Monday, August 21, 2006

Textbook Transformations

Ads Coming to Textbooks

We've seen start-up companies change the face of a variety of industries, so the idea that a start-up company could exert sufficient influence on the markets to pressure textbook conglomerates to change is not unimaginable. However, the vignettes about textbook industries who have tried ad-filled textbooks and rejected the model is amusing to me in the sense that it epitomizes the one-chance-one-strategy-at-a-time, top-down, business model sort of approach (the most important people are the professors who decide what texts to use) instead of a more creative, flexible, imaginative approach that demonstrates an understanding of the "real" target audience (students), the pressures at play in the system (including the inflexibility of textbook conglomerates), and uses a bundled set of strategies to leverage change at multiple points in the system. I wonder if the textbook publishing industry will pay attention, or if it will wait until it finds itself scrambling to keep market share. I think in the digital age, it is dangerous to assume that the old models will continue to work, that bigger is better, that those with the most money will be the most likely to succeed. There are other kinds of capital besides that of a financial nature, and people are starting to figure out how to use it.

The "between the lines" part of this article is also interesting. The article begins with the premise that professors select textbooks because they are critical to students' learning. It continues to extrapolate that premise by suggesting that students who choose not to buy the texts must be missing out on the materials, and equates missed material as missed learning. If the initial premise was sound, the logic might hold, but . . . ;-)

The most interesting part of this model to me are the downloadable texts and iChapters. Convenient, customizable, economical, searchable . . . certainly likely to appeal to a generation of students who are constantly connected.

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