Pearson to stop printing books to focus on subscription ebooks

Brian G Turner

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The future of publishing? Educational publisher Pearson has announced that it will stop printing physical copies of most titles, instead shifting it's focus to ebooks - not least making them available via a subscription model: Education publisher to phase out print textbooks

However, the caveat for authors is that royalties would no longer be guaranteed via a subscription model, and instead would be paid from a shared pot according to use, like KDP.

I'm kind of left surprised that the big fiction publishers haven't already announced something like this. I'm sure a lot of people here might consider subscribing to a program by Gollancz or Tor. :)

The question is: is this really the future of publishing? Looking to how the subscription model now rules the music industry, I find it hard to imagine that film and then books might not fall into the same pattern in the long term.
 

L.L.Lotte

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Ahem... Scribd and Bookmate have been at it for awhile now. Amazon has Kindle Unlimited, which should be available in the UK. Kobo has Kobo Plus, but its not available internationally yet. So it's not exactly like subscription services for ebooks are a new thing...

Film is there as well. Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu are already dominating that industry.

Even games are going that way. Electronic Arts has Origin Access, Nvidia has Geforce Now, Ubisoft has Uplay Plus, Sony has Playstation Now. Won't be long before Steam follows suit. And then there is Google Stadia coming soon, which will no doubt dominate the industry, like Google does...

The thing I notice about all these subscription services is that they are all independent from the publishers (with the exception of Uplay and Origin). A record label produces a song and people listen to it on Spotify. A Hollywood studio produces a movie and people watch it on Netflix. etc.

Only problem is that they don't have an endless selection to chose from, but then, a subscription service from a particular publisher would be even more limited... and just imagine the cost if you had to pay a sub to every single publisher. No doubt the independent platform is the better choice, getting books from multiple sources all for the one subscription.

No need for the publishers to do their own service when there already is a platform readily available for them. Although, that didn't stop HBO from doing their own subscription platform...
 
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thaddeus6th

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I really dislike this.

Imagine, happy thought, I sell a bestselling fantasy. If I release it in a year when Rowling and Martin release books, then my sales may be unchanged but my share of a theoretical pot would be far smaller. If I release it in a year when said authors release nothing, with equal sales my share of the pot rises.

Severing the link (or at least diluting it severely) between sales/reads and income is a very bad step, I think. And it's not as if most authors are suffering lopsided gaits because their wallets are so heavy.
 

Vertigo

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I really struggler to see the difference between these subscription services and the old book clubs from way back when. Nothing would induce me to subscribe to a (fiction) book service (Amazon Prime included).
 

thaddeus6th

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Jo, when I was at university I won a statistics book (yeah, I'm cool) from one of the lecturers, who had written it. I forget the precise figure but he indicated he got a pittance (pence rather than pounds) per sale.
 

M. Robert Gibson

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I'm kind of left surprised that the big fiction publishers haven't already announced something like this
Would a subscription model work for fiction? I can understand it for technical books that need to get updated to keep with the latest advances and discoveries, but fiction?
Plus there's the joy of having books lined up on your shelves that one day you are going to read, no really I am ;)
 

Brian G Turner

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Academic authors are amongst the most poorly paid in the business already
I'm surprised, considering the extortionate prices for many textbooks. This one is currently my bane - a standard archaeology ebook costing £118:


In the meantime, I've just noticed a rental option for a textbook on Amazon.com:
 

thaddeus6th

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It does seem odd. Captive audience, perhaps, coupled with a perhaps short shelf life as new editions/books supercede old ones?
 

MikeAnderson

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I am no fan of Pearson whatsoever. When I was finishing college, that company pushed a borderline monopoly on universities to force their faulty and overpriced materials. Their products are way too expensive, buggy, and their unethical tactics in coercing educational institutions ensures I will never give that company a dime of my money.
 

Robert Zwilling

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For the academic world it makes unfortunate sense and a quick way to save money. I would like to be able to rent an academic book for a day for a cheap price. The information is supposedly factual, limited use, not necessarily entertaining, completely captive audience, none of which apply to the fiction market where readers have the ability to look for multiple sources of the same type of material that doesn't even have to be the same story, just the right genre. The fictional book world is safe for now. I suppose people are waiting for the electronic book with multiple flexible pages you can hold in your hands. That's probably traveling in the wake of the original video phone that literally required a desk top to sit on. In some ways books are incredibly surviving relics from the time when lots of stuff was not internally powered. Long live the flying dinosaur.

Is the whole academic world going paperless. Students are slowly being forced to submit all their work electronically with the reception ranging from can't wait and about time to screwed again, the ones with limited access, not latest and greatest equipment (still loading), inability to mentally see the information on the screen. Maybe there are people who can only read off of flat screens. There goes one more natural hand eye co-ordination exercise out the window. I guess for all the people who can't manually write it makes their day easier. Teachers probably appreciate the ability to instantly check for plagiarism and chafe at the prospect of having to manually scan a printed paper into an OCR device that keeps asking what character is that? I take it as a forgone conclusion that I am going to use a computer and printer to write what I write, even if it is just one page of poetry. That way I don't waste energy on physical labor to put the words to paper, that is when I use paper. Reading poetry from a phone in front of a group of people turns downright silly when the reader starts madly scrolling back and forth trying to grab hold of a page that just slid off the screen and shows no inclination of returning anytime soon. Paper still has its uses.
 
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