Monday, May 7, 2012

An Interview with Textbook Media Press

As part of an ongoing feature, we've sat down and asked some of our wonderful content partners a number of questions about their businesses, their partnership with us, and the future of the industry. This time we spoke with Textbook Media Press.

If you're interested in keeping up to date with more interviews like the one below, the state of course materials and ed tech in general, or AcademicPub in specific, be sure to follow us on your social network of choice whether that's TwitterFacebookGoogle+ or LinkedIn. Click below to read the interview.

AP: Tell us about your company, what disciplines you publish in, and your history.

TM: We’re a Minneapolis/Madison based company that‘s been publishing affordable textbooks for select college courses since 2004.  We specialize in acquiring the rights to under-served textbooks previously published by bigger publishers and revising them for digital fulfillment direct to students. That means a quality textbook from proven authors—a textbook developed via peer reviews and class testing, and includes ancillaries for instructors and students--but one that is offered to the market at a fraction of the previous price. 

My colleague, Edgar Laube, and I have both have been in higher education publishing for thirty years. We’ve worked in the industry as sales reps, editors, marketing managers, executive publishers, and have held other executive positions, including a couple of stints as CEO. We’ve worked for a variety of mid-sized and larger publishers, including imprints now owned by McGraw Hill and Cengage Learning. TMP is the third publishing company we’ve launched. (The previous companies were acquired by larger publishers).

In a way, TMP is a culmination of our greatest hits. Our previous work – and our focus at TMP – centers on harnessing technology to deliver a more affordable publication. We see ourselves as market pragmatists who follow a blend of guidelines developed over the years, including finding and working with highly productive authors, and, then producing and delivering their work in a cost-efficient manner. Our publishing model has been honed over seven years in the market, servicing hundreds of instructor users and delivering affordable textbooks to over a million college students. 

AP: Why did you choose to partner with AcademicPub?

TM: Some of our instructor customers want to customize our publications.  We were looking for a partner who could help us meet these customer needs, but without charging an arm and a leg for the end product.  When Caroline showed us how easy it was to use Academic Pub, we were blown away. And then when she showed us what the price to students would be, we signed up immediately.  We were one of the first textbook publishers to sign up.

As noted above, we attempt to be pragmatists.  For a long time, custom publishing generated more heat than light.  Meaning that it was fun to talk about, but once you got under the hood and started dealing with specifics, it usually got messy – and expensive.  Academic Pub changes all of that.   It harnesses technology to deliver a more affordable publication… and it’s so easy to use!  We’re excited about the prospects for our publications at AcademicPub.  Instructors looking to combine base-case textbook coverage with their specific material—be it readings, cases, additional text—can’t go wrong by using AcademicPub.  They’ll be delighted by the ease of use and-- if they use any of our material—by the price to their students.

AP: Do you have a view on the future of course materials you’d like to share?

TM: We’re in for a wild ride.  We keep our eye on developments in these three areas: price, technology and fulfillment.

Regarding price, decision-makers are increasingly being forced to consider price when selecting course materials.  That dynamic is intensifying daily, as traditional media, government and social media keeps focusing on the real cost of higher education.  Instructors who continue to select $150 to $200 textbooks are getting raked in student social media venues like Rate My Professor. So we fully expect the price issue to remain in the spotlight for the near future.

Regarding technology, while it’s clear that there’s a ton of promise with e-textbooks—and what publishers are doing with technology to make a “better” textbook (smarter, faster, cheaper)—the reality right now is the market isn’t totally enamored with digital books. About 45% our student users select the paperback version over the digital versions—even though the paperbacks cost twice as much as our online textbook, and the online textbook is full color, and features search, notes, highlighting, etc. That noted, we believe the move towards digital course materials will continue, just at a slower pace than the buzz would have you believe.

Regarding distribution, the playing field is shifting quickly.  We were one of the first college publishers to sell directly to students.  Now we have a lot of company in that all the publishers have direct channels.  When we started Textbook Media, textbook rentals were a small portion of the market. That’s changed significantly.  And academic institutions are exploring ways to leverage their clout in delivering course materials to their students—either through the bookstore or some other point of purchase.  There are a number of possible game changers out there, ranging from Amazon to Missouri Books, and as a small publisher we’re working with channel partners like Academic Pub to make sure our publications are flowing to the market in a variety of ways.

AP: Tell us a bit about the most important titles you publish:

TM: Our primary publishing focus is on Business and Economics courses and select social science courses in Political Science and Psychology.  This spring we’ve added a number of new instructor-users of our widely known and highly popular Principles of Economics books by Tim Taylor (Managing Editor of The Journal of Economic Perspectives). In fall 2012, we’ll be publishing two major revisions:  the 6th edition of our highly successful Financial Management by Tim Gallagher (Colorado State) and the 10th edition of the highly regarded Hermanson-Edwards Accounting Series, which is being revised by Jeff Williams from the University of Michigan.  And to follow on to our recent publications in Marketing Principles and Marketing Strategy, we’ll be introducing two other marketing titles this next year—revisions of previously published works for Consumer Behavior and International Marketing courses.  

That noted, we see the most interest in customizing via Academic Pub in courses where cases and readings are important to the instructor.  This includes Business Law, American Government  and Strategic Marketing—books where our authors provide concise coverage of the core concepts, knowing that instructors like to pick and choose their own material to package with the textbook.  What’s great about our teaming with Academic Pub is that instructors can do just that in a fast and easy manner, and know that the end price to their students will still be, as we like to say, “uniquely affordable.”

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