According to a report by the German website heise.de, 27 educational publishers are preparing a joint textbook distribution platform, with plans to unveil an early “preview version” during the didacta trade show in Hannover, Germany, on February 14th, 2012.
The platform is supposed to directly compete with Apple’s textbook initiative, aiming to supply the primary and both secondary levels of school in Germany (1). Apple’s solution, which is currently only available in the U.S., is aimed at K-12 (2) students and institutions.
The solution sounds too good to be true from the consumer’s perspective: Not only will schools, teachers and students be able to read, use and manage books from different publishers in digital bookshelves on the publisher-neutral platform, it is also intended to work on “all devices and operating systems”. The launch of the platform is targeted for the beginning of the school year 2012/13, which is equally bold.
Traditionally, the German publishing sector has been described as very slow-moving and conservative, which is unsurprising given that Germany has a strict Fixed Book Price Law in place, shielding it from unwanted competition based on price.
The news that companies from this sector are about to leapfrog a service by Apple that isn’t even available in Germany yet suggests two things: Either they’ve been in talks with Apple already — which would be unsurprising — and didn’t like what Apple was proposing in terms of price, control and distribution. Or they were so spooked by Apple’s offering for the U.S. that they’re scrambling to get something out the door in Germany before Apple’s service gains popularity anywhere else in the world.