Why can’t teachers buy lessons like people buy songs off of iTunes? Are publishers at risk of irrelevance if they don’t proactively solve this problem for their customers?
I have noticed that my music habits have changed dramatically over the past 5-6 years. With the advent of iTunes I was no longer bound to buying albums – I could sample and just buy the songs that sounded good to my ears. Most albums have 2-3 good songs, several so-so songs, and a couple of clunkers. I only want the good stuff thank you very much.
Musicians put a huge amount of energy into creating albums that presented a sweep of music in just the right thematic sequence. Decades of practice dictated that this was something that customers wanted. Only – once they had a real choice – they didn’t. It was vanity not reality.
Are textbooks and other “comprehensive instructional materials” the same? Teachers have “lifted the best and ignored the rest” since the first textbook was published, so anecdotally they are very similar.
But publishers pride themselves on providing a “coherent” schema in their materials. They regard this as a huge part of the value they add to the process. Like musicians they can fool themselves because there are no affordable alternatives (in time or money) – yet.
Will textbooks suffer the kind of profitability collapse that the music industry has gone through as the business model shifted? I honestly don’t know. One thing the textbook publishers have on their side is time – education moves more slowly than the consumer market. But that shouldn’t lull publishers into thinking they can avoid the central question through the usual lobbying, legislation, and front list development. It just means they may have time to adapt before they become irrelevant.
Here are some links for additional reading on this topic.
iTunes U is Apple’s foray into this – but it is mostly at the lecture level for students – from what I can tell it is not optimized for teachers to collect, manage, and share – yet. Apple is probably the furthest along with this – which given their role in transforming the music industry should give all the publishers pause.
Hotchalk is taking a stab at this with their site.
McGraw-Hill has experimented with iTunes University.
MyScribe claims to be iTunes for textbooks – but you still have to buy the whole dang book.
Adaptive Curriculum (a client) is providing atomized content – they have hundreds of science and math activities that can stand on their own and be integrated easily with other materials. Their business model is to sell a subscription to the whole collection rather than the individual bits.
If you know of more projects in this area please let us all know in the comments.
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