Wanna Buy a Used Textbook Company?

August 22, 2013

I should be more polite: Would you like to invest in a 181-year-old company that publishes textbooks for kids? (more…)

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Publishers Sleep Easy After Apple Textbook “Disruption”

January 19, 2012

At first I thought we should blame ourselves for getting our knickers all in a knot when the rumors started circulating that Steve Jobs’ deadly forces of disruption, honoring his dying wishes, had turned their sights on textbooks. But don’t we frighten easily!

Then I felt angry at Apple. (more…)

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Books Face Extinction as Schools go High-Tech

September 14, 2009

Well it certainly wins the inflammatory headline of the day award. This silly article in the Boston Herald would be OK with me if it said “printed books threatened,” or something approaching that line of thought. But we are not yet referring to the woolly mammoth.

Among the choice quotes:

1. ““If you look at a textbook it’s very static. It’s very convoluted,” said Hopkinton High math teacher Carla Crisafulli…”

2. “Students do not currently like to read textbooks,” said John Madis, business manager for Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. “It’s not just in their normal lifestyle to read from a book.”

3. Hopkinton High senior Marisa Clark, 16, is enrolled in an online journalism class this fall. She said online courses are more work than teacher-led classes. “I really like all the online courses and I would take more if I could,” she said.

I’m all for the introduction of online teaching aids in education. I question the future of the printed textbook. But I’m not yet willing to send them to the death camps, and I know that very few schools are ready either.

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Separating the BS from the Kindle DX

May 7, 2009

I had a grand plan tonight to create an in-depth article debunking all of the false (or, at best, misleading) information that surrounded today’s launch of the Kindle DX.

It had the same title as this blog entry.

The article began:

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Hush now, don’t explain
Just say you’ll remain
Unless you’re mad, don’t explain
–    Billie Holiday, Arthur Herzog

The subscription-only PublishersLunch remarked that “DX” must mean “didn’t explain,” noting that:

“The company still insists on calling the unit Kindle DX, though as far as we could tell, DX stands for “didn’t explain.” As in, didn’t explain the name; didn’t explain when it’s
available (except for “this summer”); didn’t explain any of the details of the textbook pilots; didn’t explain the incentive pricing to newspaper subscribers; and so on.”

Amazon’s announcement of the larger format Kindle DX is generating as much media coverage as the release of the Kindle 2, following on the reputed success of the original Kindle.

This summary article examines the claims made by Amazon and also by the wide-eyed sycophants in the press who have been infected with what is increasingly referred to as Bezosmania.

(The standard disclaimer: I’ve never worked with Amazon, its partners or competitors. And I’ve spent a ton of money with Amazon over the years, albeit not on Kindle eBooks, as these are still not available in Canada for reasons too obtuse to segue into here.)

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Then I made the tactical error of having a hearty home-made dinner, and compounded the error by reading the recent “Digital Issue” of Advertising Age.

And when finished with the hype in that issue I could only think: who cares if the news surrounding the Kindle DX is 90% hype and 10% loose data?

People would far rather believe that Amazon is blazing trails (after all, it’s stock is up 60% this year).

Why rain on everyone’s parade? I can debunk virtually every Amazon and press statement issued today surrounding this product. But why bother?

Carry on…the sun is shining above the rain-sodden clouds in Seattle. All will be well.

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The Revolution in Educational Publishing

August 8, 2008

Most folks who are following publishing today ignore how far the revolution is spreading. The challenge facing (mostly North American) newspapers grabs the headlines, magazine publishing produces a tear or two, while book publishing is embattled merely by those silly eBooks, that may one day change the landscape of publishing, but in the meantime are what Geoffrey Moore might categorize as favored by “early adopters.”

The only people who think about textbook publishing are educators and their students (and the publishers themselves). Pricing for textbooks has far outpaced inflation for several years now. One might say (if one was not an educational publisher) that textbook pricing has become outrageous. Beyond the pricing is the issue of the efficacy of traditional textbooks in an era of new learning techniques and technology. That argument generates a host of controversy, except amongst elderly educators and the larger textbook publishers.

It always intrigues me that textbook publishing is most unique for one factor alone: those who must purchase textbooks are not the actual people who make the purchase decision. Educators dictate which textbooks are required for a course and the student must pay up regardless. (I’ll ignore the influence of the publishers’ sales reps in this process.)

I’ve just added an update to my article on educational publishing. I’ve got some additional data to add later, but have recently been in contact with the folks at Flat World Knowledge, who are taking as radical a jump on where textbooks should be as any startup I’ve encountered.

Start with FREE. Start with great original content. Flat World’s digital texts can be downloaded for free (beginning next year). Of course “free” is not a business model, so there’s an option to get a printed version of the text for a third or less of traditional textbooks.

In talking to co-founder Eric Frank they’ve got other ideas to provide value for cash, and to me the concepts sound worthwhile. Time will tell.

I intend to continue on this site to cover the revolution in educational practice, particularly as it applies to publishing. I think that the innovations in educational publishing are amongst the most exciting developments we’re encountering and could well serve as a lesson to all other publishers.

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