Key business model issues

  • Changing business models
  • Innovation  e.g. etextbooks
  • Student as the customer
  • Open Access models


Changing business models

From: JISC TechWatch: Preparing for Effective Adoption and Use of Ebooks in Education, November 2012. [pages 5-6]
The change in publishing brought about by ebooks represents a challenge to publishers. It is noticeable that none of the developments in ebooks (from Project Gutenberg through to the Kindle and the iPad) have come from publishers. They are challenged by the change in publishing that ebooks represent. Typically, publishers are challenged by the difficulty of producing content for novel and varied platforms. Such interoperability issues are accentuated by the desire of some to push the interactive capabilities of ebooks as far possible (and these capabilities are important to education). Publishers are also challenged by the way that digital content changes the way in which material can be distributed and copied. This is a problem that they pass on to libraries: in essence an ebook may be “lent” out by a library numerous times without degradation or loss of availability to others, whereas a paper book can only be lent out to one person at a time and will eventually fall apart. As a result, in order to protect their income, publishers seek to limit what libraries can do with books by limiting the rights that libraries buy when they purchase a book, and by enforcing those rights through Digital Rights Management technology. Alternatively, publishers will need to redefine what libraries purchase, moving from a transfer of ownership of a copy to something more akin to rental or subscription to a service. These changes impinge on libraries’ scope for action in Higher Education.

[page 54]
Institutions need to prepare for new subscription, purchasing and licensing models as the current ones are in an embryonic stage (often following traditional printed-book business models). If ebooks follow a similar pattern to music and films, these subscription, purchasing and licensing models will evolve and change.

From: An Inkling of the Future? Enhanced Ebooks and the College Textbook Market. By Yvette M. Chin. Digital Book World March 31, 2011

As for its business model and offerings, Fortune’s Senior Editor-at-Large Adam Lashinsky, Sr., called Inkling’s business model “revolutionary”:
“Students can buy single chapters of books for $3, allowing them to spread out the cost of expensive textbooks. Publishers will like this model as well because, if Inkling’s technology is widely adopted, the market for second-hand books will go away. Today, publishers only make money selling new books. In an Inkling future their revenue streams will recur with each new class.”

Innovation  e.g. etextbooks

From: JISC TechWatch: Preparing for Effective Adoption and Use of Ebooks in Education. November 2012.
[page 42]
Currently there is also a trend in producing free or open etextbooks, and this trend competes directly with publisher versions. These open etextbooks are written by academics and may have an impact in the future if they prove to be popular and successful and (more significantly) are adopted by academics for their modules and courses. Publishers and ebook suppliers are also looking at tapping into the etextbook market; in the US, for example, Amazon has announced a Kindle textbook rental option. As noted in the SCONUL report entitled libUX: Improving User Experience in Libraries within the Higher Education Sector, this has implications for cost and long-term usage : “Amazon has announced a Kindle textbook rental with up to 80% savings over hardcopy purchase, and importantly the ability to access notes made on after the rental period is over.” (van Harmelen & Randall, 2011, p. 18). Similar initiatives are very likely to appear in the UK in the future.

[page 50]
the sustainability of ebooks has to be considered by institutions, both in the short term and the long term. Publishers or aggregators may close down; as a result, access may be denied or have to be renegotiated in order to retain access to the ebook collection. Unlike a printed collection, once denied access, an ebook collection is gone; this radical change would require far-reaching adjustments to curriculum delivery or reading lists so as not to affect learners adversely. In cases such as this, institutions may need to replace ebook collections with printed versions or to invest in a different ebook collection. The JISC National E-books Observatory Project notes the pressures on publishers: “staying still is not an option. The pressure to find viable and sustainable business models for course text e-books is likely to intensify as consumer expectations for immediate access to digital content continue to rise” (JISC Collections, 2009, p. 32). Although publishers may worry that this level of access could reduce print sales, the JISC National E-books Observatory Project found in its research that “there are no short-term indications that free at the point of use e-books made available through the university library impact negatively on print sales to students.” As the Digital Monograph Technical Landscape (Daly, 2012) notes, however, exposure to ebooks is growing steadily : “as print retail locations flounder and increasingly close altogether, buyers are driven to the web to make purchases. Since most major online retailers sell both print and digital books, even print buyers become progressively more exposed to the idea of reading digitally.”

Student as the customer

From: Inkling Builds a Better (and Pricier) E-Book By Danielle Kucera 12 February  2013
Publishers will have direct access to consumers, they’ll have access to data about how their content is performing, and they’ll be able to monetize through the world’s largest storefront, which we think is Google,’’ says MacInnis, A Google spokesman says: “Our goal with search is to make information accessible to people and help them get the answers they’re looking for.

Open Access models

From: JISC TechWatch: Preparing for Effective Adoption and Use of Ebooks in Education. November 2012.

[page 53]
Many within the education community would prefer an ebook model based on open access. The Digital Monograph Technical Landscape: Exemplars and Recommendations (Daly, 2012) found that the “emergence of open access as a preferred or even mandated distribution method” by some institutions was pushing academics and authors down the ebook route to ensure that their publications were open access.

From: University of Nottingham (Open Nottingham): Case study

Open resources, by simplifying licensing, increase the University’s capabilities to deliver in terms international campuses