Pearson considering move to blockchain and NFT for future digital textbook sales

Originally published at: Pearson considering move to blockchain and NFT for future digital textbook sales | Boing Boing



Just the kind of dick move anyone who’s bought a textbook would expect from this chiseling greedpig industry.


Definitely one of the top reasons that sucks about college. Textbooks are a scam


A professor I follow saw this news and is now looking at free textbooks. As it was, he gave problem sets instead of using what was in the book so people wouldn’t be forced to new editions.

I don’t understand this announcement at all. This works only for digital textbooks, which you have control over anyway and already have a time limit. Just add it as a feature of your backend along with the existing authentication and authorization.


Years ago the school I went to provided textbook rentals that were included in tuition. I don’t know if that’s still the case. If you wanted to keep a book, they would just send a bill.

There was however one general requirement comm class that required you to buy a book. You had to tear out worksheets for assignments. Coincidently, the professor happened to be the book’s author.


They’re looking to juice their share price by using magical Web3 terms. They’re also hoping to offload the backend costs you mention onto the blockchain and smart contracts, always taking their cut on sales on the secondary/used market they hate so much.

The textbook industry deserves to be despised by consumers as much as the event ticketing industry does.


Fuck them. My university now pays faculty to create Open Educational Resource texts for survey classes.


Wouldn’t the grifter prof accept photocopies?

That’s a cool development.


I might be remembering incorrectly, it was a long time ago, maybe we had to turn in the books, or maybe the sheet had to have the perforated edge. I just remember not being able to avoid buying the book even though I had friends who had taken the class the semester prior.


Pearson suuuuuucks! I’m a public school teacher, and they have a healthy share of the the K-12 market as well as the college textbook market. College students may balk at this blockchain nonsense, and responsible colleges may move to open textbooks, but I can assure you that there are tons of school districts that will pay inflated prices to buy these. They already are cool with very restrictive access to their existing electronic texts, and Pearson will undoubtedly spin the blockchain as an added benefit for schools. Hell, they’ll probably charge extra.


That makes sense, although again, something I don’t really understand. Given the visceral reaction that seems to occur every freaking time someone announces NFTs, how does this boost the price?

Wouldn’t gas fees more than cover the cost of a traditional backend? It’s not like they’re coming at this from scratch, they already have a processor and a backend, they’re not some new company with no infrastructure or business relationships.


Because that reaction comes primarily from level-headed individuals, not investors, CEOs, or boardroom members.

If anything, any kind of reasonable NFT model for textbooks would weaken Pearson’s position on electronic textbooks. Right now they charge you stupid fees for limited-time access to an ebook, bundled with online labs that they encourage professors to buy into in order to force students onto their platform. Pearson is in control of all the auth and it’s based on license purchases on their site or through university bookstores, etc. If you own (or buy secondhand) a physical textbook, you still need to get access to the online labs through Pearson.

What might make sense in an NFT version of this model would be for ownership of the NFT to afford access to Pearson’s online content. But if the NFT operated on the same semester clock that their current model does, then operating licensure via NFT doesn’t do anything meaningful; at the end of the semester the owner would have a worthless NFT that doesn’t provide access anymore.

On the other hand, if the NFT embeds a license that offers perpetual access to the content, it can be resold, and then there’s a license transaction to access Pearson’s content that doesn’t time out and that they don’t control (imagine a sidebar on differential textbook pricing in different markets here). None of it makes sense from a licensing / access / technology perspective. Sure, Pearson could include a smart contract in the NFT that would skim cream off of each transaction for them – but only if the transaction happened on a supported exchange. This is still a weaker position than just continuing to sell 6-month licenses through Pearson’s site and using an identity and access system that Pearson controls.

In the normal human world of Pearson’s shitty model, you have to work through a central entity to get access to Pearson’s content. The most unique affordance of blockchain tech – the permissionless, decentralized trust part – is manifestly useless here. If Pearson wants to diminish the secondary market, they already have the technology: stop selling physical books, and push people to their existing platform.

TL;DR: yeah, buzzword bait 100%.


Plenty of fools in the market who believe in this nonsense.

Probably, although they might make it a wash by reducing headcount. Either way, they’ll conveniently use the shareholders’ ignorance about gas fees to sell it to them as a cost savings.


I already refuse to assign anything published by Pearson, and I tell the sales reps exactly why every time they call or email me.


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

Oh, my word! A whole team?! This has assured me that you are committed and wise and I now have full faith in your organization’s inevitable success in these efforts.

I will now buy your stock, which I would not have done if you had only had a half team. Onward to metavictory!


I teach college and use for my class Pearson resources. I do not have sympathy for them but the availability of scans of all their texts are a problem for the company. They have taken some not unreasonable approaches to shore their business. Now they sell not as much the textbook per se, but the acsses to interactive homework systems; they throw in access to etext. Additionally, in a Netflix model, they can provide students access to all their resources for a single fee rather than per book/course. I find these practices acceptable and that’s why I’m still sticking with them.

The NFT bullshit is very surprising to me since I thought they were talking the business in other directions. Maybe this for the highschool, rather than college, market. I am going to send a message about this to the rep i work with.


They’d probably run a dedicated side chain to directly control gas fees and probably accept USD like Candy Digital and other efforts to bury the role of crypto for the consumer.


With that effort required, why even bother? Modifying the dedicated servers you already have is far easier and makes it easier to control fees.

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With that effort required, why even bother? Modifying the dedicated servers you already have is far easier and makes it easier to control fees.

Because buzzwords increase stock prices. Otherwise they wouldn’t have even announced this. They would have just done it.