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February 29 2012

Customized self-publishing is the future of textbooks

This post is part of the TOC podcast series. You can also subscribe to the free TOC podcast through iTunes.

The textbook publishing market is ripe for reinvention. Everyone complains about the high prices and low resale values. The conversion to digital should change all that, right? In this interview, I talk with John Conley, vice president of publishing and commercial print at Xerox. Conley has worked extensively in the textbook sector and shares his thoughts on where we are today and what's likely to change in the future.

Key points from the full video interview (below) include:

  • Textbooks taking on less of a role in higher-ed — They may not completely disappear but textbooks will lose their spot as the primary teaching element in many courses. [Discussed at the 3:04 mark.]
  • The K-12 shift will take longer — Budgets, regulatory issues, etc., mean the transition from print to digital won't happen anytime soon. [Discussed at 3:30.]
  • "Customized self-publishing" is the future — It's all about instructors having access to a large repository of content that they can build their own custom solutions around. [Discussed at 4:43.]
  • Is $14.99 the e-textbook price of the future? — Apple took a page out of Amazon's playbook by introducing the first wave of iBooks Author-created textbooks at $14.99. Even the initial $9.99 price for most Kindle titles has crept up, thanks to the agency model, and $14.99 isn't likely to become the standard e-textbook price. [Discussed at 8:12.]
  • Native app vs. HTML5 or EPUB 3 — It's not so much about the platform architecture as it is about the content and how cost-effective that platform is. [Discussed at 17:10.]

You can view the entire interview in the following video.


September 22 2011

Textbooks should not be consumed in isolation

This post is part of the TOC podcast series, which we'll be featuring here on Radar in the coming months.

Textbook publisher Inkling recently published its 51st textbook for the iPad. Company founder and CEO Matt MacInnis (@stanine) recently sat down with O'Reilly's Joe Wikert to talk about the company and how its goals go way beyond traditional textbook education.

Highlights from the interview include:

  • Textbook design is going to change — "We don't think the products people pay for a few years from now are going to be as distinct as the textbook is today from other print products ... when you think about learning about cellular biology or something medical, or you think about learning how to crochet or cook or travel — a lot of those products are going to start to look much more similar. They're going to be more modular or they're going to be more hierarchical — they're going to be more interactive. Although our focus today is most certainly on the textbook, there's a whole world of opportunity for this kind of technology." [Discussed at the 1:51 mark.]
  • The way textbooks are consumed is going to change — "When you think about the chapter, it is a division of content that's really rooted in the structure of the book ... [We think that as we work with publishers] to build natively digital content, you won't have a chapter. You'll actually have an object or you'll have something that is learning- and outcome-focused that you'll pay for as a modular bit of content." [Discussed at 4:13.]
  • Social features work particularly well with textbooks — "Human beings are wired to learn from one another. The textbook is a fundamentally isolating experience, and sometimes that's good ... but with a textbook it's not such a great thing to be totally isolated from the world around you. It's okay to focus, but you also need to bounce ideas off people and ask questions and have people show you things you don't understand. Our goal is to bring the community of learners around you into the textbook experience so that the content is one of the ways you learn when you're using Inkling." [Discussed at 7:30.]

For more on Inkling check out the full discussion in the following video:

TOC Frankfurt 2011 — Being held on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, TOC Frankfurt will feature a full day of cutting-edge keynotes and panel discussions by key figures in the worlds of publishing and technology.

Save 100€ off the regular admission price with code TOC2011OR


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