Whybooks distributes free textbooks to lift burden for university students
Whybooks distributes free textbooks to lift burden for university students
  • Lee Min-jeong
  • 승인 2013.03.30 15:44
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Whybook's new publishing model enabled handing out books for freel. Photo provided by Whybooks.
Whenever a new semester starts, book fees are one of the burdens of many university students, along with the high tuition fee. In order to lighten university students’ “double burden,” social enterprise Whybooks started a business that delivers textbooks to the students free of charge. “I usually take six classes per semester, which costs me at least 100,000 won in total to buy all the class materials,” Hong Se-na (Sungshin Women’s University, 3) said. “Though the books are quite expensive, it is hard to cut down the expenditures as they are inevitable.” Lee Seung-ju, the CEO of Whybooks, first came up with the idea in July 2011. Before he established the company, Lee had worked at two leading publishers, Prentice Hall and McGraw-Hill, for about 18 years. “Recalling those years, starting from the bottom and becoming the head of McGraw-Hill’s Korea office, it was the university students who purchased the books and helped me to continue my career,” Lee said. Lee then thought that to make use of his experiences working in the publishing industry, he could create a new business model that enables course books to be distributed for free. “By the time I was mapping out the plan, claims for half-price tuition on the streets rose throughout the nation,” Lee said. “I realized that I had been treating the students only as a means of business which led me hope to give back the support that I have received from them.” The Whybooks system is based on the contract between the book publishers, authors, and advertisers. Lee first visited publishers and authors to convince them of his plans, and earned permissions or participations in handing out their works at no cost, which made Whybooks free from copyright issues. Afterward, Lee searched for advertising companies who were willing to sponsor the production cost by placing their advertisements inside the publications. As a result, Whybooks created new covers and designs with advertisements, which reduced the margins and standardized the books, while keeping the original contents. “Though we are currently focusing on books for liberal arts courses, we plan to extend the range into class materials for major subjects,” Lee said. “It takes more time to deal with the original editions or translations as overseas companies require more procedures regarding copyrights. Domestic textbooks also have several difficulties dealing with the cost and complicated interests between the bookstores. However, both matters are positively undergoing discussion as a new publishing model, and are expected to be feasible from 2014.” Whybooks is currently producing books for 10 universities, including Kyung Hee University and Myongji University in the Seoul region. The company is planning to increase more participants and universities to join the project and start a WebBook service, which allows students to read electronic books that is compatible with all kinds of readers via the Internet. “Everyone casted doubt on our system, censuring that advertisement should not be inside textbooks,” Lee said. “They may criticize us again when our WebBook is launched. However, I would like to propose not to think ‘why?’ but rather think ‘why not?’”

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