New software from French publishing technology company Gutenberg Technology promises to greatly simplify e-textbook production and distribution.
After years of testing and early programs with major educational publishers such as Hachette in France and Pearson, Gutenberg will announce tomorrow the launch of MyEbookFactory, a software that helps publishers seamlessly create e-textbooks for iOS, Android, Kindle, Windows 8 and other formats.
Working with a PDF, MyEbookFactory creates XML content and stores it in a database where the publisher can add custom enhancements and interactivity before exporting it to multiple device formats at once. Through the database of textbook content, for which Gutenberg has a patent, publishers can update their editions remotely.
The scale and ability to simultaneously create products for multiple platforms is what makes this technology different from others currently available for making interactive textbooks — like Inkling’s Habitat and iBooks Author.
But the ability for e-textbook publishers to scale comes at a price: The software costs between $10,000 and $15,000 a year to license and $9,000 to $11,000 per book for up to 10 books. A company that wants to produce on a much higher scale will pay a much higher licensing fee based on its annual revenue with a cap of a certain number of books. For instance, a company with $150 million in annual revenue will pay a $150,000 annual fee with a cap of 300 books. It would cost $2,000 for each additional book above 300.
Despite the high costs, the company’s management is bullish on the deal it’s offering textbook publishers, used to high investment costs for goods that are generally sold at a fairly high price for a fairly long period of time.
“In two-to-four years, everyone will be using digital in the classrooms and it’s 50% less expensive to produce textbooks online,” said Francois-Xavier Hussherr, the CEO of Gutenberg Technology.
For a company like Pearson, which may have hundreds of textbooks that it wants to convert to interactive e-textbooks, the cost may not be so onerous. Currently, MyEbookFactory can handle several hundred books a month. That number will increase to over 10,000 a month in 2014.
While publishers and companies like Gutenberg believe that e-textbooks are the future of education, students have been slow to adopt them.
Still, the industry is preparing for those attitudes to change. Macmillan has made several education technology acquisitions in the past six months. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt recently purchased a set of education assets from Wiley. And Apollo International Management, one of the world’s largest private-equity firms purchased McGraw-Hill Education for $2.5 billion.