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When a lifestyle guru or health advocate publishes new proscriptions and suggestions, fans often flock to the books, in search of advice on how to live their lives more happily, healthily, or successfully. But the published book can seem like a “one-and-done” proposition. Once a reader has finished the book, then what?

One publisher has the answer: Buy an online video course, in which the favored author offers continued tips and ideas. Consumers also can participate in online question-and-answer sessions with the authors, granting them continued access to the ideas and suggestions that underlie the philosophy they have found helpful.

Businessman working at desk at homeFor example, Dr. David B. Agus reached best-seller status with his book, The End of Illness. His online course, “A Short Guide to a Long Life,” offers workbooks and exercises for participants to complete. The $25 cost of the course is, as Dr. Agus notes, equivalent to the average copayment required by primary care doctors in the United States.

The other authors with online courses currently available are the self-help author Zhena Muzyka and the spiritual advisor Tosha Silver. In due time, Simon & Schuster plans to add about 12–15 more authors to the online course offerings. The courses are accessible through the authors’ own websites, as well as a dedicated site maintained by the publisher.

In charging for this content, Simon & Schuster seemingly is taking something of a risk, because many consumers have grown accustomed to receiving video content for free, such as through YouTube. Book buyers also might feel as if they already have paid for the advice and should receive the follow-up information for free. But it is gambling that these popular authors can convince their fans to purchase the additional media. In this sense, the publisher and authors are working together to promote all the channels through which consumers can access the authors’ advice. The publisher allows the author to set the price for the courses and promises to share the revenues with them, though the exact breakdown of the profits remains confidential information.

Discussion Question:

Would you pay for an online course taught by an author whose book you have read and liked?

SOURCE: Alexandra Alter, “Simon & Schuster to Sell Online Courses Taught by Popular Authors,” The New York Times, January 11, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com

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