Friday, July 20, 2012

870-page law casebook becomes a $10 eTextbook

PaidContent writes about a new, 870-page legal casebook titled “Advertising & Marketing Law: Cases & Materials” written by trademark experts and bloggers Eric Goldman and Rebecca Tushnet. Two things make this new book stand out:

1: It's being published on Scribd as a DRM-free PDF download, and
2: It's priced at $10.

On his blog, Goldman writes at length about the new book. He's far from happy with Scribd:
Scribd is a horribly limited platform for eBook publishing (and for doing just about everything else). [Among other limitations, I believe it only completes sales with US residents, and (for no good reason at all) it requires buyers to log in via Facebook to complete the purchase. If you can't complete a purchase via Scribd due to these limitations, email me and we'll set up a PayPal transaction.] [Update: I got an email from Scribd informing me that they just opened up international sales, and you must be logged into Scribd to make the purchase and you can (if you navigate around) find a way to log into Scribd without connecting with Facebook.] We are working on moving away from Scribd to a better eBook publishing platform...once we figure out what that is. If you have any recommendations, please email me.
Here's Goldman's analysis of the pricing model:
Here’s how I see the math: a $150 casebook may have a $110 price wholesale (or less). At 10% royalties to the authors, Rebecca and I would share $11. At the $10 download price, Scribd takes $2.25 a download, leaving us author royalties of $7.75. So discounting the retail price 93% perhaps reduces our royalties by less than 30%. Let’s hear it for disintermediation! Plus, just like any demand curve, the lower price point should lead to higher sales, which may, in fact, make our approach profit-maximizing. (Just so we don’t delude ourselves, we’re not talking big numbers in any case).
Goldman also admits that the casebook isn't quite done yet:
While we’ve deemed the book ready for public release, it’s not “done.” I’d say it’s only about 90% done. Unfortunately, you’re going to notice some of the unfinished 10%, starting with the crap-ass book “cover” I whipped up in about 5 minutes some time around midnight one night last week, and continuing with the countless typos and formatting errors you’ll find throughout the book. We’ll be fixing errors as we find them, so please send us your corrections and suggestions. Because Rebecca and I own the copyright and completely control the publication schedule, we anticipate issuing new versions fairly frequently. No promises, but I anticipate we’ll publish annual editions for at least the next few years.
Goldman's and Tushnet's casebook combines elements of commercial eBook publishing with the Open Access academic publishing model. It's not quite free to students, but compared with the $150 that such a casebook would typically cost, $10 is pretty darn close to free. And, as Goldman points out, he and Tushnet have dropped the retail price by 93% while reducing the royalties that they would have earned if the book was published by an academic publisher by only 30%.

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