New Publishing Business Model #1: Symtext

This last weekend at BookCamp TO has really got me and my fellow BookNetters percolating. One particular question that keeps coming up? What are the new business models that turn digital from into deep, dark and dangerous to exciting and (gasp) profitable?

To start fleshing out the question, I’ll be posting mini ‘case studies’ intermittently. I will mine the depths of the Internet (or at least my Google searches and address book contacts) so you don’t have to. Gratitude can be expressed in cookies mailed to 215 Spadinaor just by reading and commenting on these posts. Think what I’m saying is crazy? Or so crazy it just might work? If I know anything about blogs, I know that’s what the comment button is for! That, and the only made-up word I dislike more than blogosphere is tweeple. But back to business models…

Today’s post is about Symtext, a company that promises to deliver “Liquid Textbooks” for higher ed. students. There is something personally tantalizing about this promiseduring my halcyon days as a philosophy undergrad, I searched Guelph’s Albion bar high and low for liquid textbooks but only found Liquid Bravery (which, oddly, nearly always walked in with Liquid Bad Judgment and left me every time with only Solid Pain).

Symtext’s version of Liquid Textbooks gives students (or instructors) a platform where they can select content from a multitude of publishers in a variety of formats (book chapters, podcasts, video etc) to create a customized eText with everything they need and nothing they don’t. Publisher gets paid, prof doesn’t get chased by Access Copyright and students has more money to spend at the Albioneverybody wins.

There are two ways for publishers to participate (I’m quoting now from Symtext’s site:

  1. In the first model, publishers contribute content to our repository within a permissions agreement… The publisher sets the terms (prices, permissions and other conditions) concerning use of its clips.
  2. In the second model, Publishers private label our platform to remix their own titles. In this model, we provide Publishers with software and services enabling them to directly generate new value by creating and commercializing new works from existing titles.

Either way, as a publisher, you’re in charge of the pricing structure. You decide how your authors are paid for what as well as what you need to make in order for this to be viable.

It’s a higher ed strategy, to be sure, though there may be some applications to the world of fiction and definitely there’s something here for non-narrative non-fiction.

My questionsyou’re losing the ability to put out new annual editions…so is updated material given a price tag? Or do readers buy a license to content which allows them to have access to all updates? On the one hand, publishers and authors continue to do the work of creating quality product without getting paid. On the other, students have to keep shelling out whenever content is changed.

Applications for trade? Has anyone worked with the Symtext platform? The Comments box is now open for business!