Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Data point: Oops! The college textbook business model is really toast, this time it's no fooling around. Amazon is in the game with both feet.

Just imagine what happens if Apple releases the big iPhone (tablet/ touch screen computer).
Liveblogging: Amazon introduces $489 large-screen Kindle
"Textbooks are another good application for a wide-screen Kindle. Amazon has partnerships with the three leading textbook publishers -- Pearson, Cengage Learning and Wiley. The new Kindle will allow students to carry smaller backpacks, Bezos says. The cost of these textbooks is unknown, but Bezos says these will likely be priced lower than physical copies.

Five universities will test the Kindle DX this fall: Arizona State, Case Western, Princeton, Reed College, and the University of Virginia."
It figures it would be Pearson and Wiley. As far as I can figure out they have the best DNA in the space. What are the other textbook publishers going to do? My bet is that they will either follow the Flat World Knowledge business model or get into a price war with Pearson, Cengage and Wiley. In any case it's not pretty.

More interesting is what is Barnes and Noble going to do. This is a frontal attack on the used textbook business. Nibbles have been taken by web based alternatives to the college bookstore, but this is now serious business.

And the college textbook distributors?

The textbook printers will be fine. There lots of other stuff to print. They've already figured out how to produce just in time textbooks. A couple of thousand on an offset web press. A couple of hundred on one of the wide format web fed inkjets or the web driven Xerox laser box.

If I Ran The Zoo (1977) Dr Seuss Softcover
If I ran the zoo, here's what I'd do:
Text book Publishers:
1. Stop denying what's happening. CD's+web access+ printed textbooks at $250 a pop is gone.
2. If you can, do Flat World Knowledge. Give away the textbooks, make the money on print and other stuff. Maybe do a deal with Yahoo or Google to compete with Amazon. Or do a deal with Amazon. No one can compete with free. Not even Pearson.
3. Keep your eye on K - 12 that's the next to go.
4. Get in touch with Apple. It's going to be Apple v Amazon v Google.

Textbook Distributors:
1. Keep getting while the getting is good, but it's time to get serious about that new business model.
2. Consider being the network manager for versioned textbooks, newspapers, and supplementals. With your logistics DNA it should be a natural.

Barnes and Noble:
1. Maniacal focus on networked POD solutions delivered on campus through the stores.

Being the college print node on the printernet is a nice place to be. Plus it will increase traffic so you can sell more non book stuff.

2. Consider making a deal with one of the versioned newspaper printers.

Full color multi page newspaper product at the right price at the right time will live off the downloaded textbooks on the big Kindle. Then get in touch with the local newspapers. They have the editing and writing skill to pull together the web content. Sidestep the textbook publishers completely. Then support the full color newspapers with crib sheets (study guides.) I assume they are already selling pretty well.

And if you really want to get everyone excited, sell ads in the versioned newspaper/textbooks. Then you can give it away for free. It's very hard to compete with free.

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