A recent partnership between ePublishing software company Impelsys and DataLore, Inc. turns digital publishing on its head. (…What else is new?) The two companies have partnered in order to offer customized, branded ebookstores to schools and universities across the Caribbean.
But instead of customizing its software solutions to publishers – Impelsys’ epublishing platform iPublishCentral offers warehousing, distribution, and marketing of e-content – the Caribbean project constitutes a shifts in focus – and power – from the publisher to the consumer. The design of the ebookstore, along with the business and accessibility models (Download-only? Cloud-based? ePub, Kindle, Mobi?) – not to mention the actual e-content that populates the digital shelves (Books? Articles? Chapters? Teacher’s original content? “A-student” papers from ten years ago?) – are determined by the bookstore, not the publishers.
Here’s an example: if a university bookstore wanted to access two e-textbooks, one each from educational publishers Macmillan and McGraw Hill, previously the bookstore would purchase access to each book (or more likely, an entire collection of books) separately from each publisher. Perhaps the bookstore would purchase a subscription based on an IP range, so the ebooks were accessible in the bookstore’s computer lab, or in the university library. Or maybe the bookstore would purchase access to the books by a username and password combination, which they would then share with students and professors. In any case, the type of digital access a university bookstore could purchase ultimately depended on the business model offered by the publisher: the unique needs of that university bookstore and its constituency didn’t factor into the equation.
With this new project, both accessibility and the e-content selection itself are entirely determined by the bookstore and the particular needs of its customers. “Schools are looking to build e-content libraries that are both intrinsic to their curriculum, as well as offer a broad choice to students,” said Beverly Smith-Hinkson, CEO of DataLore Inc. “We quickly identified that streaming eBooks via a cloud-based eBook platform was the way forward.” It will be interesting to see how this affects the university and educational e-content market worldwide: what happens when the bookstore controls the business model instead of the publisher? And who’s next – the individual readers themselves?