Blackwell’s e-textbook platform, Blackwell Learning, has been sold to rival Kortext for an undisclosed sum.
The academic bookseller launched the platform in September 2014 after developing it for over a year at a special site based on London’s “Silicon Roundabout” and had partnered with 20 academic institutions in the last financial year.
Going forward, Blackwell’s will sell e-textbooks through a partnership with Kortext in a revenue-sharing deal, Dean Drew, Blackwell’s sales and marketing director told The Bookseller, although he would not disclose the terms of the agreement.
After a short transition period, the Blackwell Learning platform will close and its two remaining staff will join Kortext, he added. Matthew Emery, former head of the Blackwell Learning, has recently joined Bloomsbury as its academic sales manager.
David Prescott, Blackwell’s chief executive, said the company was “committed” to providing customers with both digital and print textbooks but he believed it was better to do this via a partnership with Kortext rather than “continuing to invest in a separate platform”.
“The e-learning market is growing and we are committed to providing our customers with both the print textbooks they require as well as access to the best personal study platform in the market,” he said. “We believe that we are best able to achieve this by partnering with Kortext rather than continuing to invest in a separate platform. Alongside our shops, our ecommerce platform and our strong corporate and institutional relationships this new partnership will help us provide the best solutions and service to our customers as they transition from print to digital usage as part of everyday learning.”
Blackwell’s rival in the academic textbook sales market, the J S Group, owned by Peter Gray, also sells e-textbooks through Kortext. Kortext is owned by Gray’s brother James Gray. He said: “This announcement builds on our determination to work in partnership with the education sector to provide the broadest access to digital learning resources and the best student experience in using those resources.”
He added: “Blackwell’s has an outstanding academic reputation and has been supplying students and universities with textbooks for nearly 139 years…Many of the leading universities in the world such as Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh are Blackwell’s customers and we are excited to partner with them during this time of incredible change in education.”
Blackwell’s first announced it was building a “multi-million pound” e-textbook platform in April 2014, lead by its former digital director Matthew Cashmore, who established a “skunkworks” in London’s Old Street, dubbed the city’s “Silicon Roundabout”, to develop the venture. By that time though, Kortex was already operating in the market and had several partnerships in place with university courses to provide students with e-textbooks via a partnership the J S Group.
While Blackwell Learning saw a 94% increase in the value of student purchases of e-books in its latest financial year and worked with 20 institutions, individual student purchases only made up 6% of e-book revenue, a spokesperson told The Bookseller in September. Meanwhile, Kortext has partnerships in place with 45 univerities.