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The digital transformation of publishing: What this means for authors

In her presentation at the 31st Annual Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference in Santa Fe, NM, June Jamrich Parsons shared an overview of the publishing industry with specific focus on the market, industry profitability, publishing formats, and disruptors affecting the role of the author within this changing world of publishing.

In her summary, Parsons stated that “the market for educational products and services is large and growing.” As a result, “this market is a huge target for disruptors.”

Industry profitability has been called into question in recent years with Pearson “now in process of a three-year restructuring program” and Cengage reporting an adjusted profit (EBITDA) of $246 million (down 14%) with long-term debt of $2.24 billion after recent restructuring. The key takeaway from this and other financial reports in the industry is that “profits are down [and] authors need to adapt to changes as companies try new strategies.”

These new strategies which have “companies diversifying into information services, corporate, and other markets could be opportunities for authors”, according to Parsons. While companies are generating more revenue through digital products, “many of those products are not core content, such as textbooks. Instead, much of this content is ancillary – assessment, teacher preparation, administrative, and homework helper.”

Faced with industry disruptors of used books, rentals, online retailers, digital startups, inclusive access, OER, counterfeiting, pirating, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), “publishers have become the disruptors” by introducing their own competitive formats and distribution options, like Cengage Unlimited.

To be successful in this changing industry landscape, authors need to add adaptability to their skill set. According to Parsons, “publishers are likely to first turn to courseware designers, rather than authors for input” as they are faced with “consumer perception that in the Information Age, information should be cheap if not free.” As a result, “authors may need to gear up for edtech projects that are unlikely to be royalty bearing.”

The complete presentation is available to members in the TAA Presentations on Demand library. Join us in Philadelphia June 14-15 for the 32nd Annual Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference and Parsons’ update in “The Textbook Report 2019”.

Eric Schmieder

Eric Schmieder is the Membership Marketing Manager for TAA. He has taught computer technology concepts to curriculum, continuing education, and corporate training students since 2001. A lifelong learner, teacher, and textbook author, Eric seeks to use technology in ways that improve results in his daily processes and in the lives of those he serves. His latest textbook, Web, Database, and Programming: A foundational approach to data-driven application development using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, MySQL, and PHP, First Edition, is available now through Sentia Publishing.