NFT Textbooks – The Future of Learning in the Digitial Age?

Software, Media & Technology

The Textbook

The humble textbook, every student’s (worst) best friend, helping them to achieve academic greatness at hugely inflated prices.

When a student moves on to university they are expected to, with their student loan, purchase all of their academic books. In 2019, students spent an average of £630 on textbooks.  The most cost-effective way of purchasing these books is to buy second-hand ones because they are only needed for a couple of years.  

Top textbook publisher, Pearson, has come up with a way of changing this age-old secondhand ritual and plans on profiting from secondhand sales by turning titles into NFTs (non-fungible tokens). 

What does this mean for Pearson?

This will bring Pearson new profit from the reselling process. With the new NFT ownership, the unique code keeps a blockchain register which means companies will know where the textbook is and if it has exchanged hands.  Bloomberg reported that “In the analogue world, a Pearson textbook was resold up to seven times, and we would only participate in the first sale,” explaining that “technology like blockchain and NFTs allows us to participate in every sale of that particular item as it goes through its life”.

This new NFT plan is just one step of a digital push for the publisher, following their subscription service app allowing students to access 1,500 digital textbooks for $14.99 a month. 

Will other publishers follow suit?

This concept has been floating around for a while now but hasn’t taken off in the same way as the visual art market. NFT technology is often used for authors’ self-published books and novels. It has been noted, however, that much of the publishing world doesn’t feel the need or want to engage in this technology. This could be due to readers feeling value in the physical object and the ownership of the book itself. Although it could be due to readers finding value in having read a book rather than having owned it. 

If the future of the NFT textbook is a success for Pearsons, other companies may follow suit, selling digital copies. Bird has a team working on “the implications of the metaverse and what that could mean” for books and publishers. It will be interesting to see how this changes the academic resources and students’ way of learning and formal teaching from these. It will also be interesting to see if the cost of the original book goes down once students are accessing the NFT copies and paying the company every time for the resource. This could help students to fund their academic studies more efficiently.

“the implications of the metaverse and what that could mean for us”

By Ella Bertrand on 18/08/2022