Lecture for LIS 658 "Publishing, Knowledge Institutions, and Society"
COLLEGE COURSE MATERIALS
•Pays royalties, just like trade and monograph publishing
•Can be quite lucrative for authors, especially compared
•Think old-school trade publishing. Not everybody makes big
bucks, but a few deﬁnitely do, and many make decent bucks.
•Consider that competing books in your niche may be few!
•Is not academically prestigious
•So no joke, a lot of authors are in it for the money.
•(I was approached to write a “textbook” for my LIS 644. I said no
for many and varied reasons, but the money I might have made
wasn’t one of them!)
TAKE A MOMENT
•You’re a student in higher ed. (Method acting!)
•Your textbook prices are a pain in your wallet.
•What do you do about it?
WHAT MANY STUDENTS DO
•Buy from overseas, where prices are lower, via online
•Why are prices overseas lower? Hold that thought.
•Beg the library. (Which pretty much doesn’t work.)
•Don’t buy books for some/all classes.
•This is uncomfortably common, and becoming more so.
PRINT: MANY MARKETS
•Market for new textbooks
•Market for secondhand textbooks
•... from which the publisher and author make no money (ﬁrst sale!)
•... with the Internet as intermediary, this market larger than ever
•Foreign textbook markets
•... often less able to pay high prices than US markets
•... but a huge growth market (colleges popping up all over!), so publishers
still want a presence there
•Market (of sorts) for coursepack/reserves royalties
•... which publishers are trying to use lawsuits and the Copyright Clearance
Center (and non-US analogues) to expand
•… not as important for textbooks speciﬁcally as for other kinds of
classroom-use materials such as scholarly monographs
TAKE A MOMENT...
•You’re a textbook publisher.
•You’re pretty sure the used-textbook and overseas
markets (never mind piracy) are taking a big bite out of
lucrative new-textbook sales.
•What do you do?
•(you’re all college graduates; you’re probably wearily familiar
with the usual gambits...)
YOUR SOMETIMES-SLEAZY OPTIONS
•Update early and often! And as cheaply as possible, to cut down on
additional first-copy costs.
•Authors will play along; it’s their income at stake too.
•Content doesn’t need the update? Too bad. The publisher needs the cash.
•Perishable add-ons (e.g. workbooks, CDs, paywalled websites)
•Make sure those who choose books (faculty) aren’t those who have
to pay for them (students). Cozy up to choosers so you can jack up
prices on payers!
•There’s that dysfunctional-market chooser-payer disconnect again!
•In textbooks, the “review copy” system accomplishes this, as do allied
enrichment materials for instructors.
•Lobby and sue.
•Go digital. Buh-bye, pesky old first sale! Hello, DRM! Hello, bundling!
•“Hybrid” textbooks have been common for some time.
•And unless you’ve taught college recently, you’d be amazed at the instructor
scaffolding that comes with a typical textbook. It’s all digital, of course.
•E-textbooks have not found much of a market otherwise.
•Students mostly HATE them. Lack of annotations, sharing, highlighting, printing,
pagination, resale, retention are common sticking points. (Searchability a plus.)
•Another major problem: lousy production values. Some “e-textbooks” are (I kid
you not) just scan-to-PDFs. Without OCR, even, so they’re not searchable!
•Is this hate partly a generational thing? I don’t know (yet), but it could be. Ten
years ago conventional wisdom was “nobody will read a book onscreen!”
•Enter... e-textbook platforms!
•Publisher/aggregator: “O hai higher ed. Look at all our shiny e-textbooks! U
want them? U can haz them all, for one low, low price!”
•Universities (the few, the large, the gullible): “Wow, sounds great!”
•Me, doing my best Admiral Ackbar impression: “It’s a trap!”
WHERE HAVE WE HEARD THIS BEFORE?
HOW’D THAT WORK OUT FOR US?
WHY DID THIS NEW BIG DEAL GET
ANY CREDENCE WHATEVER?
•Not run by libraries! Libraries usually not even involved!
•And when we were, it was high-level political enough that we didn’t speak out much.
•I headdesked publicly about this in Library Journal. Got myself in trouble locally!
•Campus IT. So clueful about content licensing... except not.
•Scratch a Big E-Textbook Deal, ﬁnd campus IT underneath, under orders from...
•Administrators. So clueful about content licensing... except not.
•“Lower prices” = happy students? happy legislators? happy admins?
•Begged a lot of questions. SO MANY questions.
•Okay, okay. How long do prices stay low? Does everybody have to pay in, or just
students actually using textbooks? In what proportions? Who negotiates price? Who
tells faculty they have to use books that are part of the deal (academic freedom!)?
•Fundamentally, we had ZERO evidence this would save students money, especially in
the long term. We have pretty good evidence from serials that it would hurt!
•Economists consider journals and journal articles non-substitutable goods.
If you need a particular one, a different one just won’t do. (At least, if
you’re a researcher. Bit different for an undergraduate!)
•This is not necessarily true of textbooks! (Though switching costs can be
high, e.g. large-lecture courses, courses with a billion sections.)
•So theoretically, a university could jump ship on a Big E-Textbook Deal. In
practice... it’d be difﬁcult, I think. Lock-in was a real threat.
•With journals, these problems are about as ﬁxed as they’re ever going to
be. (Proxy servers, OpenURL, etc.)
•With e-textbooks, they’re not, so good integration (with course-
management systems especially) is a potential market differentiator
unrelated to content quality.
•Techie folks: where else are libraries seeing a tech-vs.-content play in the
library-tech market? (Hint: ILS-related.)
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
•Early Big E-Textbook Deals tanked. Hard.
•Many targeted schools never climbed on the bandwagon in the ﬁrst
place. (I’m not taking credit... but I may deserve a little.)
•Students didn’t like the platform affordances. At all.
•Platforms and other e-textbook bundlers died like ﬂies.
•Okay, okay, I admit to some schadenfreude. I CALLED THIS ONE.
•The other important development is (variously called) Open
Textbooks and/or Open Educational Resources (OER).
•Now, the Big E-Textbook Deals didn’t cause OER; OER predates
them by quite a few years. But they jumpstarted a lot of interest!
OPEN TEXTBOOKS AND OER
•Some faculty engage (as I do) in course-reading bricolage.
•We gravitate toward the openly-linkable, for obvious reasons.
•(I have taught data curation at two LIS schools. Dealing with non-overlapping
serials subscriptions was horrendous. “@#$%! this,” I said, “I’ll stick with open
access and the open web.”)
•MOOCs also gravitate toward this approach.
•A few faculty write open textbooks out of the goodness of their hearts.
•If I ever do write that 644 textbook, this is how I’ll do it. Not sure I see the point,
though, for reasons of rapid subject-matter obsolescence.
•It’s possible to pay other faculty a fixed amount up-front to do it.
•No royalties, but a bird in the hand...
•Leverages known student dislike for digital.
•Doesn’t necessarily work! Flat World Knowledge tried this, abandoned it.
GETTING THERE… BUT NOT ALL THE
WAY THERE YET
•OER tend not to have a lot of the helpful apparatus and
polish that pay textbooks do.
•(Students in this course who review open textbooks have been
noticing this pretty consistently.)
•Editing. EDITING. Editing. Editing! (Including fact-checking! But
in fairness, I’ve seen some heinously-edited paid textbooks too.)
•Indexes. Glossaries. Tables of contents, even!
•Instructor scaffolding: assessment instruments, assignments,
PowerPoints (I know, I know!), lesson-plan suggestions
•Alignment with known curricula, competency lists
•I have a feeling this will improve, but it’ll take a while.
•A good apparatus-crowdsourcing infrastructure would be a real
help here. Library entrepreneurs, start your engines!
TAKE A MOMENT
•You’re teaching a college course.
•Academic-librarians-to-be: don’t scoff, it could happen!
•How do you decide what textbook to use?
•What would convince you to adopt an open textbook?
•How do you think you’d ﬁnd one in the ﬁrst place?
•Now: how can academic libraries encourage open-
textbook adoption by faculty?
LIBRARIES AND OER
•Traditionally, we’ve stayed away from textbooks.
•We know print would have swallowed our budgets whole!
•Bankrolling open-textbook authors
•Arranging and paying for open-textbook review
•Payment predicated on review quality, not thumbs-up/down
•Open-textbook catalogues (Minnesota)
•Advocacy with faculty, pilot projects
•Very smart pilot project at Temple University in 2012-13!
•Popular! I haven’t seen any real losers here.
•Caveat: libraries fear failure, so tend to bury it. I may just not have heard.
WE CAN DO THIS.
WE ARE MAKING POSITIVE CHANGE!
•This presentation is available under a Creative
Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.