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Publisher of Free Textbooks Says It Will Now Charge For Them, Instead

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the get-with-the-times dept.

Education 156

An anonymous reader writes "In a surprising blow to the movement to create free textbooks online, an upstart company called Flat World Knowledge is dumping its freemium model. The upstart publisher had made its textbooks free online and charged for print versions or related study guides, but company officials now say that isn't bringing in enough money to work long-term."

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Prez to be in Wisconsin today (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41878435)

Wisconsin, traditionally a blue state, is in danger of turning red. Under Republican governeror Scott Walker and with the VP candidate being from Janesville, this state could tumble into the Romney column.

Re:Prez to be in Wisconsin today (-1, Offtopic)

jafiwam (310805) | about 2 years ago | (#41879367)

Wisconsin, traditionally a blue state, is in danger of turning red. Under Republican governeror Scott Walker and with the VP candidate being from Janesville, this state could tumble into the Romney column.

If by "red" you mean "not voting for a candidate that is unappealing outside a small area of Dane county" then sure. Tammy Baldwin doesn't have a chance. She only thinks she does because she has not spent any time outside Madison in the last 30 years and doesn't have a clue what the rest of the state wants. Nobody likes her except the dumb hippies in Madison.

Obama fucked himself out of Wisconsin when he talked about guns. Wisconsin likes guns.And as some of the referendums from a couple years ago show, is quite bigoted and racist with a strong "tv evangalist" christian bent.

Traditional liberalism or conservatism would work in Wisconsin, new age liberalism will not. Wisconsin isn't that type of state. It's already red.

At some point the college kids need a paycheck... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41878443)

Once you get kicked out of your moms house, you need a real business model. Free doesn't always work.

OK several people didn't read your post. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41879119)

Neither, apparently, did you.

"Free doesn't always work". You say this and this implies that sometimes it does work. Indeed we have several cases of it working very well indeed. That implies that "Free" IS a business case. Indeed, since 90% of all new ventures fail, that a majority of cases of a busniness case fail is no reason to claim it isn't a business model.

Therefore the opener "you need a real business model" is even under your auspices a load of bollocks: FREE IS A BUSINESS MODEL.

That you then have to snide a "Once you get kicked out of your moms house" shows that you're actually immature as well as a dumbass, deciding to go for a rote homily rather than think up something at least vaguely original.

Re:OK several people didn't read your post. (3, Insightful)

aurispector (530273) | about 2 years ago | (#41879231)

"Lack of revenue" is NEVER a business model.

Re:OK several people didn't read your post. (1)

Kergan (780543) | about 2 years ago | (#41879247)

"Lack of revenue" is NEVER a business model.

Unless you're just aiming for eyeballs and a quick sellout, like YouTube or Instagram.

Who said there was no revenue? Free != no revenue (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41879409)

Maybe you're one of the dimwits who modded the OP up.

Red Hat sell free software. As in you can get it FREE.

Radiohead sold an album FOR NOTHING. FREE.

This business is selling books for FREE.

But all three have revenue.

Red Hat: You can buy the software too. And pay for support.

Radiohead: You can buy the tracks too. And buy special premium content (CDs at the very least).

This business: You can buy the books too. And buy special premium content (Print books at the very least).

Re:Who said there was no revenue? Free != no reven (4, Insightful)

bws111 (1216812) | about 2 years ago | (#41879801)

Red Hat does not sell software, they sell support. Software needs support because it is complex and buggy. Books, not so much. Because Red Hat makes enough money selling support (and much of the software is created by others anyway), they can afford to give away unsupported software. That does not prove 'free' is a viable business model.

Radiohead made a ton of money selling albums the traditional way. The fact that they can afford to give one away for free is no more proof that 'free' is a viable business model than anyone else donating their time to something is proof that free is a viable business model.

Re:Who said there was no revenue? Free != no reven (1)

cdrguru (88047) | about 2 years ago | (#41880751)

Red Hat has their software with zero motivation to make it better documented, more user friendly or more robust. Every time it fails for a commercial user it is a sales opportunity for them. This is a very perverse incentive for a software company.

Admittedly, Red Hat's software product is pretty complicated. But they could certainly do better in the user-friendly category.

Good software with reasonable documentation and few defects doesn't need a support contract. Having the support contracts fund the company nearly insures the software will be buggy and hard to use.

Re:Who said there was no revenue? Free != no reven (2)

mdfst13 (664665) | about 2 years ago | (#41880883)

Software needs support because it is complex and buggy. Books, not so much.

Really? Many textbooks are used by professors at universities and supported quite heavily. I think that the problem that these guys had was that they tried to follow the old model, where textbook writing subsidizes the university professor's salary. A more realistic model is for a group of professors to band together to write a textbook (or rewrite one that is in the public domain). That can work because professors are paid based on prestige (i.e. the university is effectively subsidizing the textbook rather than the other way around). However, that model doesn't include a publisher, except one that does print-on-demand (as Amazon and university presses do).

I think that the biggest problem is that near-perpetual copyright means that books have to be quite old before they go out of copyright. That means that all the existing public domain books are out of print and out of date. Writing a book from scratch takes time. Once they have the books, it will probably be easier to keep them up to date under an open source model. Unfortunately, it's hard to get started.

Re:OK several people didn't read your post. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41879713)

Ok guys, don't feed the obvious troll countering an argument with ad hominem attacks.

Re:OK several people didn't read your post. (3, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#41880481)

One way or another, you have to have a way to bring in revenue. Even non-profits need, at least, some donations.

So, yes, "free" is possible. But "free without any other adequate source of revenue" is not. And it sounds like their plans to sell hardcopies for revenue simply wasn't producing adequate revenue.

Re:At some point the college kids need a paycheck. (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#41879287)

Free doesn't always work.

Non-free doesn't always work either. I have been involved in many businesses as founder, owner, consultant, adviser, etc. Some based on open source/content, some not. One company I was involved in gave the software away and sold t-shirts. That actually worked fairly well. The trick is to find a revenue model that works before you move out of Mom's basement. Remember that Mom isn't just giving you free rent, you are also getting free meals, electricity, laundry service, etc. Those all add up.

Free as in? (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about 2 years ago | (#41879303)

Is this anything like the 'free as in freedom and not as in beer' textbooks? As in, it's okay to copy the textbooks and redistribute them endlessly, just that the first textbook has to be paid for? Or was it originally planned as a 'free as in beer' textbook, until they discovered that their costs don't get covered?

Surprising? I think not. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41878449)

We've seen this very scenario many times before, e.g. CDDB, change.org, etc.

Re:Surprising? I think not. (4, Funny)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#41878587)

For over 15 years I've been paying $24/year for a free-for-life email address.

Re:Surprising? I think not. (3, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#41878815)

For over 15 years I've been paying $24/year for a free-for-life email address.

eh? who's that with? Seriously you could have your own domain plus email form less

Re:Surprising? I think not. (4, Funny)

p0p0 (1841106) | about 2 years ago | (#41879145)

Whoosh, meet Chrisq.
Chrisq, meet Whoosh.

Surprising? I think not...Open Living. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41878605)

Yes we have. Open (anything) source has a history of being difficult to make a living off of.

Re:Surprising? I think not...Open Living. (4, Interesting)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 2 years ago | (#41878693)

Yes we have. Open (anything) source has a history of being difficult to make a living off of.

In the case of software, it has proven difficult, but not impossible. But this is no Red Hat Linux -- it's not someone taking the voluntary effort of millions and wrapping it up in a managed test-and-support environment. Red Hat profits because Red Hat take free and add value. Flat World have taken value (their books) and added free. That's completely back-to-front.

The problem here is not "open", it's "freemium". It's the freemium that never seems to work. The original philosophy of freemium was the idea that on the internet, unit cost was so low that a minority of "serious" customers would pay enough to keep the servers running. A lot of the "freemium" camp has found that freeloaders are actually more demanding in terms of support than they expected, and you can't ignore the guys on the free plan as long as you're hoping that they might one day become paying customers...

If they're still talking about partnering with EdX, though, they may still end up producing free material anyway, but as it will be customised to the EdX courses, it may well become something of an advertising asset, rather than a money sink.

Perhaps this is the way forward for the freemium business model -- limit the "free" version to a part of a wider "free" system. So the free version is "closed", but the paid version is "open". That means turning a few of our assumptions about the word "open" on their head...

Re:Surprising? I think not...Open Living. (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | about 2 years ago | (#41878803)

Perhaps this is the way forward for the freemium business model -- limit the "free" version to a part of a wider "free" system. So the free version is "closed", but the paid version is "open". That means turning a few of our assumptions about the word "open" on their head...

Or perhaps they should just charge what it's worth. An online textbook with a large readership should not cost much at all. When things are priced without an over-sized profit margin, people buy them. In fact, if the textbook is old, it is worthless and so they may as well give that away for free. On the other hand a textbook which is continually updated and remains current through expert review is worth a subscription. People who need that kind of currency of information will certainly pay for it.

Re:Surprising? I think not...Open Living. (4, Insightful)

MickLinux (579158) | about 2 years ago | (#41879029)

Textbooks that are old are worth lots. The newest ones are often worthless .... except that I am speaking from a homeschooler's or tutor's point of view. To a professor with 100 students, it's more important to have everyone use the same book, than for the book to be correct.

He can instruct the students on what to ignore, and why. He can check the answers to problems, and come up with an errata sheet. He can't even hope to read 20-odd different texts, though.

Re:Surprising? I think not...Open Living. (4, Insightful)

ultranova (717540) | about 2 years ago | (#41880087)

To a professor with 100 students, it's more important to have everyone use his book, than for the book to be correct.

Fixed that for you.

Re:Surprising? I think not...Open Living. (5, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41879217)

In fact, if the textbook is old, it is worthless

Ahh that's the problem. I took a university class on pre-civil war american history. That could be updated every month as the historical academic journals publish new papers, but almost nothing would be changed each month and approx zero value would be added, although the price for all that churn would be extremely high. Or you could update the text every generation or so, maybe as what boils down to a PHD's dissertation project. Not sure if that would be an Ed PHD or a history PHD project or a collaboration more likely or .... That's probably good enough, and basically free.

On the other hand, I was forced to take some idiotic IT helpdesk support training type class on Excel '97, which was only one generation obsolete at that time. That textbook obviously has to be completely rewritten every time MS wants to re-cash-in on all the previous Excel sales.

Generally speaking if its a training textbook then an old one is worthless, and if its an education textbook then an old one is perfectly fine.

Re:Surprising? I think not...Open Living. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41879649)

Looks like you got one of those "perfectly fine" old physics textbooks, Violent J! "Fucking magnets, how do they work?" AMIRITE?

Some areas of study are less prone to updating - I'd bet that not a whole lot of actual objective fact has changed in our understanding of pre-civil war american history in the past couple years. Maybe some new anecdotes, some new details about specific areas... but it's not like we were wrong all along about who was President, and whether or not there were slaves in pre-civil war america.

Other areas of study are constantly rewriting entire portions of themselves - primarily in the science and tech fields. Suggesting that "old" is perfectly fine and then cherry picking the single class you took where the textbook probably wouldn't have needed updating at all over the course of a decade is a little disingenuous.

An American History textbook published in 1952, covering the Pre-Civil War era, would probably be pretty useful still today. A biology textbook published in 1952, covering basic molecular biology, would be laughably quaint.

Re:Surprising? I think not...Open Living. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41878867)

Could they sell the ebook for a low enough price to remain viable, then once the costs for that book's production are recouped, begin to offer it as freemium?

Re:Surprising? I think not...Open Living. (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 2 years ago | (#41879721)

You have just touched on what might be the biggest problem -- ebooks. Textbooks are increasingly going electronic, not least because there's a lot of wastage in textbooks (books not sold before the next version are often pulped). If the market goes electronic, someone who only makes money from printed editions is sunk. It may just be that the Flat World guys realise that this is a distinct possibility....

Re:Surprising? I think not...Open Living. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41878913)

The "freemium" model works, but it doesn't mean sustainability in the textbook market. That "freemium" strategy got FWK more than 3500 adopting institutions; they are pivoting to a new model, and they will most likely succeed in continuing to put downward pressure on textbook prices.

Re:Surprising? I think not...Open Living. (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 2 years ago | (#41879167)

It's the freemium that never seems to work

Tell that to DDO, MapleStory, and any of the zillions of other freemium games that make decent profits on microtransactions.

Re:Surprising? I think not...Open Living. (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 2 years ago | (#41879771)

But that's not really the freemium model, though. That's is more of a "loss-leader" -- a bit like the old razor sales tactics of giving the handle away free then charging through the nose for the blades. The only reason you don't get free razor handles very often is that this sort of sales tactic has been considered illegal market manipulation for several decades.

Re:Surprising? I think not...Open Living. (2)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 2 years ago | (#41880671)

Maplestory and a huge number of other games really are F2P, its just extra useless crap (like cosmetic stuff) or stuff you can get anyways over time(LoL, TF2, etc) that they charge for

Re:Surprising? I think not...Open Living. (1)

TheMathemagician (2515102) | about 2 years ago | (#41879311)

I'm interested in collaboratively writing free (as in beer) textbooks. Are there any groups already doing this (that aren't going to ever to switch to non-free obviously)?

Re:Surprising? I think not...Open Living. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41879731)

Wikibooks? [wikibooks.org]

Blow? I think not. (2)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 years ago | (#41878875)

I've never heard of Flatworld before and I'm unlikely to in future I reckon. If Baen had done something like this it would have been a blow.

Re:Blow? I think not. (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41879253)

If Baen had done something like this it would have been a blow.

Yeah, a financial blow for Baen. I've spent fat stacks of cash on books that they'd lured me in with free versions. It helps for series sales to release the first novel, but it REALLY helps to release at least one novel per author, so you get a free preview of what they're like, and then the collecting drive kicks in and the amazon boxes start arriving ...

It seems there's a substantial psychological hill to climb with non-free publishers "I hate you Fing pirates downloading our books" "Well F you guys I'll buy something from Baen instead if it makes you feel any better" vs "Here's something free you might like. If you like it, there's lots more that's cheap, but not free." "Cool, (VLM whips out credit card)"

This is not theoretical, Baen is making more money off me than they "should" merely via their marketing gimmick.

well, duh (4, Insightful)

ip_freely_2000 (577249) | about 2 years ago | (#41878459)

In a perfect world, everything is free and we have an endless supply of lollipops. I bet it's not even a real hard realization that you need to make money to continue operating. What gets people pissed is when companies take obscene profits -- the catch is that we all can't agree on what obscene means. For me, that means I don't buy Apple or soda at the movie theater. And I look for my textbooks second hand ( I like the margin notes, anyway )

Re:well, duh (3, Interesting)

Mitreya (579078) | about 2 years ago | (#41878491)

And I look for my textbooks second hand ( I like the margin notes, anyway )

And the book stores really like you. Ah, I remember it like it was yesterday --

A new textbook went for $100
You could return that textbook for $30 (assuming that a new edition did not popup all of the sudden)
And then you could buy the same used textbook at a steeply discount price of $75-$80.

I suspect reselling used textbooks is far more lucrative than selling new ones. At least for the bookstores.

Re:well, duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41878607)

You may go directly to older student and buy used book from him for 40$ or something. He will get more money and you will pay less. Why go through middleman? Buying used book from the store instead of buying it from the source will save you some time, but is that time worth 50$? It is like you would need more then an hour to find that older student with used book.

Re:well, duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41878625)

... it is NOT like ...

Re:well, duh (1)

chrismcb (983081) | about 2 years ago | (#41879197)

Well MOST students sell their books back and the end of the semester. MOST students buy their new books at the beginning of the semester. Those two time periods generally don't overlap.

Re:well, duh (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41878897)

The fact is that academic administrators have all but colluded with corporate-owned bookstores. The former take a nice "taste" (3-10%) of bookstore profits to run campus services **off the backs of the students who attend their institutions**. The corporate bookstores do everything they can to frustrate the adoption of open textbooks (85% of college bookstores are owned by a handful of corporations, NOT the colleges). The whole post-secondary educational system is a corrupt money-grab, with college instructors and administrators not giving a damn until textbook prices went into the stratosphere and we ran into hard times. Now, those same instructors and administrators are taking juicy grants to write "free" open textbooks that nobody uses! At least FWK textbooks get USED, and are well-designed, interoperable across platforms, etc. etc. FWK will do just fine; they will continue to save students money, and continue to completely out-innovate their non-profit open textbook brethren.

Re:well, duh (4, Interesting)

sumdumass (711423) | about 2 years ago | (#41878995)

The fact is that academic administrators have all but colluded with corporate-owned bookstores.

And they work school policy to enforce they position too. A lot of schools will hold Grant and loan payment disbursements until after class starts forcing you to buy from the campus store on credit instead of having the options to get the books for 1/10th the price on the internet.

Re:well, duh (2)

chrismcb (983081) | about 2 years ago | (#41879213)

If you assume 100% markup, then the bookstore pays $50 for a new book, and sells it for $100. Profit = $50. Probably with a way to return purchased books to the publisher.
Based on your numbers, they'll buy the used book for $30, and sell it for $75-$80 with no way to recoup cost if they aren't purchased (although they probably sell to a wholesaler or something) Profit = $45-$50
Looks like New books are more lucrative for the bookstores. Based on your numbers anyways/

Re:well, duh (0)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 2 years ago | (#41879347)

If you assume 100% markup

...then you probably shouldn't be commenting in a discussion with grown ups.

Re:well, duh (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41880015)

Or perhaps he's been an actual professional author and knows the inner workings of the business. The 100% markup is standard for mainline book stores, as any author who reads his royalty statements rapidly learns! And the royalty is calculated from the publisher's net, not the book store's gross...

Books are a weird business (4, Informative)

sjbe (173966) | about 2 years ago | (#41879533)

If you assume 100% markup, then the bookstore pays $50 for a new book, and sells it for $100. Profit = $50.

You are roughly correct for the gross margins but the net profit is nowhere near $50 in your example. (Rent, utilities, staff salaries, etc) Net profit will be quite a lot lower, probably in single digits to low teens usually if the company is profitable.

Probably with a way to return purchased books to the publisher.

Virtually all new books are sold on consignment. There are a handful of very large distributors in the book industry. They sell to bookstores including Barnes & Noble as well as your school book store. Some bigger sellers like Amazon can go direct but not many others can. New books are sold on consignment with 90 day terms meaning if they don't sell within 90 days they are returned to the publisher. Realistically 90 day terms really means 120 day terms because the distributors have 90 days from the book store and then 30 more days for themselves so the publisher gets paid at best 120 days after shipping a book that there is a good chance will be returned to them unsold. Publishing books is a terrible business to be in from a cash flow standpoint.

Based on your numbers, they'll buy the used book for $30, and sell it for $75-$80 with no way to recoup cost if they aren't purchased (although they probably sell to a wholesaler or something) Profit = $45-$50

There are secondary market options for used books that cannot be sold locally. Not hugely lucrative but they are significantly better than zero. The buyers of used books have some databases which tell them they should pay $30 for Book A and $5 for Book B and shouldn't buy Book C based on what they can sell it for elsewhere. They don't just buy books blindly for a flat fee. (or if they do they are stupid)

Re:Books are a weird business (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 2 years ago | (#41880369)

If you assume 100% markup, then the bookstore pays $50 for a new book, and sells it for $100. Profit = $50.

You are roughly correct for the gross margins but the net profit is nowhere near $50 in your example. (Rent, utilities, staff salaries, etc) Net profit will be quite a lot lower, probably in single digits to low teens usually if the company is profitable.

Yes, correct -- it's the net profit, not the gross.

However, the exact same net/gross difference applies for the second-hand one. His point was that they do still make more on the new book than the second one.

Not that simple (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 2 years ago | (#41880853)

However, the exact same net/gross difference applies for the second-hand one. His point was that they do still make more on the new book than the second one.

Not necessarily. First issue is that it depends very much on what price they can buy the used book. That amount varies rather significantly and you really can't just assume it is $30 a book. Given how easy it is to get steeply discounted used books through Amazon etc, odds are a bookstore can buy the book for significantly less than that. Second issue is how much of a discount they have to give to sell a used book instead of a new book. In his made up example the numbers work out in favor of new books but that isn't necessarily going to be the case in the real world. Third issue is opportunity cost. The new book is going to cost more (probably) than a used book so there is an opportunity cost associated with locking that cash up in inventory until it can be sold. Buying used books means the store has to buy fewer new books and their cost of good sold decreases. Since they are operating on relatively thin net margins this can matter quite a lot since it potentially frees up cash for other potentially profitable purposes - presuming of course that they can still sell the used book for sufficient margin in a timely manner.

In short, it's not as simple as the example makes it sound.

Re:well, duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41878499)

I've not come across a movie theater that even sells apples. How much do they cost?

Re:well, duh (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41878609)

Probably 20 bucks each, seeing as the movie never makes any money [slashdot.org] ...

Re:well, duh (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41878685)

The movie companies and the movie theatres are different entities. You pay the movie theatre a price for the ticket. The movie theatre has to pay a percentage of that price to the movie distributor - sometimes as high as 95% of the ticket price in the first few weeks of release for a blockbuster. You wonder why your soda costs so much at the movie theatre? It's because they don't make all that much from the actual price of a ticket unless they're showing a movie for the 7th or 8th week in a row, or they're showing a re-run of an older movie.

Don't get me wrong though as I'm not defending the theatres either - we all know that a box of soda mix or popcorn costs a few cents/pennies and yet they still charge an arm and a leg for that. In the theatre I used to work in, the salsa and cheese used for the nachos used to come in giant tins that used to cost about £0.05 each and the nachos were £0.02 a bag and you'd get many many servings out of that.

Re:well, duh (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 2 years ago | (#41879051)

Don't get me wrong though as I'm not defending the theatres either - we all know that a box of soda mix or popcorn costs a few cents/pennies and yet they still charge an arm and a leg for that. In the theatre I used to work in, the salsa and cheese used for the nachos used to come in giant tins that used to cost about £0.05 each and the nachos were £0.02 a bag and you'd get many many servings out of that.

If they don't get much money from the tickets, then they need some means to get money to pay for the actual theatre it self, for the investment, maintenance, staff, equipment, and so on.

Re:well, duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41879177)

I'm the AC who posted above.

I agree - they do need to get some money for all the things you said. However, once you know that it costs about £25 for a wholesale box of popcorn, where each box contains about 500 servings that are sold at £5 a go to you and your kids, you do begin to feel a little annoyed at the 10,000% markup there.

Re:well, duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41879127)

"You wonder why your soda costs so much at the movie theatre? It's because they don't make all that much from the actual price of a ticket unless they're showing a movie for the 7th or 8th week in a row, or they're showing a re-run of an older movie."

Nope. It is because they have monopoly on soda in theatre. It is econ 101, the price is determined by supply and demand and tend to be low when there is competition, because people will buy cheaper stuff. Remove the competition and the price will go up, because people have no where to turn to. Ticket price has nothing to do with it.

Re:well, duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41879289)

If you don't buy soda at the theater, you just aren't going the the right theater. The theater that I go to charges $5 per seat, and their large combo of a large popcorn and large drink is $4.50. Popcorn refills are free, drink refills are $0.25. They have a digital projector, with no premium for viewing a movie when it's shown in 3-D. They only have one screen, usually showing one movie at an early showing, and a different movie at a later showing, though some weeks they show the same movie at both times. If they have a 3-D movie, they usually show the same movie at both times, the 3-D at the early showing, and a traditional showing at the later time.

It's nice when a theater is run as a community service, not as a location to try to gouge everyone for as much as they can.

Re:well, duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41879335)

I forgot to mention that the movies are current productions, not ones that are out of date.
Recent movies that I can recall are Hotel Transylvania, Taken 2, Pitch Perfect, Frankenweenie, Dark Knight Rises, & Borne Legacy. I'm know that I'm forgetting several, because I don't live in the town, and haven't seen all the movies. I only go because my wife insists. I can watch old netflix movies and have just as good a time, but the popcorn at home isn't as good.

Newsflash for them (1)

Meneth (872868) | about 2 years ago | (#41878637)

Paid access isn't going to work any better at all.

Re:Newsflash for them (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41878677)

They disagree. Which is better? There's only one way to find out...

Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!

Re:Newsflash for them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41878773)

well they have to try something, free access definitely doesn't work for them. perhaps paid access will also fail but that is still better than doing nothing and simply closing the service.

By the way (2)

Meneth (872868) | about 2 years ago | (#41878649)

Time to do a siterip.

Re:By the way (4, Informative)

Genda (560240) | about 2 years ago | (#41878811)

Not really, I looked at the book list... unless you're a burning urn of churning funk for algebra... or just gotta have a book on social science... walk away from this pointless waste of electrons. I can't imagine with this book list they'll do any better with a for profit model.

Having an aneurysm - send help. (4, Funny)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about 2 years ago | (#41878689)

How or when did they expect FREE (with "optional" charges) to start bringing in enough money to work long-term?

Re:Having an aneurysm - send help. (2)

LordLucless (582312) | about 2 years ago | (#41878753)

It's not an unreasonable model - it's essentially the same as all those "freemium" games. The problem is when you don't get enough "mium" to pay for the "free" - and obviously, people were willing to settle for the electronic books without the physical.

Re:Having an aneurysm - send help. (5, Interesting)

wild_quinine (998562) | about 2 years ago | (#41878941)

obviously, people were willing to settle for the electronic books without the physical.

May not even be a case of settling.

I wrote a novel aimed at a small student community, and released the ebook for free. i wanted it to be a gift, so i made the ebook free (creative commons) and also gave away a lot of physical copies to the people i thought would appreciate them most (within a certain community).

the really interesting thing is that i got feedback (remember, from people who i was offering the book to for free) that they were really happy to have the ebook version, but they didn't want the physical book version becase it was 'stuff' that they didn't need. they're students, they move around a lot, books aren't that light, plus they don't really have a place they keep 'things' any more, now they've moved out of home, and probably won't for a few years to come.

now sure, they might not have been interested at all, and been letting me down gently, but it made me realise that there'd need to be more to any future business model i might come up with than 'electronic is free, physical is not'. i know this may seem obvious in retrospect, but i think there's still an assumption held by many people that physical copy = upgrade of electronic copy, and this may not be true.

i'm sure many people on slashdot feel that way already, but mostly i would expect for functional/practical reasons. however, my experience suggests that the sentimental value of a physical book may no longer exceed the value of the ebook, either.

that could be the seeds of an interesting change in our perception of books altogether.

Re:Having an aneurysm - send help. (2)

ledow (319597) | about 2 years ago | (#41879015)

Each time I've moved house I've taken dozens of boxes of books. In terms of efficiency they are the worst possession I own because they take up lots of space, lots of weight, need specialist storage in the house (bookshelves, etc.) and I rarely refer to them.

And that's *with* myself only keeping books that I have some sort of attachment to. In terms of books for university, I had one throughout my entire BSc. And that was because it was marked as compulsory AND exercises were set from it AND lectures were based around its exact text. None of the other of my course books fulfilled those criteria so I had to buy it even though I had *zero* other books for the entire time I was studying. I gave it away the day I left university having only ever seen about 1-2% of the book (I had other calculus books that I'd inherited that were much better and more in-depth).

Compare and contrast to, say, a Kindle. No matter how many books you buy, it weighs the same and doesn't grow larger. You don't have to pack it specially, or account for its weight, or give it a shelf, or even take much care of it (the account is linked to the Kindle but NOT exclusively and you can buy another Kindle or even just load them onto your PC without hassle).

In terms of textbooks, they are things you will refer to rarely, will need to search quickly, will only require temporarily, and which are normally large, heavy and expensive. So why would anyone carry ten of them about rather than just a Kindle?

Physical books are now like physical CD's. They are a permanent record and a nice gift because of the physical, sentimental value of the object itself (which an eBook can't replicate). In terms of actual convenience, though, they are a hindrance. Especially when your requirement is fleeting, temporary, minuscule in terms of overall percentage of use, and unlikely to be something you WANT to pay for.

Re:Having an aneurysm - send help. (4, Insightful)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#41879405)

But reading reference books on a kindle sucks, where one is often needing to quickly flip to different parts of the book that may not be connected by actual hyperlinks within it, or if you are searching for a particular full-page picture.

If actually reading anything but fiction on an electronic device was just as convenient as reading a physical book, where you can flip forward or backward an arbitrary number of pages entirely at your own discretion, it might replace them. Not before.

Re:Having an aneurysm - send help. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41880535)

E-book readers suck for non-narrative text in general. The standard e-book screen is about the size of a paperback book. Which to my mind makes it virtually impossible to have both a graph/table/chart/picture AND the text to explain it visible at the same time. Full size (10") tablets are probably big enough, but need better navigation as you suggest.

Re:Having an aneurysm - send help. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41879207)

I second the "moving around" argument -- in my case, for movies.
What I want: to see a cool movie in high quality when I feel like it.
What makes it sweet: when I don't have to plan for it in advance.
What stinks: when I move and I have a large stack of DVDs, most of which are "fun to watch" but not "so good they deserve to be moved in my book".

A stack of DVDs (blurays, if you must) is admittedly cool. I'd like to have both: a set of DVDs of movies I consider to be worth the shelf space, and a harddisk full of movies/series/whatevers, which are okay but don't live up to that standard.
And I am happy to pay for it (I also pay for going to the cinema once in a while) -- just make it easy for me, okay? If going to a store to get the DVD is easier, you're doing it wrong. /offtopic-but-true

Re:Having an aneurysm - send help. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41879853)

Sounds like you need binders.

Re:Having an aneurysm - send help. (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41879331)

I wrote a novel aimed at a small student community

there'd need to be more to any future business model i might come up with than 'electronic is free, physical is not'.

The market for small honorariums is pretty much dead, which is too bad. The $5000+expenses model is healthy, as is the "just show up for free" model. Someone could make a shitload of money on the internet as a facilitator of middle size honorariums as a business model. Its dead enough I've never even heard of an online facilitator for it... it might technically be alive but only in Paris and only with 10 speakers or something.

Re:Having an aneurysm - send help. (1)

Legion303 (97901) | about 2 years ago | (#41879411)

Perhaps in the 21st century the model should be "physical is free, electronic is not."

Re:Having an aneurysm - send help. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41879641)

Perhaps you'd have more success if you learned to capitalize properly. I can barely tell where one sentence ends and the next begins in your post, and I wouldn't even try to struggle with that in an entire novel.

Re:Having an aneurysm - send help. (1)

nhat11 (1608159) | about 2 years ago | (#41878993)

Close, in a F2P game, the devs can create whatever random content they want, like a hat or a shoe or people pay for power. For textbooks... that doesn't work as well lol

Re:Having an aneurysm - send help. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41879297)

Not all of us prefer physical books. I for one like my e-books a whole lot better.

Color scheme: all too often the paper and ink choice is too contrasting, which induces eye strain at a much more rapid rate than a more neutral scheme does.

Clarity: I have an eye for fine detail, can see the bleeding that occurs in printed media. On a sufficiently high resolution LCD however I don't see any bleeding after calibrating the display and text rendering. Whats more is that I can read much smaller text from a greater distance without having to focus, makes it a lot easier to forget I'm reading and let my imagination take over.

Navigation: there are plenty of poor e-book readers out there, but the better ones have navigation features that make it simple to skip the useless fluff and get right into the meat of the book's contents. Not so useful for fiction, but for non-fiction it's a huge time saver.

And then there's not having to hold onto a book, being able to just kick back while reading. A book may not weigh much, but spread over enough time it strains your hands and arms in ways they just weren't designed to handle. Holding a book and reading from it does not feel natural to me at all. Sitting back in a chair or bed while staring at a screen however is much more passive and allows me to relax while reading.

Re:Having an aneurysm - send help. (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#41879525)

Bleeding is only an issue with ink.

Most professional book publishers do not use ink, they use toner. Which does not bleed unless the printer was faulty.

The highest resolution electronic display devices commercially available right now are in the vicinity of about 350 dpi. At a reading distance of 12 to 18", admittedly, this is well within an order of magnitude of the actual optical capability of the human eye based on rod and cone density. Laser printers with better than 10 times that resolution are not infrequently used for commercial production.

Whats more is [on a high resolution display] that I can read much smaller text from a greater distance without having to focus

I find exactly the opposite, actually. I regularly find myself having to zoom in to a page to view it on a retina ipad when reading on it, resulting in less of a page's contents actually being visible at one time, and requiring me to scroll, which constantly redirects my attention from simply reading the content.

I would seriously love to replace my many physical reference books with electronic ones, but to this day there is still no solution that meets all of the technical challenges involved which make it just as easy and quick to use as physical books are. I expect we may see something viable emerge within the next one or two decades, however.

Re:Having an aneurysm - send help. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41878799)

Yes, that's almost as stupid as a free website that posts news, perhaps with some sort of comment and moderation system. Could never work.

Re:Having an aneurysm - send help. (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about 2 years ago | (#41878865)

It would be except Dice Holdings, Inc.do make money from other things like job listsing and they also have SourceForge, Freecode and Geeknet. Just being a news site may not be enough these days to cut it.

Worked well for Radiohead. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41879139)

Indeed it was their most profitable business choice.

Re:Worked well for Radiohead. (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about 2 years ago | (#41879629)

/ To be read in the stlye of Lewis Black /
Radiohead are not a start up band. Radiohead, got to the top of their game with millions of sales. Plus millions and millions and millions and millions of marketing cash already invested. My band* tried the same business model, we've sold nothing!!! Also, you're not helping my aneurysm by comparing music and books for a course. Books that you are only buying cos the guy that teaches the class wrote it!.
*Not really in a band - the sales are the same.

Re:Having an aneurysm - send help. (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 2 years ago | (#41879997)

Since 90% of online based businesses are based on that exact same model.

minu5 5, Troll) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41878697)

volume of NetBSD (7000+1440+700)*4 Usenet is roughly demise. You don't big deal. Death for successful The mobo blew live and a job to DIM. IF *BSD IS a super-organised OF AMERICA irc it transforms into OF AMERICA) is the The public eye: enjoy the loud to the crowd in lagged behind, Become like they posts. Due to the I know it sux0rs, that he documents that they can hold they're gone Mac a popular 'news I read the latest The political mess is the ultimate against vigorous Maggot, vomit, shit

sd jshbdjs (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41878701)

bjhjvbjhsjd

Off topic - looking for help (-1, Redundant)

jasper_amsterdam (788332) | about 2 years ago | (#41878879)

Hi /. Sorry for the off topic but I'm looking for help from the /. community and have no idea how to reach the hive other than comments. A long time ago (2 years?) there was a post on a tool that would automatically install the most recent version of a bunch of shareware and freeware without clicking through all the muck. I didn't save the link and despite some googling haven't been able to retrieve it. It seems like a tool that would save hours when installing a new system (if safe). Does someone remember the link or can someone with better search-fu find it? Thanks! Jasper

Re:Off topic - looking for help (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41878905)

Ninite

I assume you remember the URL for google?

Re:Off topic - looking for help (0)

jasper_amsterdam (788332) | about 2 years ago | (#41878909)

Thanks for the info, will take the snide in stride. =D

Re:Off topic - looking for help (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41878915)

ninite.com

Do no evil? (1)

xtal (49134) | about 2 years ago | (#41878895)

You know, if Google wants to "do some good", and maybe "buy some karma", they could extend some of those fat stacks - along with, maybe, you know, iTunesU Apple - and buy the best-of-breed textbooks in the classics and STEM - basic physics; calculus; english; trig; algebra; biology; chemistry, organic, and inorganic; and then make the source materials for the book available online for peer reviewed update and analysis.

The collective good done to humanity may be beyond measure.

Seriously. The amount of funds involved are relatively small and the books are right there.

Re:Do no evil? (1)

asifyoucare (302582) | about 2 years ago | (#41878967)

BitTorrent has already done this.

Re:Do no evil? (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41879399)

BitTorrent has already done this.

online for peer reviewed update and analysis.

Not seeing how the two connect in any way?

Now wikipedia is pretty much doing this today, the only real threat is the deletionist a-holes. I "really learned" (as opposed to memorized temporarily in school and promptly forgot) quaternions from the wikipedia article. I just checked and its not been deleted (yet) and its different than when I read it, but not any worse at least.

The deletionist a-holes might someday wipe the article from wikipedia just to feel joy in others pain, but mathworld probably would never delete their quaternion article as its kind of an important concept. However the mathworld article is arguably not as good as the wikipedia article

karan chanana (-1, Offtopic)

karnchanana (2762535) | about 2 years ago | (#41878935)

karan chanana's Home Page I completed my ph.d in Ece at Reeaser Polytechnic Institute, ( NY US) in May 1987. My doctoral research was performed at the Center for Image Processing Research(CIPR), and involved the application of optical flow techniques to video coding and motion compensated processing. A more detailed description of this research can be found here, and a postscript version of the thesis is available here. Karan contact information Resume of karan chanaan kran chanana research karan chanana Publications Click here to send me email to karan chanana

This just in (1)

Mystery00 (1100379) | about 2 years ago | (#41879043)

Not charging money doesn't bring in any money.

More at 11.

Re:This just in (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41880497)

Hmmm... I reckon United Way isn't making any $. Newsflash... people will donate to a worthy cause (to them). There are many examples of this. What you are confusing is you can't PREDICT it. But there are many orgs out there relying on donations.

The perils of "freemium" (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about 2 years ago | (#41879085)

were already apparent back in the dot-com days. I guess people never quite learn. Other than that, what we are seeing here is a company doing what is natural; adapting and changing its business model to stay afloat. Move along, nothing to be seen here.

Put some omissions and errors in the freebies (2)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 2 years ago | (#41879379)

Charge for the errata and addenda.

Hey, Star Fleet Battles (old school shout out) was printed with ring-binder holes for easy re-arrangement when they completed and corrected it, and they once published errata for an addenda.

Used a lot of textbooks, never heard of them. (1)

vovick (1397387) | about 2 years ago | (#41879933)

Perhaps their popularity and content quality are the main reason of their crisis, not the business model?

I have a dream... (1)

ryzvonusef (1151717) | about 2 years ago | (#41880071)

I fully understand the naïvety of my Martin Luther King -ish rant, but damn it, it doesn't hurt to dream.

I have this idea, that maybe, one day, when I start earning money and am done with my debts, I will start a charity (or a kick-starter, as it's called now).

You see, I have this idea, possibly naïve, that I will use the funds to outright buy quality textbook rights, or have them written under a patronage system by noted authors, and release those books to the public for free.

I fully realise the flaws in my plan, buying rights of quality works might be damn near impossible, refusal of noted writers to right under a one-off patronage system, crazy licensing issues, non-acceptability of the books produced by teachers, and that's besides the fact that said charity might barely manage to raise funds to publish more than a couple of books.

But darn it, I will at least try.

Seems obvious enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41880565)

Companies like redhat have survived because businesses are willing to pay for support. Other "free content" providers get by on advertising revenue.

But textbooks doesn't seem suited to either. Students are usually at the poorer end of the spectrum and are going to take the free option on textbooks, just like they also didn't pay for redhat. Schools and school boards tend to prefer saving money. University lecturers just set the book they authored as the text book no matter how unrelated or outdated or unedited it is.

Not that complicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41880753)

Jeeze people. Physical world: make your thing and sell it. Get your money before the buyer takes possesion of your thing, because otherwise you're just asking for them to make off with it.

Digital world: make your reputation and chash in on it. Get your money before you make your thing, because once it's made there is no barrier to distribution.

I don't know, or care, how hard it is to pull that off with your particular thing, if you try to get around those basic realities your business will probably fail.

Boycott them (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 years ago | (#41880933)

Screw the bastards into the ground.

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