any other advertising materials you may have stuffed into each bag. You also have to account for the time it takes you to unpack shipped inventory to ensure you received all of the books you requested undamaged and then pack it up again. You still have to load and unload your car. The cost of the bookshelves, display racks, tablecloths, and signage needed for the fair. If you do a raffle, you’ll need pens and paper.

Let’s be kind and say all of your materials needed for your book fair cost you $300 (excluding the cost of bookshelves, display racks, tablecloths & signage since you can re-use it until you need to replace it). And you spent 8 hours per day at your event figuring it a little high to allow for the time and effort to meet with the school to discuss event plans, design fliers, set-up the book fair, assist customers, and break down the event at the end of the fair. Setup and tear down takes approximately 5 hours total plus a few extra hours to load and unload your vehicle. Books are a ton of manual labor.

Total Revenues – Total Expenses = Net Profit or Net Income

$510 in Commission – $300 in advertising materials & business supplies = $210 Net Profit

That means you earned $42 per day or $5.25/hour.

Is the Usborne Books & More MLM sounding lucrative to you, yet?

Um, one thing that they do is scale up their rewards so their basic package is pretty similar to ours. However, they will add extra incentives for booking additional Book Fairs during the year and for reaching certain price points.

Oh Gail…we know you are not being truthful here. We do know that Scholastic offers teachers way more than just books. All it took was a simple Google search to find three important links:

Maximizing Your Profit with Scholastic Dollars

Redeem Profit Through the Scholastic Dollars Catalog

Scholastic Dollars Catalog FAQ

The Scholastic Dollars Catalog features more than 1,600 new items, including:

  • Popular books and collections
  • Library-bound books, including exclusive editions
  • Furniture and carpets
  • Electronics and technology items
  • Gifts and incentives for volunteers and kids
  • Audio libraries, curriculum-related materials, and more!

You can spend Scholastic Dollars in a variety of ways, including at your Book Fair, through the Scholastic Dollars Catalog (online access available through your Chairperson’s Toolkit), or via regional Scholastic Dollars book lists.

Gail, please tell us again how Usborne Books & More’s incentive package is similar to Scholastic.

So let’s now talk about Usborne in what we have to offer. Of course number one for us is our high quality educational books that teachers and parents and kids librarians all love. And our books our non-commercial. So while it is an advantage for Scholastic it’s also an advantage for us. It gives parents and the school another alternative to have books that don’t have all those characters that are promoting education and learning and all the great things that our books do.

We already proved this is not longer true. Bear Grylls from the television series Man vs. Wild now has a book series through Usborne Publishing.

We also offer personal service. I highly recommend especially when you’re working with a school for the first time that you be there for the entire process. Help them order the books, set up the book fair, be there for wish lists, and talking to the kids about our books, and doing little book previews for manning the book fair all hours that kids and parents are there. Having that you or volunteers do the cash register. Packing up the book fair, that is something that Scholastic absolutely does not offer and puts us at a huge advantage. Especially as many librarian positions or getting cut or shared, they’re just super busy and that’s something that we can offer it.

Not every consultant offers this personalized treatment for many reasons. Most  are stay-at-home moms and can’t afford child care to sit at a school all day. Some work full-time because Usborne Books & More is not profitable. The other problem is that consultants do not receive training on any of the authors or what is so special about any of the Usborne/Kane Miller books. That is why they will instead tell you about the book quality rather than the quality of content. When the CEO was asked to train consultants on this information, he basically said it was not possible and it is easier for consultants to read them on their own. I don’t know which consultants have time to read 1,600 books to know what is inside of each one of them. But more power to you if you have that type of time. This is not how salaried sales representatives are trained. Therefore personalized assistance from consultants is just not possible when they have not received training to know anything about the books or authors they are promoting.

Scholastic just one we also mentioned our rewards are competitive. And they’re fantastic to be able to offer the fifty percent back in free books or depending on the book fair size about twenty-five percent in cash, so I don’t think that our rewards or anything that the librarians need to be concerned about. However, our books being offered can be a huge advantage because oftentimes either the librarians can’t takes Scholastic books, they are not allowed by their district, or they just don’t want them because they don’t offer the library bound and they’re just not the quality of books that they want to have in their library.

Gail is right in that I do not believe that Scholastic offers an actual cash option. But the 25% cash option does not work in the consultants favor and is rather confusing. Therefore many consultants do not offer it. But let me give you an example as to how it works:

If you had a $4,000 book fair, the school would receive $2,000 in free books. But the consultants commission would only be on the $4,000 in actual sales. The consultants 17% commission would be $680.

If the school chooses the 25% cash back instead of 50% in free books, then the consultant has to manually enter the book fair into Usborne’s ordering system. Ultimately, the consultant has to trick the system into believing the consultant sold less books than she really did. The $4,000 book fair has to show up in Usborne’s system as having only sold $2,266.67 in order to free up the cash the school needs. This option means that the consultant’s commission is $385.33.

As for Gail’s claim about schools not wanting Scholastic books, I cannot speak for all districts. So maybe some schools choose not to purchase Scholastic books for their schools. Even if this is true, Scholastic Dollars do not have to be spent on books. They offer a plethora of other options as we previously discussed. We also found that Scholastic does offer library-bound selections as well as library processing.

http://www.scholastic.com/bookfairs/articles/scholastic-dollars-catalog-faq

Another thing that we offer is flexibility where Scholastic book fairs are pretty much status quo in how long they’re going to be. We can come in for just tonight, we can be there for three days, we can be there for five for two weeks. You know, depending on your schedule. But that’s something that we can offer is meeting the needs of the school. So, as you are going and approaching librarians in schools about the possibility of doing a book fair, you definitely do not want to disparage Scholastic because they may be extremely happy with how their Scholastic book fairs are going. You just want to be able to offer that we have another alternative. So perhaps they just do one book fair a year in the fall or the spring and you can offer doing one at the opposite time. Maybe they’re doing two and they’re not super thrilled or it’s fine, but they would love the idea of a different kind of book fair and then you can offer to do yours either in the fall or spring. I do have a few schools that already have their fall and spring one, but they have me come in in the winter or later in the spring towards the end of the year. So typically with more upper middle-class schools, a third book fair can be an option as well. And don’t be discouraged if they’re not interested in a book fair because there’s plenty of other ways that we can work with them. They can have their Scholastic book fair and then choose to spend money that they earn on our books which is great. You go in and get a wish list from them and do a literacy for a lifetime and everybody wins. And I do that with several schools as well. And you can talk to them about other programs or other ways of sharing the books with the school. Perhaps doing a teacher lounge is a great way to get in show the teachers the box and then maybe they talk to the library and about how they would love to have our Book Fair as well. I think a good approach is just talking to them about their book fair. What do they like about it, what are they not super happy about so that you can kind of compare the two and see if we might be a good option.

Gail, that is a lot of rambling. It sounds like you know schools would prefer to stick with Scholastic. Maybe you are trying too hard to convince schools that an MLM is a better alternative to a well-established company? We don’t understand what you are trying to say here.

Um another question I hear a lot is about the teacher program and Scholastic has Flyers that get sent home with the classrooms. The teachers get points for any book that the parents order and then that’s how they create their classroom library. So we don’t exactly have a program that works just like that; but you can send home our school library flyers and set up an fair the parents order through and the classroom would get that fifty percent back if they meet that minimum. So it works best if you have at least a grade level doing it so you’re getting enough orders or hopefully a whole school, um, and you can do that for one month or for several months. You have some flexibility and how that works as well.

Gail, this will not work. The flyers that Usborne prints for consultants to purchase out-of-pocket become obsolete pretty quickly. This is due to how quickly Usborne books go out-of-print and out-of-stock. There is no way to know until you place an order. And then you will receive what is called a Book Buck in the mail. The Book Buck is pretty infuriating for a number of reasons:

  • A Book Buck is a credit. As a customer you do not get your money back if a book you want goes out-of-print or out-of-stock. This should be Usborne’s problem to refund customers. Customers should not feel stuck ordering something they may not have even wanted just feel whole again.
  • Usborne does not have a way to automatically ship out-of-stock books to customers. It is the responsibility of the customer or consultant to keep checking when a book comes back in stock to reorder.
  • When you do use your book buck, you will have to pay an 8% shipping fee even though it wasn’t your fault you received a book buck

And another way to offer teacher rewards again is trying to do a teacher lounge event. I like to either offer buy two books and get one free or twenty-five percent off. And that gives teachers some discounted books for their classroom as well.

We discussed the problem with consultants offering their own discounts. The 17-25% they make in commission is already pretty pathetic. Having to offer an additional discount just puts their earnings into the red. The reason you go into business is to make money. Most consultants are losing money. When you support an MLM, you are not supporting a small business. You are putting consultants into debt. Please do not support any MLM. Per CEO Randall White, “…our concept is for a lot of people to sell a little.” Please raise your hand if you’d like to make a little bit of money.

So I hope that has answered some of your questions, um, it’s glass take it. It’s like I said, Scholastic has been doing this for a very long time but we can offer a really great quality book fair event for schools. Thanks.

Good luck, Gail. It looks like you are going to need it.

That’s my take. Tell me yours.

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