On Tuesday, I was saddened to hear that Flat World Knowledge chose to give up on their idea of providing students with free university textbooks. I want to take this opportunity to explain to our users and fans why bookboon.com will not be forced to do the same.
I do not think this was an easy decision to make for Jeff Shelstad, CEO of Flat World Knowledge. Jeff said to publishersweekly.com that the free-access model threatened Flat World’s “overall sustainability”, obviously he needs to act to ensure the future of his business.
I believe the reason that it has come to this is that Flat World Knowledge never developed a functioning business model around their free-access offering, in the sense that they never made money directly on the free traffic. They were only relying on converting free users to paying customers. I can assure you this is not the case for bookboon.com.
A sustainable free access model
Since the start, we at bookboon.com have taken a different route. We decided to make our free textbooks easily accessible to all students, all over the world, by creating an alliance with the students’ future employers. These future employers pay for the insertion of a limited number of adverts inside the textbooks to highlight future career opportunities to students.
Together with student organizations and professors from Scandinavia, where we started in 2005, we defined that a limit of maximum 15% advertising space inside the textbooks was a reasonable limit to make this concept possible. 15% is equivalent to that you will see just one advert for every 15-20 minutes of reading, which is much less than what you will be exposed to in any print newspaper, TV channel or online media.
Further it actually provides the student-reader with relevant info about future career opportunities which many students appreciate, as documented by our surveys. This is how we at bookboon.com can keep our textbooks free of charge also in the future, which will enable more students from universities to community colleges to afford a better education and help them succeed in the modern society.
100% growth per year
That our model is sustainable and that students and professors like our product is best illustrated by the fact that our traffic has grown on average 100% per year since 2009. This year 40,000,000 ebooks will be downloaded from bookboon.com.
This growth we have financed by retained earnings only. We have not taken in outside investments, which otherwise has been the standard when someone wants to offer free education material, and still most of these have had to give up on their original vision to survive. Because we are profitable and independent, we will be able to continue to grow our business in the coming years and provide free textbooks, to the benefit of all students.
Quality textbooks written by university professors
A major reason that our concept works and grows so fast, is our focus on getting highly respected professors to write good and effective textbooks which are as short as possible and as long as necessary to cover the entire curriculum. This means that our textbooks are both popular as primary literature and secondary literature, as they are also perfect for exam preparation, when time is scarce and you want to be as prepared as possible. Who does not want their statistics curriculum covered in 130 pages? We currently offer more than 700 textbooks in 7 languages, more than 450 of these books are English.
We will also be providing free university textbooks tomorrow
So, the bottom line is that we have developed a sustainable business model that has been proven by the test of time, and we will continue to add more new textbooks with 200 textbooks currently in the pipeline.
I hope you will all continue to support our concept and business, and continue to use our textbooks.
Thank you for your support!
Thomas Buus Madsen