Digital Directions: Rethinking the Monolith
There may well be a print component offered as a companion to the online subscription service. The role and scope of the print component, if there is one, is likely to vary across subjects and market segments. In this way, print is ancillary to the core offering — the online subscription service — not the other way around.
Publishers seem hesitant to move away from the traditional textbook model. This hesitation may be rooted in fear of change and concern regarding short-term top-line shortfall. Even if the revenue trajectory is more stable and sustainable with a subscriptions-based approach, there may well be less revenue during the first year of a subscription program when compared to the traditional revenue curve of a new print edition, even with the subscription revenue. However the subscription model's overall revenue would be comparable, gross margins more favorable and business results more predictable than the traditional print-based delivery and revenue model.
If educational publishers can present a new pricing and delivery approach, they may be able to both better serve the market and achieve a more sustainable business model. The era of the monolithic print textbook is coming to a close. The Kirtsaeng decision is the latest indication that it is not sustainable. It is time to move on. x
Andrew Brenneman is founder of Finitiv, a provider of publishing strategy and delivery solutions.