Sunday, September 21, 2008

Media Week 38

New York Times reports on text book sales and pricing.
“The person who pays for the book, the parent or the student, doesn’t choose it,” he said. “There is this sort of creep. It’s always O.K. to add $5.”

In protest of what he says are textbooks’ intolerably high prices — and the dumbing down of their content to appeal to the widest possible market — Professor McAfee has put his introductory economics textbook online free. He says he most likely could have earned a $100,000 advance on the book had he gone the traditional publishing route, and it would have had a list price approaching $200.

“This market is not working very well — except for the shareholders in the textbook publishers,” he said. “We have lots of knowledge, but we are not getting it out.”

VentureBeat notes the success of an IPhone book reader from Stanza:
Stanza is currently the number one ebook app for the iPhone, and chief operating officer Neelan Choksi shared some other impressive stats with me. In its first six weeks, Stanza was downloaded 200,000 times — compare that to Amazon’s Kindle, which is seen as building momentum because it sells 40,000 units per month. Okay, that’s a totally unfair comparison, since Stanza is a free app. But if you can get a free ebook reader for your iPhone, why bother paying for the Kindle, or even a more cutting-edge reader like Plastic Logic’s? (Though of course the Amazon’s and Plastic Logic’s readers offer bigger screens, which is better for long-term reading.) People are actually downloading books, too — Choksi says one of Stanza’s content providers reports 20,000 downloads per day.
Rupert Murdoch has a rethink on subs for the WSJ from the Guardian:
Rupert Murdoch yesterday claimed online subscription revenues at the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones could rise by $300m (£164m) every year for up to three years, hinting that he will raise access charges to the financial news site.
For the moment the Informa deal appears to be dead (Guardian):
In a statement the consortium - comprising Providence Equity Partners, Carlyle and Blackstone Group - said it "has decided to withdraw its proposal" following the Informa board's rejection of its offer two weeks ago. The consortium also cited "a material change of circumstances" as one of the reasons behind its decision.
John Makinson interviewed by The Times on plans to expand into emerging markets like Pakistan:

Mr Makinson, 53, believes that Penguin can generate 10 per cent of its sales from emerging markets, which amounts to £100 million a year. The operation in India grew by 25 per cent last year, boosting turnover by £15 million and should, Mr Makinson says, generate 5 per cent of revenues in five years.

That fuels a belief that Penguin's growth can be boosted, although Mr Makinson points out that the business “has hardly let the side [Pearson] down - profits have grown in double digits in 2005, 2006, 2007 and is expected to again in 2008”.

University of Michigan places an Espresso Machine in one of their libraries (PR):
U-M is the first university library to install the book-printing machine. The Espresso Book Machine, from On Demand Books of New York, produces perfect-bound, high-quality paperback books on demand. A Time Magazine "Best Invention of 2007," the Espresso Book Machine has been called "the ATM of books." It was purchased with donations to U-M libraries.
Why experience matters. NYTimes.

Alison Pendergast notes the University of Ohio is offering grants to faculty to produce course content:

However, in addition to this news, a smaller piece of news that didn't grab as much attention was the University System of Ohio offering Grants to its faculty to produce course content in an effort to move away from having Ohio students purchase branded textbooks. From the Program Synopsis:

The University System of Ohio (USO) will invest $250,000 to create affordable digital content for Ohio students and bring the digital learning materials to market in Autumn of 2009. The program goals are to:

Create learning materials that are cost-free for Ohio students; usher in a new era of digitally-delivered learning materials that, properly implemented, can improve student learning, and leverage high quality authorship and pedagogy from Ohio faculty members.

(Aside, I hope the textbooks they produce get a bit better editing than this RFP...)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is to establish an Headquarters in Dublin and hire 450 people. (It's nice in Dublin). Finfacts:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (formerly Riverdeep) is to invest €350m in eLearning research and development with significant support from Enterprise Ireland. HMH is to establish its global eLearning research and development centre in the greater Dublin area, creating 450 "high-value" jobs over the next 5 years.

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