Pearson looks to NFTs to profit from second-hand textbook sales

The CEO of Pearson said NFTs and blockchain provide the potential to track and profit from digital textbooks every time they’re resold.

Educational publisher Pearson is considering turning its textbooks into NFTs as a way to get a cut of the second-hand sales market, according to its CEO.

Textbooks are often resold as students offer the resources they no longer require to others, with students buying used books as a way to save money. It is estimated that US students spend between $628 and $1,471 a year on books and supplies, while textbook prices increase by an average of 12pc with each new edition.

Speaking to reporters after Pearson’s interim results were released this week, CEO Andy Bird said the publisher only makes profits from the first sale, Bloomberg reported.

“In the analogue world, a Pearson textbook was resold up to seven times, and we would only participate in the first sale,” he added.

An NFT, or non-fungible token, is a digital file that verifies identity and ownership using blockchain technology. NFTs have largely been used for images and artwork, but the technology has other potential applications.

Bird said that the move to digital helps “diminish the secondary market” and would allow Pearson to track digital books as they’re transferred from “owner A to owner B to owner C”.

“Technology like blockchain and NFTs allows us to participate in every sale of that particular item as it goes through its life,” Bird added.

London-based Pearson has been making a push into digital books in recent years. The company said in 2019 that it would start releasing its titles in the US college market in digital form first.

This was done as the second-hand sale of books was impacting its profits, Reuters reported. The interest in NFTs appears to be the latest development to reign in the second-hand market and push Pearson further in a digital direction.

The publisher’s interim results show the company had a strong start to 2022, with an underlying sales growth of 6pc and adjusted operating profit up 22pc for the first half of the year.

Affordability advocates have raised concerns in the past that publishers moving to digital options increases their stranglehold on the market by limiting options for students.

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