Video Cliff’s Notes

English Lit majors will hate me for this, but I believe most people are perfectly happy with an entertaining plot summary and some bullet-point takeaways.  I once met a woman who thought The Death of Ivan Ilyich was the greatest book ever written.

Spoiler alert: he dies.

I think people have a basic desire to know and understand classic literature — enough to be conversational and maybe get some trivia questions right.  Certain works are part of our collective culture — but that doesn’t mean we need them read it line-by-line and analyze every passage.  (As my English class did with Heart of Darkness).

Even as an ace student, I relied heavily on Cliff’s Notes.  But the problem is, they’re not much better than reading the actual book.

The Pitch:

Create short videos for classic books.  I’m picturing some pen-and-ink-style animation like the Story of Stuff YouTube videos, but really it’s up to you.

  • Plot summary
  • Literary analysis
  • Historical significance
  • 5-10 minutes MAX

Well TED talks get away with 20 minutes so maybe people will have a longer attention span, especially if they’re paying you.  And even at 20 minutes, you’re still saving them HOURS over actually reading.

How to Monetize:

You could turn this into a business in a few different ways.  You could put up a few teaser videos   to get people interested, and keep most content behind a paid membership wall.  The advantage of this is the recurring revenue stream and the scalability.

Another option is to charge by the title.  The price point would have to be pretty low, but there’s a lot of volume potential.  I mean every year how many millions of students have to read Hamlet, right?

A third monetization strategy would be to give all the short video away for free, and charge for “premium” service — access to your team of English majors or librarians, more in-depth analyses, one-on-one essay writing help, etc.  It would be more labor intensive but could be positioned as a more high-end service.

What do you think?  Start-up costs wouldn’t be huge.  Just need an animator/video editor and a giant passion for literature.

Disclaimer: I’m a reader.  But I think there are a lot of people who would find value in this service.  This business idea isn’t about cheating; it’s about making learning more fun and efficient.