ATG Article of the Week: Publishers See Online Mega-Courses as Opportunity to Sell Textbooks

by | Sep 20, 2012 | 0 comments

Publishers See Online Mega-Courses as Opportunity to Sell Textbooks

Jennifer Howard writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education about a topic that anyone interested in publishing will find fascinating.  She focuses on how some publishers are expanding to new markets opening around the growing MOOC movement.  MOOC’s or  massive open online courses are springing up with increasing frequency and some entrepreneurial publishers are trying to figure out ways that these courses can “help them reach new readers and sell more books.”

Given that the providers of these courses discourage course textbooks this may seem a tough sell but many of these courses have reading lists that are leading to sales. The article discusses the efforts of traditional publishers like MIT Press which has already experience one sales bounce from a MOOC to Flat World Knowledge which “bills itself as “the world’s largest publisher of free and open college textbooks” to Morgan & Claypool Publishers which has had some success “with special pricing for texts in free online courses.”

Regardless of the approach, affordability seems to be key. Jeremy Adelman, a professor of Spanish civilization and culture at Princeton University, who is teaching a MOOC with 70,000 registered students, is working on a “stripped-down electronic version” of a course related textbook that normally sells for $85.    It obvious that Prof. Adelman is on target when he notes publishers are “very aware now that we’ve moved into a new universe of what defines a student or what makes a book.”

(One issue that is not address in this article is the possible opportunities for libraries in providing services for MOOC students.  Does anyone know of a library that is offering services to these students?  If so, how are they addressing the practical issues and economic implications of expanding services to these non-traditional students?  As always, we and our readers would be interested in knowing what you know.)

PS Anyone interested in talking to Morgan & Claypool about their experience with MOOC’s can visit with them at the Vendor Showcase during the Charleston Conference in November.

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