Educational publishing is an exciting place to be. I know, you think they have a pr problem with pricing and ripping off the poor student and perhaps the print environment isn’t forward thinking and what about used books, but despite all that they are going to gain not loose business over the next five years. Educational publishing is changing rapidly with the largest publishers investing in their content, the distribution of that content, and establishing social networks to engage the educational community. What is really exciting in the higher educational market is that the publishers are in a position to create a community of interest between the publishers, the educator, the student, and the administration. Additionally, it is even possible to see the parent in this community as well.
A few seismic changes have fractured the industry’s paradigm over the past five years. The migration to electronic educational material, the development of electronic platforms at institutions and a more recent focus on the benefits of social networking which take their form in testing and tutoring tools. What a publisher is now able to do is offer a student a range of content – in addition to the material required by the professor – which they can refer to for their entire student life as part of their “ electronic bookshelf”. (Obviously, this relationship can extend to life long learning thereby in theory extending the revenue per student significantly). As an electronic desktop the student may use one of the enterprise-wide educational platforms installed at many schools such as Blackboard and webCT. These tools aid the institution in tracking usage, feedback on materials, grade and maintain advisor to student links. Other benefits enable course management and content management for the institution. Lastly the more recent phenomenon of social networking is taking form in the expansion of testing and evaluation. Pearson for one, has invested heavily in the past twelve months to acquire testing companies that have established positions in the education market. What Pearson and others will do is to forge a tight bond with the students through evaluative testing, additional problem sets and assignments, feedback and tutoring. While these acquired companies may not operate completely as a myspace.com of education now, the intent is there to build a networked community of interest around the content the publisher has created.
Certainly not every course taken by a student is one which will retain their interest for life; however, most normal students will take courses in areas where they have some interest and this interest stays with them for life. Publishers have an opportunity to nurture that interest for an extended period of time and will be actively promoting life long learning programs via online courses, webinars, tutoring, offline seminars and travel, as well as the capacity to interact online with a large group of interested students and faculty.
Part two: How will the Publisher price their content and what is the position of the bookstore in all of this? Coming Soon – when I get around to it.