Between Open Access and Commerce – Case Study of a Freemium Business Model for Academic and Specialist eBooks

Felix Hofmann (PaperC GmbH), Martin Fröhlich (PaperC GmbH)
General Riverside Ballroom
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How can we find a balance between Open Access and Commerce, and offer free knowledge as well as the possibility of commercial profit for publishers and authors? The founders of PaperC believe that freemium business approaches will be the future of publishing. In this session, they will present their project as a case study of how a freemium model could work and revolutionize the ebook market.

One of the central problems of the ebook market is stated as the “Arrow information paradox”: In the fields of information and knowledge, market mechanisms fail because potential customers want to know a product in order to make a purchasing decision. But if this product is itself information, the need for purchasing vanishes once customers know what it contains. Illegal filesharing, which poses a serious threat to publishers, can be considered one of the offsprings of this paradoxal situation.

To circumvent this paradox, the founders of PaperC have developed an online platform for specialist and academic ebooks on the basis of a freemium model. In collaboration with publishers such as O’Reilly, de Gruyter, OECD, and Pearson Education Germany, PaperC offers users to read books online completely free of charge, from first to last page. In addition, PaperC offers valuable premium functions. For a per-page fee, users can save or print pages as PDF, copy text with or without citation, highlight and annotate text selections and manage their research and books in a dedicated online library.

Through offering free reading and grating customers the choice to decide what proportion of the product they want to purchase, PaperC and similar freemium models could help diminish illegal file-sharing and enhance access to knowledge.

PaperC was launched in 2009 and currently offers 10,000 books from 70 publishing houses, including many in English language. It has 75,000 registered users. In 2009, the platform was elected German, "Start-up of the Year“ and won the prestigious AKEP award for innovation in digital publishing by the German publishers association.

The PaperC founders will present and discuss key learnings of their experience with the business model, changes to the model, growth and expected development of the platform and specific aspects such as user types, the platform’s user life cycle, and deep insights into the usage statistics.

Photo of Felix Hofmann

Felix Hofmann

PaperC GmbH

Founder and Managing Director (Strategy / Finance) of PaperC. He studies “Technology Management” (M.A.) at the University of St.Gallen, Switzerland and he has a master’s degree in Business Administration (Entrepreneurship) from the Berlin School of Economics and Law.

Photo of Martin Fröhlich

Martin Fröhlich

PaperC GmbH

Founder and Managing Director of PaperC, responsible for Marketing & Cooperations. He has a master’s degree in Business (Marketing / Int. Management) from the Berlin School of Economics and Law.

  • Ingram Content Group
  • Qualcomm
  • codeMantra
  • Impelsys Inc.
  • Aptara
  • Bowker
  • Connotate
  • HP
  • Jouve North America
  • LibreDigital
  • Malloy
  • MarkLogic
  • Random House, Inc.
  • SPi Global
  • Sterling Commerce
  • Baker & Taylor
  • The BookMasters Group
  • Constellation
  • Jacquette Consulting
  • Mashery
  • Silverchair
  • Wolfram
  • Smashwords, Inc.

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