dotReader to Slash Cost of College Textbooks

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Publishers support embedded advertising in college e-books to reduce student costs and increase revenue

dotReader will help Freeload Press slash the costs of textbooks—typically by 60 percent. And publishers couldn't be happier.

“The secret is to embed ads inside textbooks via dotReader,” Tom Doran, Founder/CEO of Freeload Press says, “and dotReader is the perfect solution for publishers using our Textbook Media Services. FedEx|Kinkos, Starbucks, or even local pizza shops could target ads to specific geographic markets. With ad money factored in, a $100 science book might sell instead for $39.”

“My own daughter's been blogging up a storm about the textbook costs,” says Mark Carey, CEO of OSoft, the software company behind dotReader, a powerful and easy-to-use e-book program. “She's thrilled that I'm part of the solution to the problem.”

“This is a win-win for everyone—publishers and students like my daughter ?Quinn. Students' total savings could over time could reach the billions.”

According to the National Association of College Stores (NACS), college course materials were a $6.5 billion dollar market in 2004/2005.

The cost of books and supplies for the academic year 2004-05 rose from $745-$843 to $773-$870 and does not vary much from two-year to four-year institutions, or from public to private schools, according to figures reported by The College Board.

New commercial option

The new technology could be a bonanza for cash-strapped students, who no longer will have to borrow quality textbooks and supporting materials from friends or the library. Worse, because of today's climbing textbook costs, professors may avoid assigning certain material in the first place.

Now, however, Freeload Press, a Saint Paul, MN company, will use the ad-serving capabilities of dotReader to publish a propritary line of free textbooks, as well as distribute other publishers’ e-texts. Prices will typically run 60% less than competing paper textbooks.

“These textbooks,” says Tom Doran, Founder/CEO of Freeload Press, “will come from the best authors in their respective fields. Quality will not suffer.

“We have received tremendous interest from top publishers of college texts,” he says. “Consider that publishers sell a book once and the college bookstores sell the same book 3-4 times with no revenue back to the publisher. Students can buy select books electronically for less than the used book price and the publishers earn revenue on every sale. We believe the ‘sweet spot’ is about $39.00 for science, math, and technology books vs. a typical cost of over $100.”

The slash in textbook prices is made possible by embedding dynamic advertising within the e-book. Students agree to this format in exchange for the lower price.

During beta testing, Freeload Press used PDF format to deliver content. “The shortcoming of a PDF platform is on the advertising side,” Doran said. “We wanted to provide our adversers with both rich media opportunities and the ability to easily update or change their advertising message.” To scale up, Freeload Press chose OSoft's dotReader.

dotReader Solution

The dotReader is an open source e-book reader with an open architecture that allows publishers/distributors to create plug-in features – in this case, an advertising module.

“We are delighted to see the dotReader put to this use,” said Mark Carey, CEO of OSoft, based in Tacoma, Washington.. “The dotReader permits unobtrusive dynamic advertising that can be ‘hidden’ during reading and studying work.

“Books in accounting might offer advertisements from major accounting firms,” notes Doran. “Companies could target to student geographically. Ads are automatically updated as new sponsors come and go. Best of all, the content can be read online or offline on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, tablets, and most PDAs.

“And students will be able to customize the appearance of the reader. For example, the screen displaying the book can include a control to change the size of the type on the screen. Or they can use other 'buttons' instead.

“The reader is colorful in looks, and the iPod generation should love the aesthetics.”

“And the ads aren't intrusive. Students will see them when going to a new chapter, but they can then switch 'em off to focus on their lessons.”

Building Communities

Freeload Press chose the dotReader also because of its ability to develop learning communities around content. The dotReader allows for embedded forums, polls, and group discussions inside each book.

Instructors can send students all of their annotations (including a syllabus) which will be rendered directly in the book at the point of discussion. Private, group, and public annotation enhances the learning environment.

“DotReader is of major significance for educators since it will be easier than ever for students to engage in collaborative learning,” Carey says.

Everybody Wins

Doran believes that the primary focus is to reduce the “textbook pain” students experience in the college bookstores and give publishers more control over their revenue stream. “We are both challenging and inviting publishers to rethink their business model. In the low-margin publishing business, electronic books supported by advertising makes sense and the dotReader is the perfect platform to accomplish this.”

Industry analyst John Blossom from Shore Communications loves dotReader, formerally known as ThoutReader. In an article written in January, Blossom states, “Then why in the wake of all of this [Consumer Electronics Show] am I more excited about a piece of open source software from a garage startup in Tacoma, Washington than all of the wizardry rearing its head in Las Vegas? Because it has the outlines of how publishers can actually control their fate in the midst of a rapidly changing marketplace for premium content.”

For more information, contact:

Tom Doran

Freeload Press

(651)695-0870

Mark Carey

OSoft.com

(253) 848-4758

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Howard Quinlan