If you went to college (or dropped out of college—hey, all the tech wunderkinder are doing it), you’re already rolling your eyes. Yeah, Pearson could disrupt the NFT space by selling textbooks as NFTs. Let’s set aside the anger and explore what it means for new startups.
Pearson? Textbooks? NFTs?
Maybe you somehow have the luck of never encountering a Pearson textbook. Pearson textbooks are hundreds of dollars and usually required by a class. Even better, Pearson has worked hard to ensure you can’t get their textbooks on the secondary market.
It began with edition inflation. Every year another edition… so you couldn’t just use an old book. Next, there were codes attached to each book for an “online lab,” even books that really didn’t need an online portion. These codes were one-time-use only, so again, you couldn’t sell the book.
Now NFTs are the latest in Pearson’s pursuit of profit.
Removing the secondary market
But actually, this isn’t about NFTs. Not really. It’s about removing the secondary market. Pearson has been clear that it hates that its books can be resold. A used textbook can be sold up to seven times, even with multiple editions and lab codes.
Removing the secondary market is happening everywhere. Earlier this month, HBO axed a tremendous portion of its library. People were mad, but they can’t do anything about it; they don’t actually own the library, they just own access to it.
Pearson’s NFTs also remove the secondary market but use an entirely different strategy. What you’re purchasing now is your access to this book. You can’t sell it because you only purchased your access. And if Pearson goes through with this, there will probably be limited access; the Terms of Service will likely state that the service could go down or disappear entirely without liability to the company.
NFTs, web3, and the world of artificial scarcity
We’ve talked about this before, but what web3 commerce does very frequently is create artificial scarcity. Planet #24928 of the Metaverse could have infinite lots, but if we produce only 100 lots, then we profit. This isn’t new. A painter could sell 4,000,000 prints, but they chose to sell 40 because that makes their work valuable and rare.
The extraordinary thing, of course, about this new economy is that anything can become rare art, including a Pearson textbook on Quantitative Analysis for management. Many of the most successful NFT products dabble with these elements of artificial scarcity. You might pay $5 for a hat for your Metaverse avatar now, but what if we told you it was the only one in the world?
More importantly, NFTs are moving firmly into mainstream space. CNN is selling NFTs of articles. While the world hasn’t quite gotten a handle, universally, on what an NFT is or what it means, they have continued to embrace it.
That’s some good news in the world of bad.
The funding window is closing—so go find your unicorn
If you haven’t loaded up Reddit in a minute, you might not realize that the unicorns are missing. In a reference only millennials will get, they’ve been driven back into the sea. Bottom line: You’re running out of time.
Investors are pulling back. Layoffs are rampant. Startups are having a hard time. The time to throw out a quick mobile app and make millions of dollars was slightly before the Robinhood app launched. Things are getting lean out there.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities. You can see that mainstream adoption of NFT, blockchain, and cryptocurrency continues even after the disastrous series of crashes this year. Pearson’s consideration of NFTs means mainstream companies still welcome the idea, provided that NFTs and cryptocurrency can solve their extant pain points. What pain points could your blockchain solve?