College Textbooks: The Bubble

Apr 11

On his blog this week, Mark Perry, professor of economics and finance at University of Michigan Flint campus, asks, “Can $220 textbooks survive?”  Flat World Knowledge and our Principles of Economics textbook by Rittenberg/Tregarthen get a nice mention as a viable alternative to “the traditional cartel-style textbook model.”  Thanks Mark!

While I enjoyed Mark’s piece, I almost always get more of a kick out of the comments. You can see the defenders of the status quo, and those who want to “blow the whole thing up” and start all over.  As a new publisher with, we think, an innovative business model, Flat World Knowledge falls somewhere in between.

We have immense respect for the authoring process.  I have long believed that authors are the initial and most sustainable value creators in the industry.  So we work with expert authors and use a rigorous editorial development process to ensure quality content.   But we also tap into the benefits of new technologies and openly-licensed content. This approach eliminates many cost and access barriers that are keeping the U.S. from being a world leader in college graduates.

As college leaders try to figure out the best way to solve textbook affordability and improve retention and completion rates at their institutions, they may want to ask themselves a few questions.

  • Besides content affordability, what other issues are vital as you consider alternatives?
  • Do you want a consistent student experience across all of your courses?
  • What stakeholders on campus will need to participate in future content strategies?
  • Is having the ability to modify course content and control the timing of revisions important to your faculty?
  • Do you want students to have lifetime access to the content they bought, or is a “rental” model OK for your learners?

In future posts, we’ll be sharing some thoughts on these questions and others. Meanwhile, what questions are you asking your content providers about your e-Text and affordability initiatives?

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Jeff Shelstad

About Jeff Shelstad

Co-Founder and CEO. Jeff co-founded Flat World Knowledge on the back of a 20 year successful record in higher education publishing. He’s held positions of increasing responsibility in sales, marketing, editorial, and senior management. Jeff has personally acquired some of the most successful business textbook authors in print today.

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