Expanding Consumer Choice

Although the collaboration between authors and editors remains much the same whether a work is presented in print or digital, publishers are quickly evolving their production processes to embrace new technologies and delivery methods. Digital delivery technologies are making a wider variety of books and journals available around the world. Many of these delivery methods—from online subscriptions to e-textbook rentals to free library e-book lending—are reducing or eliminating costs for readers, students and schools to access and interact with millions of titles.

    Innovative Ways to Deliver Books and Journals

    According to a recent study, 57 percent of digital device owners are using an e-book reader application. These and other consumers today want on-demand access to e-books and journals, seamless portability across their devices and new benefits from technology.

    Publishers are responding by investing in digital technologies to provide consumers and businesses with more options for enjoying e-books. While publishers don’t create the actual tablets and e-reading devices, they are using digital technologies to deliver faster, easier access and a wide variety of choice in e-book pricing and delivery options, such as digital subscriptions, e-lending plans, e-book rentals and print-on-demand opportunities. Other innovative delivery models are likely to arise as these and other approaches gain real-world testing and consumer feedback.

    Find Out More: How Members Deliver on Digital

    Read AAP’s statement on “The Rise of Innovative Business Models: Content Delivery Methods in the Digital Age.”  

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    Subscription for On-Demand Access

    Publishers have always had many forms of subscription models for print (for example, journals, magazines, encyclopedia releases, serially published novels), and they are eagerly adopting many kinds of digital subscription services to give consumers fast, easy access to vast catalogues of e-books.

    Often viewed as “a Netflix for books,” popular e-book subscription services include Scribd, Oyster, Entitle, Kindle Unlimited and Safari Books Online, many of which give subscribers unlimited, multi-device access to hundreds of thousands of e-books for a small monthly fee. Publishers decide how much of their catalogue to post for subscription, such as only new releases and bestsellers or entire backlists. The broad variety of models gives consumers great choice in pricing, device compatibility, duration of access (short-term to perpetual) and other features.  

    While subscription models are most common for trade books and journals, education markets are also exploring their potential. Some preK-12 publishers, for example, sell print and e-books through a subscription using myON reader, which personalizes reading for students by recommending books based on their interests, reading level, and ratings of books they’ve read.

    E-lending of E-books

    All of the “Big 5” trade publishers (Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon and Schuster) and many other publishers now offer some amount of electronic lending (“e-lending”) of their fiction and nonfiction e-book titles by libraries. Many publishers are also testing out different business models to enable individuals to e-lend e-books among friends and family.

    The current atmosphere for testing new e-lending models is dynamic—publishers, distributors and libraries are exploring different models to find the best ways to bring e-books to new and interested audiences. These lending models may differ by factors such as the amount of catalogue a publisher makes available for lending (new releases, backlist, etc.), pricing, number of checkouts, the number of allowed users and other variables. For instance, one publisher may offer all of its e-book titles with perpetual, single-user-at-a-time circulation. Another may offer only a subset of its catalogue, such as e-book versions of recently released titles, and allow libraries to lend each e-book for two years or 52 lends, whichever comes first. 

    In academic libraries, publishers are experimenting with Demand-Driven Acquisition (DDA). Under this model, publishers are working with academic libraries to help them purchase “only what is needed”—that is, whichever monographs patrons specifically request. To support this, publishers are facilitating “free discovery” of their titles and sometimes offering lower-cost short-term loan acquisitions or traditional purchase arrangements, depending on interest in the title.

    In most cases, publishers partner with third-party distributors such as Overdrive or 3M to facilitate library e-lending programs. Publishers are also working directly with libraries; in a few instances, libraries have developed their own digital platform for distributing e-books and negotiate specific purchase options for their patrons.

    Outside of libraries, publishers are also exploring ways to allow readers to share e-books with friends and family. For example, a number of publishers partner with major e-book retailers to allow consumers to lend publisher-approved e-book titles to friends for 14 days. 

    Rental of All or Parts of E-books

    Sometimes someone only needs a chapter of a book or an article for a short amount of time. For instance, students often need a textbook for just a semester, and researchers may need just one journal article. To meet this demand, academic, professional and scholarly publishers are offering innovative rental models for e-textbooks and online journals.

    These new rental models offer additional flexibility in accessing such works—often with lower costs that typically vary by the length of rental time, the amount of the work rented (chapters, articles, etc.), and the number of titles readers can access at once. For instance, a student might be allowed to rent six e-textbooks for 150 days for $200. Rental options like this have saved students over $100 million so far through using CourseSmart, an e-textbook rental platform founded by several AAP-member publishers. In other cases, students may be able to access e-textbooks through their college bookstore and even extend the rental period beyond the college course.

    Similarly, several professional and scholarly publishers are partnering with online companies like DeepDyve to provide short-term access to the latest journal content, allowing time-limited rental of full e-articles for reading on Web-enabled devices, all at nominal rates.

    Besides saving from 30 to 90 percent off retail print prices, e-rental models like these often enable students, faculty and professionals to read the content online or offline, access it on multiple devices, take and share notes, perform full text searches, and sometimes even customize, print and copy the material. 

    While educational content companies are rapidly transitioning to digital products, many are still providing cost-saving alternatives to students who prefer traditional print textbooks. Publishers often offer black-and-white print editions, as well as lower-cost e-chapter, loose-leaf and rental options.

    Find Out More: Saving Students Money on Textbooks

    A helpful guide for students, parents and policymakers to get the most out of educational resources.

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    Similarly, several professional and scholarly publishers are partnering with online companies like DeepDyve to provide short-term access to the latest journal content, allowing time-limited rental of full e-articles for reading on Web-enabled devices, all at nominal rates.

    Besides saving from 30 to 90 percent off retail print prices, e-rental models like these often enable students, faculty and professionals to read the content online or offline, access it on multiple devices, take and share notes, perform full text searches, and sometimes even customize, print and copy the material.

    Print on Demand

    The same technological revolution that has made accessing e-books and online journals as easy as clicking a button has also made it possible to produce and distribute printed versions of the same works at any time, from anywhere in the world. This print-on-demand capability gives customers faster access to hard copies and reduces waste by allowing large and small publishers alike to print copies only as they are needed by partnering with distributors such as Lighting Source and On Demand Books.

    On-demand printing is making the book and journal publishing industry more efficient, more cost-effective and more “green” by reducing overhead costs and eliminating shipping, returns and pulping of unsold books while still providing high-quality output. 

    Additional AAP Resources

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