Thursday, August 21, 2008

Today, I Only Have Questions

Today, I Only Have Questions
Posted by BoSacks
Today, I only have questions. What is the difference between Europe and the United States when it comes to publishing and newsstand sales? Why are the newspapers in Europe not only doing well, but on the whole thriving and growing, while ours are gasping for air, with plummeting revenue and circulations? What does the "old" world know about publishing that we here don't?
Why? How? What is the difference?

A "cub reporter" of this newsletter, who is actually a worldly and knowledgeable publisher, recently argued with me on-line on a similar subject that seems relevant to my vent today:
"Professional circulators analyze reader acquisition costs in excruciating detail, with mountains of real-world data. No one can tell why a publisher picked a price, set a rate base, or chose a sales channel by looking at magazines on a newsstand . . . especially in today's incredibly complex and competitive marketplace . . . Publications with good strategies will prosper and magazines with bad strategies won't."

I generously offered to send him to Europe to find out the answers to these questions, but doubling his T&E budget from last year didn't seem to be enough to send him on the important investigative journey. (Last year his BoSacks T&E budget nearly topped $000,000.00)

So I'm forced to ask more questions:

Why are the last U.S. ABC figures reporting such dire domestic results while European magazines are on the whole doing better than we are? Why do European magazines charge almost the same for a subscription magazine as a newsstand title and we practically give away our subscriptions? Is this a holdover from better bygone days or a real, bona fide science that can actually work in the 21st century?

Let's remember that we are talking about the very same product, manufactured in the very same way, but clearly with a different business model. Why are the European sales numbers for magazines hovering around a 60-percent sell-through while we struggle with a low-to-mid-30-percent sell-through?

Let me move on. Why are the reading scores of our domestic youth plummeting? Is there any connection with the fact that text messaging is on the rise while writing skills are plummeting to unconscionable lows? Why is the biggest expense for so many businesses remedial writing for new employees?

None of these questions address the on-going digital dilemma the publishing world is facing. Clearly, we are going to have to remake our industry and redesign our business models including the circulation paradigm. These questions seem to me to be a great start and a part of that process.

There you have it: a dozen questions and not an answer in sight. These are the things that make me, well, wonder just what the heck is going on with our business-and reading in general?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Desktop Publishing's Legacy: 230,000 Fewer Commercial Printing Workers, and An Explosion in Content Creation Workers

Desktop Publishing's Legacy: 230,000 Fewer Commercial Printing Workers, and An Explosion in Content Creation Workers
Dr. Joe Webb

FREE Marketing, Management and Economic Notes from Dr. Joe Webb

08/07/2008 -- Everyone thinks that the Internet has been the cause of a decline in print; the real cause has been the lasting legacy of desktop publishing in the grander computer revolution.

Last month, U.S. commercial printing employment was below 600,000, which caught my attention. I went straight to my library of industry statistics. As best as I can determine using various government data, we're at levels not seen since 1986 or 1987. Commercial printing employment peaked in mid-1998, almost reaching 830,000. It's been quite a change from 1987 to now.

At that time, there were 70,000 employees in prepress trade shops (separators, platemakers, and trade typographers). Today, there are 25,000 with most of them are in some high-level publishing workflow, with nary a sense of what platemaking, separating, or typography was or might have been.

In 1987, there were 176,000 employees in book, magazine, and miscellaneous publishing; there are 300,000 today, augmented by another 50,000 or so micropublishing entrepreneurs.

Desktop publishing reduced the costs of production and stimulated the content creation process, and was a critical component of the march of new media. In 1987, graphic design did not even have its own industry classification code, as it was buried in something called "commercial art and design." Many of these workers referred to themselves as "illustrators." About 52,000 employees worked in graphic design firms then, with another 4000 or so as freelancers. Today, there are 73,000 employees in graphic design firms, plus another 90,000 freelancers, more than three times 1987's level.

Even advertising employment is higher. There are 40,000 more workers in advertising than in 1987.

Commercial printing employment is now at 1987 levels, while publishing, design, and agencies have added more than 250,000 workers in the last 20 years. Not all of them are creative workers, of course. Without the ability to create content efficiently, however, even those workers who are not in content creation or content production positions owe their jobs to the creation process that is the reason for their employer's existence.

The loss of prepress has hurt the printing industry's financial performance, especially its profitability. In turn, the technological changes that undermined our industry created new opportunities. "Creative destruction" is a phrase used by economists to explain how technology and other factors destroy old ways of doing things and replace them with more productive methods, new products, and sometimes entirely new industries. Your perception of the effect depends on whether your skills are the ones being replaced. There is no doubt that the technologies and entrepreneurs that coalesced around desktop publishing two decades ago are still having ripple effects in our industry.

It is curious that the 230,000 loss in print workers in the last ten years is almost the same as the 250,000 new workers in content creation industries, isn't it?

There is another important point. The new workers are more inclined to be freelance professionals, working as sole practitioners, than ever before. A $10,000 Mac workstation today is a powerful production tool, capable of producing sophisticated, high quality media in almost any format. They're not always working alone, however. These workers are more likely to be working on a project basis rather than with a single employer, linked with other independent professionals, each with a unique expertise. Modern telecommunications and the Internet are only a hint of what is to come. Printing organizations need to recognize this empowered freelance revolution.

I am often asked what would draw more young people to the printing industry. I have always heard the same tired recommendations in my 30 years in the business, and we know they don't matter. There is only one thing that does it: successful, dynamic, and growing companies that do interesting and exciting things. One of the attractions to content creation businesses is the newness that is the essence of their projects: there is always some aspect of the content that has never been done before. Creating content, even in its necessary repetitive production tasks, is more attractive to young workers. Working as freelance plays into millennial generation themes of independence, time flexibility, and geographic freedom.

Manufacturing by its nature may not be able to compete with that. Quality control programs, for example, are designed to create a repetitive and predictable sameness of results without regard to content. Small print businesses may not be able to compete with the attraction to the content creation businesses unless its owner or management is somewhat charismatic, emanating a sense that the risk of tagging along will be worth it in the long run.

In the end, falling under 600,000 employees is just a number. It's a reminder of where we've been, and what may come. It's a reminder of how much the communications business has changed, and will change. The question is whether our industry's entrepreneurial spirits will create, individually and collectively, that successful, growing, dynamic, and intriguing culture that attracts workers and capital for these decades ahead.


For a look at what life was like at the beginning of the desktop publishing movement, this 1987 article from Money is illustrative.

Magazine Circulation Falls in First Half

Magazine Circulation Falls in First Half
By Irin Carmon with contributions from Stephanie D. Smith Amy Wicks
From WWD Issue 08/08/2008
The phrase "flat is the new up" became a mantra in recent years when it came to assessing newsstand sales. Well, as core fashion titles, women's service books and men's magazines have almost universally posted declines in their single-copy sales in the first half of 2008, how does "less down is the new up" sound?

To wit, Hachette Filipacchi Media's Tom Masterson, senior vice president for consumer marketing and manufacturing, pointed out that, while Elle's newsstand was down 6.3 percent in the first six months, "many of Elle's competitors decreased more."

That's true - Vogue was down nearly 15 percent, though it still outsells Elle on the newsstand by an average of about 50,000 copies monthly; Harper's Bazaar fell 8.3 percent, and W, which gets the vast majority of sales through subscription, was down 10 percent.

Or take Shape, which was down about 10 percent overall on the newsstand in the first half, but still averaged higher total sales than the troubled fitness category in general. (Self had the dubious honor of being less down, but is still smaller; Shape has beefed up its distribution at checkout and added 17,000 pockets nationwide.)

Growing market share might be the last remaining competitive advantage in an environment where nearly every editor in chief is seeing the kind of declines that once would have gotten them fired. The long-standing expectation that a healthy magazine is one that sees successive growth on the newsstand is in question - you can't exactly fire everyone.

Whether the change is cyclical (uncertain economic times that include high gas prices, fewer supermarket trips and less disposable income) or secular (consumer behavior is undergoing a fundamental change away from newsstand, or from print magazines themselves) depends on whom you ask. Editors and publishers would have it be the former.

"I don't think newsstand softness is systemic to magazines, but rather systemic to the economy," said O, The Oprah Magazine publisher Jill Seelig.

But some advertisers and observers are beginning to wonder whether the second diagnosis is upon us. As consumers' attention fractures, spoiled by choice and easy digital access, the culture and entertainment industries already have adjusted their expectations, counting smaller sales numbers than ever as blockbusters. The magazine industry might be falling prey to the same tectonic shift.

Several magazines, such as Glamour and Marie Claire, have seen disappointing sales for several periods in a row, even when the economy was flush, suggesting more of an overall move away from big women's titles. (Perhaps in reaction, Glamour unveiled a redesign this month.) Even newsstand stalwart Cosmopolitan dropped 6 percent in this period, a difference of more than 100,000 copies, after essentially flat newsstand sales since 2004.

The only source of growth across the board has been in total circulation, which, given the newsstand declines, usually means that publishers are spending more than ever to build and maintain their subscriber bases. And advertisers are traditionally more skeptical of that kind of audience-building, given publishers' past practices of steeply discounting subscriptions.

That Men's Vogue's newsstand is down 39.1 percent, for example, even as it's raising its rate base to 400,000, can be explained several ways: first, that it suffers from an apples-and-oranges comparison between five issues published in the first half of 2008 and three in the first half of 2007; second, and more significantly, that it's growing its audience the expensive way, through subscriptions, and not wowing on the newsstand.

The title also has seen its verified circulation (bulk copies in public places) drop by 14 percent since last year. A spokeswoman said, "Men's Vogue continues to take risks on covers to recognize accomplishment over celebrity." Case in point: the model-free Bugatti cover in May, which sold 45,000 copies, according to Rapid Report. (That was still better than the worst cover to date, April with Alex Rodriguez, at 41,000.)

As such, given the flood of negative newsstand figures in the first half, the few examples of uptick in sales should be particularly celebratory - among them, In Style, which, whether you consider it a core fashion title or a peer of Glamour and Marie Claire, was the only one in either group to see any rise in newsstand, by 4 percent to 783,254. That's before the recently unveiled redesign was even tested on the newsstand.

And Rodale's David Zinczenko showed once again that he can put his money where his mouth is, maintaining Men's Health's position as the number-one newsstand seller in the men's category with a 2 percent growth, and having a hand in two newer magazines, which also have seen good news: Women's Health, with its 12 percent rise, and Best Life, up almost 20 percent. Maybe that's why Men's Health Living has been given a go-ahead in a tough environment for shelter magazines.

So, do the steep declines serve as a harbinger of equally sharp falls in advertising revenue as firms seek other media? Well, for now, media buyers seem to be seeing the big picture. "I don't think we would have seen these types of declines if the economy had been in a different place," said Robin Steinberg, senior vice president and director of print investment and activation at MediaVest. "We would have seen some declines, but not deep declines." That said, she added: "The future of magazines is not going to have the same distribution exposure as in years past," as the business model shifts from emphasizing the number of eyeballs to assessing quality of audience.

And media companies are experimenting with new distribution tools such as Maghound, the so-called "Netflix for magazines" launching in September. A subsidiary of Time Inc., Maghound will allow consumers to switch in and out titles for a flat monthly fee, and around 300 titles have signed up so far.

Magazine publishers also are trying to figure out how to leverage their Web sites to build a subscription base - a potentially more efficient, or at least cheaper, way to add subscribers than direct mail or verified circulation. Hearst magazines in particular - many of which tend to be big, single-copy-heavy titles in an age of grim newsstand - have suggested this as a winning strategy. In the face of a newsstand decline of 17.3 percent, for example, Oprah's Seelig pointed to the fact that the magazine hasn't had to resort to verified circulation and that subscriptions were up 7 percent, in part because "we played around with the subscription offers on"

She added, "The simple truth is consumers are not going to the places where our magazines are sold as frequently as they were," i.e., airports, supermarkets, drugstores and other retailers.
That said, the magazine recently saw the exit of editor in chief Amy Gross, billed as voluntary, and new editor of former Golf for Women editor Susan Reed will have to figure out how and if the newsstand can be turned around. George Janson, managing partner/director of print at Mediaedge:cia, said, "Some magazines have reached a natural level of circulation," pointing to Oprah in particular.

"Magazines are also coming off a period where [advertising] spending and circulation have, for the most part, been flat to up," added Janson - meaning that what goes up sometimes has to come down.

But if the latest newsstand numbers prove to be long-term indicators, publishers could be faced with hard choices, such as cutting rate bases or rethinking their distribution models. "As content becomes free on the Internet, I question whether or not the future of magazines will be opt-in and nonpaid," said Steinberg.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

As the vision unfolds, software still can't surf.

As the vision unfolds, software still can't surf.
By Andrew Brenneman

Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), outlined a strategy for the future of the Web in a series of papers and articles published between 1998 and 2001. He observed that while there was a wealth of information available for people to explore on the Web, computers had difficulty extracting information from it. The Web consists largely of free-form text, and computers have great difficulty understanding human language. While search engines can index the Web, a human being is required to interpret the search results. You may be able to surf the Web, but your computer can't. The value of the World Wide Web is significantly compromised, Berners-Lee argued, without the ability for systems to interpret its content.

He proposed a solution: the Semantic Web, which would provide a bridge between the language of humans and the language of computers. It consists of a set of standards for creating XML-based tags that describe information contained on the Web in a way that computers can understand. The Semantic Web would act as a global database that software applications could meaningfully explore. Your computer could surf.

The implications for content providers are significant, and fall into two categories:

1. Value Chain Integration: A common way of labeling subject matter and meaning within content-the contents of the content-would help integrate parties along the publishing value chain: authors, publishers, distributors, retailers, consumers.

2. Research Value: The value of content for research would be enormously increased. Content that is semantically structured could be queried, as one would query a relational database. Software research agents could continually comb through the Web, looking for significant information, aiding in research. For example, a research agent could be programmed to continually monitor the Web for new findings involving the correlation between thyroid cancer and any polychlorinated biphenyls congener in Northern Europe. This would have a profound impact on legal, scientific and scholarly research.

It has been a decade since Berners-Lee presented this vision, and the Semantic Web is yet to be. The content on the Web is still, for the most part, in human language, undecipherable by software. While there has been much research on semantic technologies, they have not been widely deployed over the last 10 years. HTML took only a couple of years to become a global standard.

What Currently Exists
Was Berners-Lee wrong about the Semantic Web? To begin to answer that, we can first examine what methods have evolved to manage and extract value from the content on the Web.

· Search Engines: Search engines, principally Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Live Search, are the primary means for exploring content on the Web. A search engine's results are semantically "fuzzy" or imprecise, because a search engine indexes words and not their meanings: "apple" will return search results with both fruit and computers. Inexact or not, search engines provide tremendous value and, for many, structure the Web experience.

· Folksonomies: In the current Web 2.0 era, communities of users dynamically submit content to share with others on the Web. The user creates and assigns labels to the content. These labels, or "tags," describe the subject matter and help connect it with other content. This is similar in principal to the application of tags within the Semantic Web model, with an important distinction: The Semantic Web only uses tags from a standard taxonomy of terms, a "controlled vocabulary." Web 2.0 tags are typically user-defined, uncontrolled and are referred to as being within a "folksonomy." A folksonomy is inexact because one user's tags will likely not correspond with another's. Folksonomies, therefore, cannot be used efficiently by software. A person is still required to interpret them. Like search results, folksonomies are "fuzzy," but sometimes "fuzzy" is good enough.

Examples of the Semantic Approach's Value
In looking at the dominance of search engines and Web 2.0 folksonomies, we may well conclude that the model of the Semantic Web has been usurped by other less cumbersome and more organic methods.

But I don't think that is the case. There are some compelling examples emerging of how the semantic approach is adding value to published content.

· Book Industry Standards and Communications (BISAC). Publishing professionals know all about taxonomies. They use them every day. BISAC and Library of Congress subject headings are, in fact, standardized taxonomies, used to connect partners along the publishing value chain. Publishers do not typically embed BISAC tags according to the Semantic Web technical specification, nor do BISAC subject categories contain the detail necessary to perform research. Ted Hill, a publishing consultant who specializes in digital supply chain issues, points out that BISAC was created to let booksellers know on which shelf in a bookstore to place a book. "BISAC subject codes were part of a strategy to reduce double-stocking and cut the cost of inventory," notes Hill, "not promote discovery by search engines." However, BISAC is conceptually consistent with the semantic vision described by Berners-Lee.

· Alexander Street Press. Founded in 2000, Alexander Street Press might be the most forward-thinking electronic content aggregator in the humanities. Alexander Street Press acquires, prepares and electronically distributes collections of books, documents and rich-media content for humanities research. Their preparation includes a very detailed application of semantic tags from controlled vocabularies that dramatically increase the value of the content for research. This process requires domain expertise, curatorial care and technical know-how. According to Alexander Street Press President Stephen Rhind-Tutt, "There is a general underestimation of the value of librarianship and cataloging."

The value of the results is clear, however. Semantic preparation enables researchers to extract facts from collections of content-not just find search terms. Rhind-Tutt observes, "Researchers can ask questions that are much harder to ask [than] if the content was not semantically structured." Alexander Street's longevity is a testament to the value it is creating in the humanities research marketplace.

· Knovel. Knovel provides semantically structured collections of engineering and technical content, including text, charts and tables. This allows the information contained in articles to be queried, as one would query a database. Technical researchers can find answers contained in large bodies of content with great efficiency. For example, a technical researcher could submit a query to find studies that address polymers with a specific tensile strength at a given temperature range. This is tremendously more efficient than simply putting a search engine on top of a collection of thousands of journal articles. In the context of the cost of an engineer's time (and the time he saves on research), the economic value is enormous.

Was Berners-Lee's vision of the Semantic Web on target? BISAC, Alexander Street Press and Knovel are evidence that the semantic approach can increase the value of content through discoverability and research efficiencies. While considerable effort is required to structure content in this way, it yields, in many cases, a significant return.

What has not taken place is the wholesale transformation of the Web. The Web has not become a global, semantically structured database. Instead, there are islands of semantically structured content, inside commercial, walled gardens (subscription services), or within defined communities, as in the case of BISAC. The reason is economic: There often is insufficient justification for the investment required in semantically structuring content.

In addition, adoption of semantic technologies has been slow, since it is built upon other standards-particularly XML and Web Services (a standard way that software can connect with one another on the Internet). It has taken time for XML and Web Services to become widespread. With those standards in place, the semantic approach can and will be increasingly used. However, this will only occur in specific areas of content when there is a particular, usually financial, rationale for doing so.

Your computer still won't be able to surf, but it may be able to swim some laps in the pool. And that may be enough.

Andrew Brenneman is managing director of Finitiv, a digital media consultancy. He has 20 years of experience leading pioneering digital media initiatives in publishing and advertising, including NETg's Skill Builder, Thomson Learning's WebTutor, FreeMark Mail and Brenneman also founded the Digital Media Group of The University of Chicago Press Books Division, where he led digital distribution for the Books Division and the development of The Chicago Manual of Style Online.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

BoSacks Speaks Out: Free Textbooks Coming Near You

BoSacks Speaks Out: This is an amazing little article. The portents are huge for text book publishers, but might just have some traction for other publishing styles as well. What if educators banded together and formed their own network (publishing house)? It is not so far fetched. I am skeptical about a full open source text book implementation, because someone, somewhere has to get paid. But there are ways of incorporating both open source and capitalism. It is a new business model and one worth thinking about. It's not for everybody, but in the "long tail" style of doing business it doesn't have to be.

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
Andy Warhol (1928 - 1987), The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

Free textbooks coming near you
Brittani Lusk - Daily Herald

Textbook options: fork out the cash and buy the shiny new book, forget the book altogether and rely on class notes, or read it online for free.

Fall semester begins at Brigham Young University and at Utah Valley University in a little more than a month. Students will be looking for the cheapest way to get their hands on class materials, and they may have a new option.

Textbooks with open licenses are complete, scholarly college texts written by the same type of people writing traditional books, but these books have a twist. They've been placed online with the author's permission under an open license that allows students and instructors to read, print and even customize the text for free or a small fee. Students, professors and other advocates nationwide, including students and professors in Utah County, are pleading with authors to participate in the open textbook movement. One UVU professor is even writing an open textbook simply on principle.

Fighting the system
"I'm so upset about the whole textbook issue that it's actually motivating for me on the basis of just my values," said UVU professor Ron Hammond. He said his book "will be an act of community service to the whole country."

The UVU sociology professor, who last year stopped using traditional textbooks, has written six chapters of a sociology textbook that will be available online when he and his students finish it at the end of the year.

"I just finally got fed up," Hammond said.

He periodically publishes scholarly work in academic journals and isn't worried about losing royalties on the new book.

Some book publishers have contended that the work he is doing isn't real scholarship and his online manuscript won't be a real book. Hammond disagrees with the textbook company representative that criticized his work.

"This book is going to be better than the book that's on the market in terms of currency, because it's got links," Hammond said.

In his book, Hammond plans to link to current data from the Census Bureau and other government agencies. That gives him a real-time edge because most traditional books, he said, are usually one to two years behind when it comes to numbers. Having the book online allows Hammond to update the research whenever it changes.

Behind the cause
Hammond is one of more than 1,200 college professors across the nation, including at least three from Utah County, who have signed a statement of intent pledging to use open textbooks when available. The Campaign to Make Textbooks Available posted the Faculty Statement of Intent on its Web site,, earlier this year.

"It really shows that textbooks don't have to be expensive," said Nicole Allen, director of the campaign.

She said the key to decreasing costs that have been rising at double the rate of inflation for at least the last two decades is changing the market by adding more competition. That's where open textbooks come in.

"Students have to buy whatever textbook they're assigned," Allen said. "So publishers can choose whatever price they want."

She said finding a textbook online and printing it themselves gives students the choices they need to fight back.

"You can get it on pink paper," Allen said. "The idea is that students have more options."

Students in Utah have been lobbying their professors to use more open-source, free material. Kelly Stowell, executive director of the Utah Student Association, called the effort a grass-roots movement aimed at recognizing professors willing to use free materials.

"We'd like to recognize and reward professors," Stowell said.

At UVU, student leaders have been meeting with their professors and school administrators pitching the idea. Student Body President Joseph Watkins said the reception has been good.

"Everybody that we've spoken to is more than happy to help out," Watkins said.

Watkins said the students might gather the information and put professors using open-source materials into some sort of database so students can pick and choose which professors to take knowing who uses books and who doesn't.

In addition to Hammond, UVU information systems and technology professor Jeff Cold signed the statement of intent, as did BYU professor David Wiley.

"If I have an opportunity to get them a textbook for free, I will do so," Cold said.

Wiley has been using open source material in his classes for years.

"I made a commitment to myself a number of years ago that I wold only use free or openly licensed materials in my courses, and have stuck to that commitment since," Wiley wrote in an e-mail.

He's even written an open book and makes all his course materials public.

A new way of thinking
Cold said he'll use open textbooks when they're available, but he doesn't have a vendetta against book publishers.

"I think that at times, textbooks can be expensive. I don't think the publishers are gouging students," Cold said.

His interest in open textbooks is their timeliness. In information systems, technology changes before the books can be updated. Cold doesn't like teaching students to use operating systems from a book that is sometimes two versions old.

Hammond said the Internet model will help solve the lag that paper books face as well as serve his Google-generation students better.

"They want to know what they have to know and then they go find it," Hammond said.

He said the textbook learning model that worked in the past is fading.

"The point is that we can't say to them, 'Do it the way we did.' "

Hammond said he was once worried that material found on the Internet wasn't the same caliber as written material and that perhaps students wouldn't gain the skills they needed if they only surfed the net.

"I used to [think that], but I don't anymore because our society is computers-based and Internet-enriched," Hammond said.

He said students need the computer skills and should develop them.

"We don't know, but it looks like the paper version of knowledge is on its way out," Hammond said. "The Internet version of knowledge seems to be much more powerful, much more efficient."

Wiley said an open license doesn't automatically make a book better, but open texts have more potential because they can be added to and customized.

"You have made it possible, now, for others to make the changes they need to make in order for the text to really speak to their students. So open textbooks aren't automatically of higher quality than traditional texts, but they have the opportunity to become better over time," Wiley wrote.

Making it work
One pair of former publishing company employees is attempting to make open textbooks into a business model that serves the students and the book authors better than the publishing companies.

Eric Frank and Jeff Shelstad both left publishing companies to start Flat World Knowledge, an open textbook publishing company.

"Basically we're, as far as I know, the first commercial open textbook publisher," Frank said. Frank is the chief marketing officer for the company he founded and plans to offer open textbooks in the spring of 2009. Right now the company is testing and researching its products.

Wiley has been working with Flat World Knowledge as its chief openness officer, helping them with licensing issues and developing strategy.

Frank said when the system is up and running, students will be able to view books online, print them for about $30 or download an audio book for about $25. Students could also purchase PDF versions to print themselves.

"Our model here is, you decide," Frank said.

Flat World also plans to offer a smattering of study aids in an a-la-carte format similar to iTunes. Students can purchase one study aid such as a podcast or set of flash cards for 99 cents each. Instructors will also be able to customize a textbook by rearranging chapters or only giving students certain pieces of the text.

Frank said book authors will be as compensated or more compensated than they are by publishing companies because authors will continue to receive royalties on their book several semesters after it is released.

Frank said the traditional model, where students buy a new version of the book and then re-sell it, causing used books and pirated works to circulate, only allows authors to receive royalties on new books sold. That results in a steep drop-off in royalties after the first semester. Frank said that drop shouldn't happen in the Flat World model.