Educational publishing can be a lucrative and rewarding business. Unfortunately, like any business, it’s not without risk. Society is the foundation of every industry. When society changes, every business must evolve or risk extinction. Over the past two decades, college tuition has skyrocketed, employment opportunities for new college graduates has dropped, and the online world has taken over. The face of publishing has changed drastically, posing new risks for publishers. If you’re an academic publisher or are considering entering the arena, these are the six major challenges you need to know about.
1. Declining Customer Budgets
The average student today carries a heavy load of student debt before even entering the workforce. The rising costs of education means that parents can only help young students so much. When budgets are tight, customers cut costs where they can. This means students are opting more frequently for renting textbooks, purchasing used books, or simply going without. Scholarly publishers work most frequently with academic libraries, who are struggling with similarly strained budgets.
2. Limited Opportunity For Growth
There are real questions as to how much the educational publishing arena can grow. Without growth, businesses fail more often than not. This is especially true if shareholders are involved. When working with customers on tight budgets, it can be difficult to find enough money to fund a transition to a new business model.
3. Limited Options For Reinvention
Traditional books and learning materials were successful for so long in part because they were the only option. Any improvement was welcomed by students. Now, however, a vast amount of information is available for free. Can publishers really re-format books and journals into something substantially more effective and appealing? Reinventing a centuries-old industry is no small feat.
4. The Threat of Amazon
Amazon is a powerful force. The sales giant has the chops to break into almost any industry they choose, and they’ve already taken their chunk of textbook sales. Their textbook rental program is in full swing. It’s hard to justify purchasing a new book when a rental is available for an eighth of the cost.
5. Rise of Demand-Driven AcquisitionIn decades past, libraries routinely bought textbooks just to be sure they had enough. Those sales were consistent, providing textbook publishers with a steady source of reliable sales. As educational budgets have grown slim, libraries have started waiting to purchase books until they’ve determined the true demand for them. Reliable sales have steadily dropped as academic libraries have turned to demand-driven acquisition.
6. Challenges Maintaining a Legacy Business While Growing a New OneThe mountains publishers must climb when building a brand-new online learning platform are steep enough without the added weight of a maintaining the struggling print industry. Though online publishing has grown in leaps and bounds, it remains to be seen where it will lead. It may, in fact, become more than one new business. Maintaining a print operation while pioneering the new face of publishing is an impressive undertaking.
While it’s clear that achieving academic publishing success isn’t a breeze, don’t be discouraged. It is still very possible to succeed publishing educational material if you can adapt to the new rules of the game. No longer can publishers rely on academic libraries to order a steady stream of textbooks. To make it, they now must work harder than ever to set their learning material apart from the crowd. Traditional textbook publishing is no longer a feasible stand-alone business- online learning is the name of the game. Content must be updated frequently, easily accessible, user-friendly, interactive, and affordable. Students and educators are clear on what they need from publishers. To succeed, we just have to listen.
Using a high-quality authoring tool like Gutenberg Technology’s end-to-end publishing platform gives content creators the flexibility to seamlessly create content on the web, smartphones, tablets, and more. The simple to use authoring tool is one of the best ways to create custom content to offer students of all ages the best possible learning experience.