Disrupting the Disruptor | All Access Pass
When I joined Flat World 2 years ago, it didn’t take long to feel a real personal attachment to our product. I was initially a “publishing outsider,” but I quickly learned that a disruption was necessary to put the customer first in this stagnant industry. And in order to really move the needle to make great textbook content affordable and equally accessible to all, sometimes we even have to disrupt ourselves.
Last Fall, we introduced the All Access Pass on our website, allowing students to purchase all digital formats of the textbook – downloadable pdfs, ebooks for ereader devices, interactive study aids, and audio books for some titles – all included in a single price at around $30. It was a big hit. Students were given the freedom to choose the format they want, and we maintained a low price point for them. Still too steep? They could read online for free, no purchase necessary. Not ready to move to digital? We still sold print books online and in the bookstores. And honestly, many students chose print – but we’re seeing more and more students make the move to digital, giving it great reviews.
Fast forward to this summer, and we’re rolling out the All Access Pass to bookstores. Starting this May, students will be able to purchase the AAP (as we call it) via an access code in their campus bookstore, thus bringing one of our most valued partners into the digital fold. But in a bold twist to an already captivating story: We’re taking print books out of the bookstore channel.
We made this announcement last week and have had many conversations with bookstore managers and faculty members. There are a few themes that have come up more than once, so I thought I’d address the most common questions here:
Can students still buy printed textbooks? Yes! They can purchase them directly from our website. Black and White or Color, printed on demand and shipped directly to the student, same as before.
Can students still read online for free? Of course. As affordable as our digital and print formats are, we know students are strapped for cash and $30-40 is better spent on food, bills, gas or doing something fun with their kids. All of our textbooks can still be read online for free, no purchase necessary.
Can students on financial aid who want to buy print get reimbursed for their website purchase? Definitely maybe. While we don’t know every school’s policy, many reimburse students on financial aid for book purchases made outside the campus bookstore. It may be as simple as presenting a receipt to the bursar’s office, but you should check with your individual school to be certain.
But remember, the All Access Pass that can be purchased in the bookstore includes a PDF – which is downloadable and printable. Many students like this option because they can choose to print only the chapters or sections that they need, when they need them.
I’m still not sure what the difference is between reading online for free and the e-textbooks you are charging money for. Gotcha. Reading online is through a browser-based web page, so an internet connection is required. E-textbooks are downloadable files that are then loaded onto an e-reader device, like an iPad, Kindle, NOOK, Sony reader, or many others out there. Once it’s downloaded, they can keep it on their device forever and read it anywhere without an internet connection.
Please keep the questions coming. We know this transition has many of you feeling excited, anxious, confused, or maybe even indifferent. But digital reading of textbooks will soon become the default behavior for students, and we want to work together with you to keep it accessible and affordable!
- Open Textbook a Smashing Success, by Professor Ruggerio (flatworldknowledge.com)
- The Shift to E-Textbooks: Who Holds the Key? (flatworldknowledge.com)