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President’s Message: The shifting landscape of textbook publishing

Laura FrostAs many of us return to campus for the fall semester, it may be time for both textbook and academic authors to take a look at what our institutions are doing regarding textbook purchases and costs. Is your campus offering Cengage Unlimited or signing up for Pearson’s Inclusive Access? With Pearson’s recent announcement this past July that it will also be “moving from ownership to subscription based access models”, several of the major publishers have now committed to digitally transforming their businesses into something more akin to Netflix than what authors have been used to (DVD purchases).

It only takes a few hours of internet research to discover that the publishing industry is only doing what consumers want—lower textbook prices—and hoping that the investment will be worth it in the long run. After losing out to rentals, piracy, and OER models, publishers are lining up to recollect on their own investments. But where does this leave their authors?

In a recent email Pearson sent to its authors (me being one of them), we were asked to consider that our expertise be our greatest focus and respond to customer expectations by assisting with digital content which should build a competitive advantage if we work together. A deeper read of the linked press release implied that we should start getting used to the fact that our books will be selling for less. If it all works out, the publishers will sell more digital books (because all students will purchase one of these for less) and maybe we won’t notice anything in our royalty statements. Hmmm, I’m not so sure. Regardless, terms in our “traditional” authoring contracts don’t make as much sense as we transition to digital.

The future of publishing is turning a corner. As we navigate the next several years, I am comforted by the support, services, and expertise provided by our TAA member community. Let’s keep communicating with each other and be proactive during this journey.

-Laura Frost, PhD

Laura Frost

In addition to being the current TAA Council President, Laura Frost is the Director of the Whitaker Center for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Education and Professor of Chemistry at Florida Gulf Coast University. Dr. Frost is actively engaged in reforming STEM education through inquiry-based teaching and evidence-based practice and has demonstrated increased student learning in her courses using this approach. Dr. Frost is also author of a chemistry textbook for the health professions (Pearson Education) and a series of guided-inquiry activities in chemistry. Her textbook takes a unique, integrated approach to the delivery of chemical topics that has been shown to increase student interest in the course.