Pearson says NFT textbooks will benefit from second-hand sales


Textbook publisher Pearson suggests blockchain technology could allow it to reduce secondary textbook sales and capture a slice of the book market that previously eluded it. As quoted by Bloomberg, Andy Bird, CEO of Pearson, thinks that non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, could help publishers make money by reselling textbooks, even though he hasn’t detailed any specific plans.

In the analog world, a Pearson textbook has been resold up to seven times and we’d only be on its first sale, Bird said after the company announced its latest quarterly results this week. The shift to digitization helps reduce the secondary market, and technologies like blockchain and NFT allow us to participate in every sale of that particular item throughout its lifetime. Bloomberg suggests that this would mean allowing shoppers to resell e-books, which has been rare in the publishing world until now.

In the analog world, a Pearson manual has been resold up to seven times

It is unclear how, when or if NFTs might appear in the Pearsons catalog. But they could mark a new stage in a long publishing war. Thanks to legal concepts such as the first sale doctrine, buyers of physical books usually own the media they buy directly and are allowed to sell them without the original publishers making money. But e-books have complicated this calculation. Each digital transfer creates a new copy of the work, and the sale of second-hand e-books by third parties (as well as other second-hand digital media sales) has therefore encountered serious legal problems.

This has always been an inherent benefit to students, given the physical books, who can buy or sell them to cover their often extraordinary upfront costs without publishers taking any of that money. Allowing the resale of e-books could make this advantage less dramatic.

As with many consumer crypto applications, NFTs bring no apparent technical innovation to this question. Bird explains how cryptographic logs track ownership of an object from owner A to owner B to owner C, but this has always been possible with a digital database. A blockchain provides a decentralized version of this database, but the chances of Pearson using a fully decentralized open system are next to nil. This would almost certainly augment an existing copy protection system to prevent non-NFT owners from pirating their books. This would make the NFT a fig leaf on an older digital rights management or DRM framework. NFTs can theoretically be sold on third-party markets not approved by the creator, but big companies like Ubisoft certainly haven’t followed that principle, and neither has Pearson.

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Independent companies have been trying to sell used e-books for years

NFTs have had a real impact on the media world. But mostly they acted as a kind of digital shopping bag that fans buy to support and feel closer to a favorite creator. (Fandom is a weird world, but I can safely say that nobody really likes their textbook editor.) Sometimes they grant access to social spaces like Discord channels or voting rights on a platform. – module like Snapshot , but it’s more useful for freelance editors and writers. that don’t already have a huge digital platform. Rather ingloriously, most NFTs don’t control who can see a particular work, but rather who owns a corresponding token, and this too often creates confusion.

Nothing stops Pearson or other large publishers from letting people sell e-book licenses with unencrypted DRM. In fact, third-party vendors like Tom Kabinet and ReDigi have been trying to create digital savings markets for years. But publishers have generally been reluctant to open the doors to digital resellers, especially as they use testing methods that give book buyers even less control, including subscription services like Pearson Plus, than Bird enthusiastically described during the call. on profits.

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What has changed? maybe nothing

So what has changed? Maybe nothing. Pearson hasn’t engaged with NFT textbooks, and Bird loses nothing by spitting on the future value of experiencing new (if recently flattened) technology. A resold section of a textbook is probably even less profitable for Pearson than the currently preferred subscription model. But NFTs seem to have a psychological effect, making people feel like they own something, even if ownership is quite abstract. Textbook makers may see this as an opportunity to drive digital markets in a new direction.

It could be a mixed bag for college students. For one thing, a resale opportunity is better than nothing, which is what people often get with e-books. On the other hand, a publisher-controlled resale market will almost certainly be in the publisher’s favor. Library eBooks have self-destructive terms, such as having to buy new copies after a certain number of purchases, and an NFT eBook may have a limited number of similar resales. On a more abstract level, it bypasses a real legal debate about whether people should have the right to control their digital purchases. And that’s another incentive for publishers to make buying textbooks as inconvenient and difficult as possible because, from their point of view, they’re just wasting money.

Anyway, Bird says Pearson has a whole team working on the ramifications of the metaverse and what it could mean for us, and if they need to make a living somehow, I think NFT books make more sense than Fortnite skins. .

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