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Education Businesses The Almighty Buck News

Publisher of Free Textbooks Says It Will Now Charge For Them, Instead 156

Posted by timothy
from the get-with-the-times dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In a surprising blow to the movement to create free textbooks online, an upstart company called Flat World Knowledge is dumping its freemium model. The upstart publisher had made its textbooks free online and charged for print versions or related study guides, but company officials now say that isn't bringing in enough money to work long-term."
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Publisher of Free Textbooks Says It Will Now Charge For Them, Instead

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  • Re:well, duh (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2012 @05:12AM (#41878685)

    The movie companies and the movie theatres are different entities. You pay the movie theatre a price for the ticket. The movie theatre has to pay a percentage of that price to the movie distributor - sometimes as high as 95% of the ticket price in the first few weeks of release for a blockbuster. You wonder why your soda costs so much at the movie theatre? It's because they don't make all that much from the actual price of a ticket unless they're showing a movie for the 7th or 8th week in a row, or they're showing a re-run of an older movie.

    Don't get me wrong though as I'm not defending the theatres either - we all know that a box of soda mix or popcorn costs a few cents/pennies and yet they still charge an arm and a leg for that. In the theatre I used to work in, the salsa and cheese used for the nachos used to come in giant tins that used to cost about £0.05 each and the nachos were £0.02 a bag and you'd get many many servings out of that.

  • Re:By the way (Score:5, Informative)

    by Genda (560240) <mariet@go t . n et> on Monday November 05, 2012 @05:49AM (#41878811) Journal

    Not really, I looked at the book list... unless you're a burning urn of churning funk for algebra... or just gotta have a book on social science... walk away from this pointless waste of electrons. I can't imagine with this book list they'll do any better with a for profit model.

  • Re:well, duh (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2012 @06:11AM (#41878897)
    The fact is that academic administrators have all but colluded with corporate-owned bookstores. The former take a nice "taste" (3-10%) of bookstore profits to run campus services **off the backs of the students who attend their institutions**. The corporate bookstores do everything they can to frustrate the adoption of open textbooks (85% of college bookstores are owned by a handful of corporations, NOT the colleges). The whole post-secondary educational system is a corrupt money-grab, with college instructors and administrators not giving a damn until textbook prices went into the stratosphere and we ran into hard times. Now, those same instructors and administrators are taking juicy grants to write "free" open textbooks that nobody uses! At least FWK textbooks get USED, and are well-designed, interoperable across platforms, etc. etc. FWK will do just fine; they will continue to save students money, and continue to completely out-innovate their non-profit open textbook brethren.
  • by sjbe (173966) on Monday November 05, 2012 @08:22AM (#41879533)

    If you assume 100% markup, then the bookstore pays $50 for a new book, and sells it for $100. Profit = $50.

    You are roughly correct for the gross margins but the net profit is nowhere near $50 in your example. (Rent, utilities, staff salaries, etc) Net profit will be quite a lot lower, probably in single digits to low teens usually if the company is profitable.

    Probably with a way to return purchased books to the publisher.

    Virtually all new books are sold on consignment. There are a handful of very large distributors in the book industry. They sell to bookstores including Barnes & Noble as well as your school book store. Some bigger sellers like Amazon can go direct but not many others can. New books are sold on consignment with 90 day terms meaning if they don't sell within 90 days they are returned to the publisher. Realistically 90 day terms really means 120 day terms because the distributors have 90 days from the book store and then 30 more days for themselves so the publisher gets paid at best 120 days after shipping a book that there is a good chance will be returned to them unsold. Publishing books is a terrible business to be in from a cash flow standpoint.

    Based on your numbers, they'll buy the used book for $30, and sell it for $75-$80 with no way to recoup cost if they aren't purchased (although they probably sell to a wholesaler or something) Profit = $45-$50

    There are secondary market options for used books that cannot be sold locally. Not hugely lucrative but they are significantly better than zero. The buyers of used books have some databases which tell them they should pay $30 for Book A and $5 for Book B and shouldn't buy Book C based on what they can sell it for elsewhere. They don't just buy books blindly for a flat fee. (or if they do they are stupid)

  • Re:I have a dream... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Belial6 (794905) on Monday November 05, 2012 @11:10AM (#41881419)
    The single biggest hurdle is getting past the corruption in the education system. Richard P. Feynman wrote about his experience with being on the State of California's Curriculum Commission. http://www.textbookleague.org/103feyn.htm [textbookleague.org]

Stinginess with privileges is kindness in disguise. -- Guide to VAX/VMS Security, Sep. 1984