BenchPrep today announced that it has added a number of new publisher partners to its roster, including Pearson Education, O’Reilly Media, Microsoft Press, Archipelago Learning, A.D., Banker & Co. and Allen Resources, bringing a total of more than 100 new courses to BenchPrep’s online library. It’s a significant win for the startup that raised $6 million in new funding last month, and one that reflects the company’s expanded goal of providing a new revenue stream for publishers dealing with the somewhat threatening transition from print to digital textbooks.
“The whole world is moving from books to e-books, but the issue there is that students expect to pay way less for an e-book than a book,” BenchPrep co-founder Ashish Rangnekar explained in an interview. “If I’m getting a physical good, I’ll be willing to pay a little bit more than for a digital book. That’s actually a little bit scary for publishers, because for $100 textbook now, they’re getting $30 for the equivalent e-book.”
In order to help mitigate those fears, Rangnekar says that BenchPrep approaches companies offering not a way to convert or enhance their existing printed materials with digital versions, but instead providing an entirely new product that leverages their existing intellectual property and content.
“When we go to them, what we try to do is we create a completely new product category,” he said. “So we create a course; we don’t create an electronic or interactive textbook, we don’t create an enhanced version of a book, we completely break it down and create a new product bottoms up that’s a much more interactive course than the book itself.”
That then looks to students like a new, premium value-add product that supplements rather than replaces the existing textbook material from BenchPrep’s publishing partners, according to Rangnekar, meaning they’re much more likely to want to pay for that than pay print prices for a digital textbook. And since BenchPrep is using the materials provided by publishers to do most of the heavy lifting, the additional cost on their side is minimal, and money made through revenue sharing on BenchPrep courses is pretty much entirely new positive cash flow.
For publishers looking for ways to weather the transition from print to digital in textbooks, there are options like Kno and Apple’s iBooks, which offer digitization options with varying degrees of platform reach and feature enhancement, but BenchPrep is hoping to appeal to publishers looking for something more out of the deal. The startup has managed to add all of the new publishers and course titles to its roster in just the past six weeks since the funding announcement, according to Rangnekar, so it looks like there’s strong interest in this kind of approach from an industry in flux.