Textbook publisher says blockchain could help it take a cut from second hand sales

The chief executive officer of Pearson, one of the world’s largest textbook publishers, said he hopes technology like non-fungible tokens and the blockchain could help the company take a cut from second hand sales of its materials as more books go online.

The print editions of Pearson’s titles – such as “Fundamentals of Nursing,” which sells new for £57.99 ($70.88) – can be resold several times to other students without making the London-based education group any money. As more textbooks move to digital, CEO Andy Bird wants to change that.

“In the analogue world, a Pearson textbook was resold up to seven times, and we would only participate in the first sale,” he told reporters following the London-based company’s interim results on Monday, talking about technological opportunities for the company.

“The move to digital helps diminish the secondary market, and technology like blockchain and NFTs allows us to participate in every sale of that particular item as it goes through its life,” by tracking the material’s unique identifier on the ledger from “owner A to owner B to owner C,” said Bird, a former Disney executive.

On Monday Pearson reported results ahead of analyst estimates, reiterated its full-year outlook, and announced it would find £100 million in cost savings. It also launched a strategic review of a Virtual Learning business called OPM.

Shares rose 10% at 11:12 a.m. in London on Monday, their biggest intraday move since the company received a takeover approach in March.

The NFT market has taken a downturn after a boom in speculation during the pandemic, but the comments underscore how Pearson and its competitors are finding ways to shift from a paper book market where an individual title can cost more than £100 to a digital market where it sells online textbook subscriptions.

It’s not the only new technology Pearson is looking at.

“We have a whole team working on the implications of the metaverse and what that could mean for us,” Bird added.


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Textbook publisher says blockchain could help it take a cut from second hand sales