MediaFile

Netflix model spreads to college textbooks

E-textbooks may be the way of the future for college campuses, but some scrappy companies are banking on the here and now by offering a solution to bring low-cost textbooks to students, and in some ways they’re taking a page out of movie rental company Netflix Inc’s playbook.Reader

New college textbooks are a $4.5 billion business for dominant players such as Pearson PLC, privately held Cengage Learning and McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.  But upstart companies such as Chegg and BookRenter.com are gaining momentum by offering used books at a discount on their websites, and shipping them to students, who later ship the books back when they are done with them.

If that sounds a little like Netflix’s business model, it may not be that much of a coincidence. Marc Randolph, who was a co-founder of Netflix, is a board member on the privately-held BookRenter.com.

“Very similar to Netflix, we are going to get you your educational content at the most affordable price and the way the students want it,” said Mehdi Maghsoodnia, CEO of BookRenter.com.

Maghsoodnia said the total available market for the used college textbook market is about $4 billion, and his company is in a race with Chegg to capture that market, although at the moment it is only a third the size of Chegg. Maghsoodnia said that BookRenter’s annual revenue is under $50 million, but growing fast.

Layoffs hit The Washington Post after BusinessWeek, AP

Several media reporters wrote on Twitter on Thursday that this was one of the worst weeks in journalism, and it’s hard to argue with them. BusinessWeek is canning a third of its staff as Bloomberg gets ready to buy the magazine. The Associated Press is laying off 90 people as part of its effort to cut payroll costs by 10 percent this year.

And now The Washington Post is laying off staff, sources told me on Friday, and a spokeswoman confirmed.

The Post has cut an unknown number of washingtonpost.com workers, the website folks who until now have worked separately at the dot-com headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, across the river from the Post’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. One source told me up to 10 are going. That’s not as big a number as other places you’ve read about lately, but it’s still a painful cut. (Disclosure: I worked for The Washington Post Co. from 1998 to 2005)

BusinessWeek, where the action happens off-screen

McGraw-Hill set Tuesday as the due date for bids for the ailing BusinessWeek magazine, and at least as of 7:30 pm eastern time, nothing at all has happened. Since this is one of those stories where I’ve encountered absolutely no fruitful sources, I’ve relied on reading the reports of other people.

So what’s going to happen to the business news weekly? Let’s catch up with the latest:

It will not go to Lazard chief Bruce Wasserstein. The owner of New York magazine has enough to deal with in the slumping publishing world already, so he’s gone, reports BusinessWeek columnist Jon Fine.

Whither Windows 7 and its (expected) wake?

A lot may be riding on the release of Microsoft’s newest operating system, Windows 7, which is due in October, not the least of which is an expected rush of advertising to support everything from the software itself, to the computers it will run on to the rival computers it will not run on.

This surge of business is seen coming just as the holiday shopping session gets under way and could help spark the economic turnaround that some suggest will come later this year.

Or maybe not.

According to a survey by ScriptLogic, six in 10 companies plan to skip buying Windows 7. Some will pass on the added cost of the upgrade, while others are concerned about compatibility with existing applications.