Ending Book Hunger: Social Publishing and the Power of Mission-Driven Innovation
10 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2015 Last revised: 1 Apr 2020
Date Written: November 22, 2015
Around the world, billions of people find that books are too expensive, too difficult to find, or are simply not being published in the languages that they speak. The problem of “book hunger” is pervasive across the developing world, and for lower-income adults and children in the United States. This market failure comes at an enormous social cost. The lack of affordable and appropriate reading material is holding back education as a path out of poverty.
Fortunately, a solution exists.
This book examines the growing sector of “social publishing,” an emerging non-profit sector driven by the belief that all people should enjoy opportunities to read, regardless of their income or native language. This book offers a descriptively rich, accessible account of the inspiring world of social publishing, drawing upon extensive interviews with organizational leaders driving the evolution of this emerging sector. Case studies of organizations both in the United States and abroad explore the many challenges social publishers face – including geographic, cost, and language barriers – and the innovative solutions they are developing to forge a new business model for low-cost, multilingual, truly multicultural publishing.
The book’s central objectives are to document the emerging practices of social publishers, to generate insight about what makes their efforts successful or unsuccessful, and to derive broader lessons from this particular case study of social innovation.
A key theme of this research is the role of social mission in driving business model innovation. To deliver books that are appropriate, attractive, and affordable to neglected readerships, social publishers cannot simply imitate the established business models of for-profit publishers. Instead, they are forced to innovate radically different strategies in the areas of content acquisition, production, and marketing. These innovations include free-to-the-reader pricing, digital distribution, open licensing, and distributed authorship. A full appreciation of these innovative business models for social publishing is central to solving the problem of book hunger sustainably and at scale.
More broadly, understanding the phenomenon of “mission-driven innovation” can also inform other initiatives in philanthropy, nonprofit management, social innovation, public policy, and corporate social responsibility.
Keywords: literacy, book hunger, early reading materials, social publishing, social innovation, open access, open educational resources, OER, creative commons, open business models, business model innovation, mission-driven innovation
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