Anyone care to publish some textbooks on Scribd?

Anyone care to publish some textbooks on Scribd?

Summary: The recent headlines about Simon and Schuster's publication of 5000 ebooks on Scribd grabbed my attention, since I had previously (and unfairly) put a look at the new service on the back burner. I'm glad I took the time to check it out since, assuming their business model is sustainable (and it looks pretty good right now), Scribd could become an incredible resource for inexpensive academic materials and budding writers.

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The recent headlines about Simon and Schuster's publication of 5000 ebooks on Scribd grabbed my attention, since I had previously (and unfairly) put a look at the new service on the back burner. I'm glad I took the time to check it out since, assuming their business model is sustainable (and it looks pretty good right now), Scribd could become an incredible resource for inexpensive academic materials and budding writers.

As BusinessWeek puts it,

Scribd, shorthand for scribbled, is a sort of YouTube (GOOG) for publishing, where anyone can upload digital versions of books, research reports, and other printed matter and share them easily across the Web.

The site is already generating impressive traffic: 60 million visitors a month. According to the BusinessWeek article, it's already turning a profit, which is much more than could be said for Amazon when it was only 2 years old.

There are 2 particularly interesting features of Scribd as far as academics are concerned. The first is that you can publish and share any content to which you hold the rights for free. A search for Algebra in their academic category yields course syllabi, musings on Algebra instruction in early grades, practice tests, and a wide variety of content in PDF, Word, PowerPoint, and/or text form, all for free. It can be viewed in the browser or downloaded.

Scribd also provides you embed codes to easily share the documents you've uploaded. Imagine taking all of the coursework and materials you prepare for classes and uploading them in a central, searchable repository, making them available to all of your students, anytime, anywhere, as well as to anyone else in the world who might search for the subject you're teaching. With an incredibly easy registration process, publishing documents is simple even for technophobic teachers.

Where Scribd possibly becomes even more interesting is in its publish-for-profit model. Just as you can easily upload content for free, you can also upload documents to sell, setting a price of your choosing. Scribd keeps 20%, you keep the rest. Can you say "Cheap Textbooks"?

Unlike Amazon, Scribd is not tied to any particular reader or format, allowing students and peers to access content from any Internet-connected device. It also means that smaller, supplemental texts that a traditional publisher may not pick up can easily be published and sold.

Obviously, this places a greater onus on schools to evaluate texts before implementing them in schools since books published in this fashion may not follow the same peer-review/editorial models as traditional textbooks. However, an evaluation mechanism is already in place in most schools and teachers as subject matter experts should be well-qualified to review proposed texts. If we're all honest, though, how many traditional textbooks out there don't meet classroom needs? Or are poorly written? Or poorly edited?

The cost savings, easy access to electronic materials, and newfound ability to publish painlessly far outweigh any potential extra review burden. Now we just need to get some big textbook publishers to partner with Scribd, Simon and Schuster-style. And any subject matter experts out there? Take a look at Scribd for your next textbook.

Topics: Browser, Collaboration, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Software

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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10 comments
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  • OnLine Learning is good for everyone.

    Excellent article, and great ideas. Anything that provides access to educational resources at reduced or low cost, and makes those resources more readily available is a good thing. Have you checked out academicearth.org, or MIT's online coursework?

    What I would like to see: Free, ACCREDITED, Diploma Issueing(sp) On-Line colleges.

    That's the biggest problem I've seen with most online colleges and coursework, they cost as much or more to attend as a community college despite the reduced attendant cost of managing the coursework. An online college, done efficiently, should have a near negligible per-student cost.

    medezark1
  • RE: Anyone care to publish some textbooks on Scribd?

    How is this any different from any standard website?
    Collectively it works as a 'repository' but isn't that true of any
    gathered groups of material - text or images... both?
    808Townie
  • RE: Anyone care to publish some textbooks on Scribd?

    I have a question concerning the statement "an evaluation mechanism is already in place in most schools and teachers as subject matter experts should be well-qualified to review proposed texts".

    Once the school reviews a traditional text, they are assured that the students are receiving exactly the text reviewed. Does Scribd have a mechanism for this? Who assures that once reviewed that the content does not change? Is there a secure versioning system?

    Thanks for listening!
    komorris
  • RE: Anyone care to publish some textbooks on Scribd?

    Great review of site, fantastic resource for educational institutions or those looking for information about specific subject areas.
    weemooseus9
  • RE: Anyone care to publish some textbooks on Scribd?

    Unfortunately, those who believe that online publishing = cheap textbooks don't understand the costs involved in the textbook industry. The reason textbooks cost so much isn't the printing cost, it's the development cost. The textbook that sells for $150 only costs $15 to print. So online publishing will only save that $15.
    scottmelnick
  • RE: Anyone care to publish some textbooks on Scribd?

    "... near negligible per-student cost?" I beg to differ. I've
    taught online courses. They have a lot of advantages in terms
    of accessibility, but the instructor investment in course
    development is (if you want to do it right!) at least as great as
    it is for face-to-face teaching. Course delivery/assessment time
    is at least as great as well. You cannot get any sort of
    meaningful interaction going with a class of much over 20
    students. Bottom line: there are cost savings for non-resident
    students and savings in brick-and-mortar facilities, but the
    major costs of instruction don't change enough to notice.
    Anyone who thinks differently is kidding himself/herself or
    short-changing students in a big way.
    EGM42
  • "access content from any Internet-connected device"

    And by "any Internet-connected device", you mean "any PC running Flash 10."

    Here on my desk I have two PCs, an iPod Touch and a Palm Pre. I just logged into Scribd using all four of them. The iTouch, Palm Pre and the seldom-used older PC (with Flash 7, which is the latest version available for non-desktop-computing platforms if they have Flash at all) all got "Hello, your flash player is too old. No soup for you."

    I fail to see how this is any better than a site that simply serves up PDFs, which would at least work on the iTouch and old PC until Palm gets their "open PDFs from the web" on.
    raindog469
  • RE: Anyone care to publish some textbooks on Scribd?

    Three questions about publishing on ScribD:

    Will author/creator be adequately compensated?

    Will content receive the editing needed to make it useful?

    Can any hacker send ScribD-posted material to the whole world without permission or compensation to creator/author?
    Fourteener
  • RE: Anyone care to publish some textbooks on Scribd?

    As much as I love this scribd model, what is even more exciting is the prospect of fiction creation (especially collaborative). My favorite right now is StoryMash.com.
    Kathy2009
  • RE: Anyone care to publish some textbooks on Scribd?

    I want to know how to publish: cookbook fast now... and protect copywrit interests??
    tdnorman