Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


Bookboon = Free Ad-Supported Textbooks ! (On Track to Biggest E-publisher on Earth?)

The Biggest E-Publisher in the World ?

A Denmark enterprise called Bookboom is helping students to free downloadable textbooks in the Scandinavian countries, Germany, the UK and expanding globally. Their current growth rate is 500%. 

Thomas Buus Madsen, co-founder and COO of Bookboon, is the son of a publishing family — his parents own Ventus Publishing, a respected Danish textbook and dictionary publisher.

What a worldwide boon to students this model will be (free textbooks) ! — and to those who will pay for the books: advertisers and prospective employers who want to brand themselves to students 🙂 

This background and enlightening details from Publishing Perspectives by Edward Nawotka :

Is Denmark’s Bookboon the Biggest E-publisher on Earth?

COPENHAGEN: “I don’t think it’s immodest to say it, but I believe we’re the biggest e-book publisher in the world,” says Thomas Buus Madsen, co-founder and COO of Danish e-book publisher Bookboon. “To give just one reason why, over the last weekend in February we registered 970,000 downloads from Friday through Sunday, which was our single biggest weekend so far. In 2011, we had a total of 11 million downloads in all and there’s no reason for us not to hit 50 million by the end of 2012.”

The secret of Bookboon’s popularity: “All our books are free, of course.”

The son of a publishing family — his parents own Ventus Publishing, a respected Danish textbook and dictionary publisher — Madsen was inspired to start Bookboon after watching a fellow student at university take the one copy of a textbook for a particular class out of the school library, make 50 photocopies and start selling them in front of the classroom. “I’d spent my whole childhood packing physical books for my parents, but once I saw that, I knew textbook publishing didn’t have a long-term perspective.”

Working with his brother, Madsen launched the company in 2005, initially focusing providing academic textbooks and business books for the Danish market. The business model was simple: provide free e-books and pay for them by embedding advertising every three to five pages in the book. The two had previously worked on the launch of the free newspaper METRO in the Danish market and were confident it could work. Sales teams were established across Europe and managed to attract advertisers keen to reach students.

The range of titles focused on specific verticals, including accounting and economics, IT and engineering, and management and personal development. This helped with advertising: “We’re not doing fiction,” says Madsen, “these are factual books that have a lot of readers who are potential employees for companies. So, we are are looking at advertisers who are trying to brand themselves to students. Some, like Dell, want to sell them a computer, others, like the London Business, promote their graduate and executive education programs.” (The company says it will not take ads for alcohol, gambling, pay day loans or similar activities that will “ultimately diminish the seriousness of the books.”) Advertisers include several top commercial brands, such as UBS, IKEA, Accenture, Volvo, Maersk and Ericsson, to name just a few.

So far, model has proven a success. In 2006, Bookboon expanded to Sweden, and then to Germany and the Netherlands in 2007, but it wasn’t until their move into the UK and English books in 2008 that growth truly exploded, “English is the universal language — it is everywhere,” says Madsen. The company was helped by a timely feature on the BBC last year and since then the site has been doubling in traffic, with downloads growing at a rate of 500%.

The current catalog totals 1,000 titles, and Madsen expects to add another 300 this year.  Authors are recruited by the company to write books in their local languages — “we don’t translate,” says Madsen, “because something is always lost” — and the writers are paid based on the advertising revenue generated by the book and the number of downloads.”

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Publishers Bet on "Enhanced" Textbooks for the Digital Future

Filed under: e-book,e-Reader,e-textbooks,publishing — gator1965 @ 6:12 pm

Sarah Weinman of Daily Finance has written an excellent article on what a significant player enhanced digital books will be in the future educational world. The increased visual and audio interaction coming in textbooks will be immediately wondrous and engrossing to students.

By Sarah Weinman:
The publishing industry is chockablock with jargon, but one word we’re going to hear a whole lot more of over the next few months and years is “enhanced.” After all, as the world increasingly goes digital, stand-alone texts may not be enough to justify pricey new gadgets, be they e-readers, smartphones or tablets like Apple’s (AAPL) iPad. That’s apparently the rationale behind the investment of $2.5 million in seed funding in Vook, a company specializing in multimedia-enhanced books, by a group of backers including Huffington Post Chairman Ken Lerer.

Enhanced books may provide a method for textbook companies to make money on new digital editions at a time when the rental-book market appears to be booming faster than the e-book one, as I reported on DailyFinance last week. So get ready for DynamicBooks, a subsidiary of Macmillan that promises a more interactive textbook experience.

As The New York Times reported Monday morning, DynamicBooks aims to deliver textbooks Wikipedia-style, allowing college instructors to edit, modify, add video and pictures to, and rewrite chapters or paragraphs of textbooks as they see fit — all without consulting the original authors. “Basically they will go online, log on to the authoring tool, have the content right there and make whatever changes they want,” Macmillan president Brian Napack told the newspaper. “And we don’t even look at it.”

Digital textbooks will be much cheaper than print editions — the e-book edition of Psychology will sell for $48.76, a far better deal than the list price of $134.29. And there’s some financial incentive for the instructors, too: According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, “for each customized copy that a student buys, the professor who contributed the material gets a dollar.” Changes made by professors would be clearly noted in the text.

But Will They Sign Up?

Macmillan’s partnership with Dynamic Books joins a number of other enhanced-textbook alliances, such as McGraw-Hill’s (MHP) Connect, WileyPlus from John Wiley & Sons (JW.A), Follett Higher Education Group’s CafeScribe, and Flat World Knowledge, which charges for print editions but gives away digital versions for free. In theory, where Dynamic Books will differ from its rivals is that it will allow other publishers to upload their own textbooks onto the service, so long as Macmillan gets an 18% markup.

In practice, that hasn’t happened yet, and it remains to be seen if other publishers will sign on to a competitor’s service when they’d have to pay extra for the privilege, and when the existing consortium, CourseSmart, may not be subject to the additional service fees.

Another unanswered issue is how instructor modifications will be regulated. The $1 cut each instructor could make for every DynamicBook bought was defended by the company’s general manager, who said that “only professors who make significant changes in a book will qualify for payment.” But that in turn raises larger questions of whether personal agendas or misinformation will make their way into the enhanced editions. As Neil Comins, co-author of the astronomy textbook Discovering the Universe, told The New York Times, if an accepted change contradicted basic scientific tenets — like putting a creationist slant on the universe’s origins — “I would absolutely, positively be livid.”

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