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Recently, NACS released an announcement about a new initiative put in place grow custom publishing. The “Grow Custom, Grow Green” program was launched with 10 initial sponsors (mainly coming from the publishing world). You can read a good follow-up on the program from Mark Nelson, a fellow blogger.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I view custom as a perfect way for the publishers to increase profits while fighting competition in the form of the used book. In some cases, custom is a win for the student, bookstore, and publisher, but all too often it only benefits the last in that group of three. So what would it look like to do custom the right way, the way that would make these publications of value to more than just publishers?

If custom is an extension of the class or the core textbook, it is a benefit to the student. If it is a replacement for the textbook, it’s very possible that the student will pay more in the long run. While the initial cost of the custom book will be lower than that of a used book, the tailored edition will have a small, if any, resale value and will only be available from a limited number of sellers and for a limited number of students within one school and maybe even one section of one course.

The press release mentions “smart custom” and “examining the content” instead of just “creating another ISBN.” Sure, that sounds good, but who defines the difference and holds publishers accountable? To me, the jury is still out as publishers have proven in the past that they are more interested in bottom-line profits. Remember, the rental and the used book are threats to the publishers’ business model where new print is king. Publishers desperately need to reinvent how they sell their products directly to the student and remove the third-party players eating away at their profits. Keep this in mind when considering custom pubs.

Report

The battle over textbook rentals is moving off line and into the campus bookstore, and the turf up for grabs includes both institutional and private stores. During our

CAMEX recap, we shared stories about Follett’s new partner program with independent bookstores, as well as a new partnership between Chegg and ICBA and one between BookRenter.com and NACS. And the trend continues with other companies following suit.

  

South Eastern Book Co. Joins Forces with CollegeBookRenter.com
SEB, through their $10-million investment in CollegeBookRenter becomes an in-store rental player catering to the needs of today’s college students by offering an online textbook rental program. SEB Rental customizes each bookstore’s rental site using the appropriate school colors and bookstore logo. Unlike its competitors that require a 7-10 day turnaround, SEB guarantees that a bookstore’s rental site will be live within three business days of the initial request. SEB provides the necessary customer support and IT assistance and even facilitates customer returns. SEB will assume any losses associated with students’ failure to return textbooks, and bookstores will collect a 10% commission on all textbooks rented through their SEB rental site. SEB Rental offers a store-reporting function and the company provides promotional materials to drive traffic to bookstores’ rental sites and help ensure their success.