Tim O’Reilly points out some very cool publishing models being used by Logos Bible Software. The have a pre-publishing service in which clients commit to order at a discount in exchange for placing a pre-order for a specific product and Logos can guarantee that there costs are covered. Each potential pre-publish book has a meter which displays the current level of pre-orders.
Far more interesting than that though is their Community Pricing model in which they don’t preset the price for a book but lay out the pricing curve for developing an electronic version of the book and invite consumers to bid a price that they are prepared to pay for it.
Once sufficient offers are received to produce the edition are received, the price is fixed at the optimum point and everyone pays the same price. Subsequent copies are charged at a markup. More information on the community pricing model is available on their site.
I think this concept could be developed in a very interesting manner for non-profit publishing, particularly in the education sector in developing countries. Applying this model to print, as opposed to just electronic, publishing could theoretically make it even more effective in driving down costs. Because print costs vary dramatically according to quantity, you could create a sliding scale of costs arrayed against market demand. Consumers would have to bid on both quantity and price and would be able to see what quantities were needed to bring about a further drop in price. It would make it easy to aggregate demand and very transparent in terms what sorts of quantities and costs are involved. This could make for a pretty cool non-profit Lulu-style enterprise model that would help solve a critical challenge, namely getting electronic OER resources in print form into the hands of students.