Articles Posted in K12 Publishing

DSC03724My last post, Apple’s iPad Textbooks Cost 5x More Than Print, touched a live wire.

The majority of comments were positive. The general tone was support for iPads in the classroom (a position I share) but an appreciation for the realistic view of what it will cost to implement the vision today.

Oops – I Underestimated

From a Publisher’s perspective Apple’s iPad textbook initiative is a decent 1.0 release with promise. I’ve had a few weeks to play with iBooks Author and iBooks2 and discuss them with colleagues. I’ll write about the many positives in future posts.

But there is a worm in this apple. All the sweet promises Apple is making are going to slam headfirst into the funding issue. It will cost a school 552% more to implement iPad textbooks than it does to deploy books. That ain’t happening in THIS economy. The press reports I’ve seen have completely missed this because Apple “hand waved” their way around it.

Update – A follow on post discussion of reader responses is here.

500px-Train_wreck_at_Montparnasse_1895Is the instructional materials market in the tank? I’ve spoken with people at a dozen companies who are all seeing the same thing – since November 1st a moderately down market has dropped like a stone. A senior executive at one of the big 4 publishers flatly stated that this was the worst he’d seen it in 35 years. I’m inclined to agree.

Since this appears to be an industry wide phenomena how should companies react? That depends on whether you think this is a temporary stall or a permanent realignment of funding for materials. How you see that depends on whether you focus on the supplemental or basal market.

For the supplemental market the evidence points towards a stall – at least so far. Low sales numbers don’t match the funding availability, there is no evidence that a huge amount of funding has been pulled from the market all of a sudden, What we do have is an abundance of uncertainty which is prompting districts to sit on the funds they have.

r67ye5tertgrgtreBooks, iPads, and the Kindle are changing the fundamental structure of the publishing industry. From a strategic perspective they are having the largest impact on the development and pricing of products. In other words it is affecting the “what” deeply. The “how” has not changed all that much, regardless of whether you are selling print and/or technology.

There are four fundamental strategies for a growing a company in the K12 sector because even in the best of times K12 is (mostly) a zero sum game. In 2008 I wrote a post about this competitive dynamic:

In normal times education budgets grow at 2%-5% a year. Most start-ups or new products need to grow at a huge multiple of that – 30% to 300% or even more. Mathematically in order for you to grow someone else is must lose out.

We are most definitely not living in “normal times” these days. Any growth strategy in today’s market is fighting gravity as school budgets are expected to fall next year after the stimulus has expired.

4567uetudthjgfjhgIn “Four years into the ebook revolution: things we know and things we don’t know” Mike Shatzkin does a great job of summarizing the state of the trade publishing business. Education Publishers take note – this is your future.

In “Predicting Player Behavior and How Zynga Profits From Data Analysis” John Rice picks apart the Wall St. Journal’s article (paywall) with an eye to education. Talk about data driven business models is all the rage in EdTech – this is what it really looks like. Money quote:

“We feel that a purely data-driven approach has significant promise for creating accurate predictive models of player behavior in games without the difficulties associated with earlier modeling techniques.”

Stephen Coller at the Gates Foundation has a new blog Forking Education about their open source work on the Shared Learning Infrastructure (SLI), the Learning Resources Metadata Initiative (LRMI), and Learning Maps among other things. I’m not sure if the title is meant to evoke poking a fork to stir things up or if it is a bad pun.

level-32-nerdThere are bad ideas that become iconic for every era because they were popular fads. Pet Rocks, the Pacer, Supply Side Economics, and .com groceries all come to mind.

Looking back we all scratch our heads and wonder – why?

Gamification, ripping the reward and recognition systems out of video games and applying them to behavioral modification is likely to stand in for our current times in the future.

PICT0091.jpgWhat do you do with 112 degrees of dry Texas heat on a Sunday afternoon? We sheltered in the Alamo Drafthouse for the Harry Potter matinee and brunch.

Our 17 year old son Peter was sitting between Leslie and I, his broad shoulders connecting us as a family. The cartoons had run, the infamous “no talking” video had played (nsfw), french toast was cooling, the lights dimmed.

As the Warner Brother’s logo emerged on screen I began to cry. This final movie, at the start of Peter’s final year of High School, was a moment that caught me completely off guard.

1254880_shiny_brain_Is the Internet making us dumber or are we just using our brains in new ways? The BBC posted a great overview of a new study which makes the case for a neat trick the brain is pulling now that we have 24/7 access to the web.

The article notes:

“When participants knew that facts would be available on a computer later, they had poor recall of answers but enhanced recall of where they were stored.

s640x480At ISTE 2011 in Philadelphia this week we were blessed with gorgeous summer weather, hot but not oppressive days and cool evenings perfect for a city walk. The show was hot too, well attended and and well run. So it may seem like an odd time to declare that this trade show’s days are numbered. Tech shows like ISTE and TCEA are surging in attendance while warhorses like IRA go begging for attendees. Received wisdom is that everything is moving to the tech side.

I’m going out on a limb to argue that the trends of the last 5 years, declining core content shows and strong attendance at pure tech shows, are about to reverse themselves. In the coming years we’ll see a resurgence of IRA, NCTM, and other content shows. ISTE will wither to a hard core platform technology event.

After IRA I noted how tech unfriendly the event was – they have a long way to go in encouraging and recruiting tech solutions. As I strolled the floor at ISTE in Philadelphia this week noticed the flip side of this coin. There was very little in the way of core content solutions that are delivered in genuine transmedia packages. It was ALL technology, PURE technology.