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This is a solid concept with some meat behind it.  Students will access their textbook(s) online many times throughout the semester.  Each time the online text is opened a new impression is created which can then be sold to an advertiser.  This impression or registration information can be customized down to the local level allowing local campus businesses to advertise directly to students.  Perhaps after reading an online textbook for 2 hours that advertisement for a ½ priced cup of coffee at the campus coffee shop will be that much more effective.  The question repeatedly being asked is whether or not the pop up advertising will be too annoying for students to tolerate?

The beauty is that it doesn't matter!  Here is the simple version of how an ad supported book works:  If you want the maximum discount for a book you will be forced to view it online with the full complement of ads.  The more you pay, the less advertising you see.  Need it in print?  Use a print on demand service for a nominal fee!  It is that easy.  In addition, if at any time during the process you don't want to view ads any more you can pay the upgrade fee and opt out of the ads.

So what is the catch?  The biggest catch is that not many publishers have bought into the concept and not many textbook titles are available yet.  It's probably just a matter of time though.  The ad supported model actually works better than “e-books” because a publisher doesn't have to set an expiration date for the data because as long as the student logs in to view it, new impressions are created and advertising dollars are generated.

If the business model catches on I can really see this take off.  I would expect students to give an initial negative reaction to ads in the textbook but in reality it is no different than reading a facebook page or any other online article.  Not surprisingly, students have gotten good at ignoring the advertising message.

by: Jeff Cohen

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