Let’s Talk About: Purchasing Digital Content with Lindsey Casselman.
If you’re new to home-schooling, you may not have had much experience purchasing digital content before. This is something most veteran homeschoolers are very familiar with, so let’s talk about it!
What Is It Digital Content and How Is It Offered?
Digital content is when you make a purchase of materials that don’t have a physical product. This includes e-books, PDFs and a ton of other downloadable content. Because talented people and companies are located around the world, providing digital content is an easy way to bring their product to the world.
Digital content is available in many places, like Pinterest, TpT and many homeschool curriculum companies, including Schoolio.
- Some places offer both print and digital versions of their content. The Digital and Print product are offered at different price points (because printing is expensive). Also as two separate products on their website. Be sure to carefully look over your cart before completing a purchase. Doing so to ensure you’re getting the version you expected to get.
- Some places offer printing and shipping for you as an add-on cost. This means you’re buying the digital version of the content. In addition you’ll receive a printed version for an additional fee. These are usually print-on-demand (meaning they aren’t printed until the order is placed, so it may take 7-10 business days or more to reach your door). However, they are often one of the best printing rates you’ll find. That is because the company has negotiated a volume discount with the third-party printer. (If you’re unsure about the rate, look in the FAQs for a price-per-page rate, or look in the product description for page numbers of the product and do the math yourself to find a price-per-page cost. Then compare locally to printers in your area).
- The majority of digital product companies do not offer printing at all. You will need to either print at home or find a printer that is local to you. The price difference between printing at home or paying a printer to print for you varies widely. Factors that change the cost are based on your printer, what you’re printing, and your location. A little research in this area is a good idea before you decide to buy any digital product. This way you don’t get shocked later by the additional cost to print your digital files.
Tips to Being a Digital Product Consumer
- Digital products are almost always non-refundable. Once you purchase a digital product, you’re able to download it to your hard drive and it is yours forever. There is no way to “return” a digital product. Even if a company takes away your access to the download, they have no way to ensure you haven’t saved it locally. Therefore, almost every digital company you come across will have a no refunds policy.
It is your responsibility as the consumer to ensure the product is what you want.
- Read all the descriptions about the product, before purchasing digital content. If you’re buying any sort of bundle, read the descriptions of each piece of the bundle so you’re sure about what you’re getting.
- Find and read the FAQs. These will answer a lot of the most common questions other people have asked. In addition to this you may learn an answer to a question you hadn’t even thought to ask!
- Look at samples. There should be samples available for you to look at. Read them thoroughly and envision using the product in your own homeschool.
- Read reviews. You can read testimonials on the company page, ask other homeschoolers, or watch youtube reviews of a product. If you have a local friend already using the product- ask to borrow it!
- Start small. If the program has mini units or some other small product, buy it for the cheaper price as a more detailed sample. This way you get to actually use something from the company before you commit to an entire year financially.
I don’t know a single fellow homeschooler. That includes myself. Who hasn’t paid good money purchasing digital content that ended up either not working out, or just never being used. It happens, so don’t beat yourself up if it does. But following the above steps and not rushing a purchase can help you avoid it as much as possible.
Digital purchases won’t be available to you forever. Always download your purchases somewhere locally.
Most companies allow limited storage of your purchased content. Even if they will store it for you indefinitely, it’s good digital consumerism to always save your purchases somewhere safe. Somewhere that you have control of them. Website maintenance, server or platform changes, expired links, etc. All of these issues can lead to frustration if you count on someone else to hold your purchases for you. Some companies will give you a set number of times you can access your materials. This avoids people sharing their links with friends. Alternatively, other companies will give you an expiry date on your available downloads.
Places to save your digital product purchases:
- Your computer’s hard drive. This way you have access to your purchases whenever you need. In addition if it’s saved on your hard drive, you don’t even need an internet connection to preview.
- External hard drive. Thumb drives are available affordably and in massive size capacities these days. You can have one dedicated to your homeschool digital downloads. This is extremely helpful if you worry about problems with your computer and losing your materials.
- Cloud storage. I personally can’t say enough good things about OneDrive through MS Office. If you already pay for MS Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc.). Then you already have a OneDrive account. I love that I can save things to my OneDrive and then easily access them from my desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone, anywhere, anytime. Additionally, it also saves your content in the cloud. That way if disaster ever struck your device, you’d be fully covered.
- Storage companies. Curriculum companies don’t want to be your digital closet. However, there are several companies out there that do! DropBox is a popular one, along with Google Drive. Both are there to safely store your digital purchases. The one downside is that you will need internet service to access your files.
We’ve all had the misfortune of losing an important download.
Some of us have dropped our thumb drives in our coffee cups…. I won’t say who. The best practice is to store it somewhere safe. While also being sure to keep it in two different locations. On your hard drive, plus a thumb, or a cloud server. If you do lose something important, contact the company and they may be able to help you. But if they can’t, don’t let that bring you down, because it happens. We’ve all been to the park and left our favourite sweater or the book we were reading behind. Sometimes things get lost!
Understand licensing agreements with digital products.
Depending on what you purchase, you will want to be familiar with the licensing agreement. Ebooks are usually yours to read, over and over again if desired. But a lot of homeschool materials will have a one-user only license or a personal-use only license. One-user only means the program is designed to be consumable (most likely a workbook with pages you write directly on) and to only be used once. If you intend to re-use the program for a subsequent child, the legal thing to do is to purchase two copies of the product.
Personal use only means the program is not to be used to make money. That means you can’t resell it to other people. But you also can’t use it to teach a group. Many digital curriculum companies offer co-op or group rates. This is where you get a discount for buying multiple copies of the program to use with your group. If you don’t see it offered somewhere on the site, or you’re unsure about user agreements. Always contact the company’s customer service and they will likely be happy to help you.
Please remember that digital piracy is just as much stealing as going to a store and walking out with a sweater tucked in your bag. Stealing is stealing. Please model good citizenship to your children.
Check formatting before printing.
I once sent a PDF to my local printer. Due to one extra blank page being inserted, all the two-page spread sheets were misaligned and the whole book was a mess. It wasn’t the company’s or the printer’s fault. They inserted a blank page after the title page to be the “back” of the title page- makes sense! My printer however prints the title page separately on a heavier card-stock. So that blank page became my book’s page 1, and everything else was messed up from there.
Before you spend the money to have a digital product printed, or print it yourself, be sure to take a look at some formatting:
- Open up the PDF and take a look at the layout. Are there cutouts involved? Will they be unusable if you print double sided? Are there extra blank pages anywhere to accommodate cut outs that you don’t need printed and inserted if you’re printing single size?
- Any other visible formatting problems when open in your program? Even when you have a PDF. The page layout size it was saved in and the default page layout size of your PDF reading program could misalign important pages or images. Always check and make sure everything is the way you want it before you print or send it to the printer.
- Talk to your printer about how they do title pages and back covers.
Make sure you know what you’re getting ahead of time. This way you aren’t disappointed or paying for it to be printed again.
I hope these tips help you in your purchasing digital content journey! Digital products are an amazing way to access great content from anywhere in the world. With a little know-how, you can really make the most of any digital purchase!
This blog was written by Lindsey Casselman, Co-Founder and Lead Curriculum Writer at Schoolio Learning.
Click Here to learn more about how to use digital curriculum.