Educators are super busy. They have a big and important job to do in helping the young minds of tomorrow grow. They often do not have time to be savvy shoppers. So, how can they possibly find the time to assess value when it comes to purchasing instructional materials?

Shopping as a teacher is very challenging. Your budget is limited and you have many students with a variety of needs to meet. Often times, in the rush of buying materials in the break room while trying to eat lunch in under 15 minutes, a teacher will mistakenly look at price and equate it with value.  The issue with this line of thinking when it comes to books and book lending, is that pricing does not tell the entire story. The rest of that story is about usage.

For example, a company sells a “classroom library” containing 100 books for $100. What a deal! Right? Uh, maybe, actually… not so much. The true story of value for these bargain sets begins with the publishers and their motivation to create them. Bargain boxes were born as a way for publishers to offload excess inventory for titles they are unable to sell. Individually, they have decided that these titles cannot and will not sell. So, to make them palatable, they feature one or two titles that are very popular and are selling very well, and make these titles the headliners of for the bargain book box. The rest of the box? Excess unsellable inventory, otherwise headed for the recycle container (but instead coming to your classroom!)

Publishers cleverly mix the few good with the mostly bad, and voila! – a bargain book bin is born. Predictably, the 2-3 titles that headline the set are used often in the classroom. Also predictably, the other 90+ titles in the bin, are rarely read, rarely checked out, and sit idly on bookshelves before eventually finding the recycling bin.

When you really analyze this purchase, you start to realize that $100 for a few books that everyone reads, and 90+ that nobody reads was not the value it appeared to have been. The lesson? When it comes to content, you pay for what you get. In establishing value, teachers should really buy the stuff that will be used the most – the price tag is not as relevant. If you buy a library book for $30 but it is checked out 30 times that year, you are paying just $1 per usage—that’s a very good value.