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Changing business models

Globally, the traditional publishing business model has come under growing pressure as a consequence of technological development and the digitization of content. The changes experienced by the publishing industry are affecting its market paradigms and business models. Basic principles, such as economies of scale, which used to be a mantra for this sector, have become less significant. Digital books are usually sold at a lower price compared to physical books, and, as free public domain books increasingly becoming available, this availability may further threaten the traditional business model of the publishing industry.

The increasing demand for access to quality education, combined with rising education
enrolments, calls for more educational resources, particularly affordable textbooks.  However, textbook prices are soaring along with the rising cost of education resulting in the overall price of education to increase significantly. As textbook costs rise, there is a simultaneous move toward digital textbooks, due to the increasing availability of ICT. The potential of affordable electronic textbooks, combined with the potential of OER, is regarded as an option to mitigate the rising cost of textbooks, with several organizations and institutions making electronic textbooks available for free.

Such developments are forcing publishing industry actors to reassess their business models and redefine their products and services, in order to align them with changing conditions, needs, and requirements. A growing number of governments and institutions – from national to regional to local levels – require that all educational resources funded by taxpayers or public resources must be licensed as OER. At the same time, educational and academic publishers in these countries are undergoing a period of evolution and reflection regarding the future dynamic between traditional copyrighted publishers and publicly funded OER.

There is a need to identify innovative solutions to develop new business models, so that the interests of the OER community and educational publishers are addressed. Several  possibilities include: publishers providing customized education services, publishers concentrating on new subjects where OER do not yet exist; providing joint products (for example producing conventional textbooks while releasing other products such as educational games with an open license), publishers assembling OER, and developing hybrid models which allows for both OER and traditional copyrighted publications to co-exist, each meeting different audience needs (UNESCO, 2016).