Glyn Moody alerts us to his interesting writeup of how WikiPremed is successfully making money while offering free premed test prep materials
. The story is actually somewhat similar to the story of the free and open textbook publishers, Flatworld Knowledge
. Basically, provide absolutely all of the content for free online, but at the same time, offer up scarce physical products in a useful format as study aids:
Everything is licensed creative commons attribution, and we make the online methods freely available, so for example, you can find the entire set of Physics Flash Cards online. We offer the printed versions of the things for which print may be appropriate for sale for a very reasonable price, and students do buy them because print has its own advantages. We put the whole set of physics cards online (three years of work!) and the students still buy the printed cards any way. Even if they want to support the work, I think they like to have a commercial arrangement and a simple value proposition.
There is one work, however, the Premedical Learning System, which sells for $32.95, where the advantages of the print version are so great, compared to the online presentations of the content, which are extensive, that we call the printed work 'essential' for the course, and it is definitely a good value. It's also a board game!
Students need printed study materials, and they get sick of the computer, so I definitely think there is room for creative commons educational content supported by print publications. I think there is an ethic to not holding content hostage to purchases, but I think there are commercial advantages to the open model as well. I don't doubt that the average customer at WikiPremed has 1000 page views before purchasing anything.
I am sure that if there were registration walls and missing chapters I would have fewer customers.
You can check out WikiPremed here
. One of the interesting points raised by John Wetzel, the creator of the site, is this idea that his average customer has probably viewed more than 1,000 pages before purchasing anything. This goes back to the discussion we had about about ad blocking
, where some insisted that anyone not viewing an ad is of no value at all to a community. But that takes a very static view of the world. In a dynamic view, you realize that anyone viewing your website has the potential to pay you back at some point in the future
-- and that payment may come in many forms. You don't focus on getting paid for every single transaction, but recognize the value of a loyal, lifetime relationship.