Monday, October 11, 2010
Freelancer And Publisher
The professor gets a small cut of the action. After all, he or she went to all the trouble of pulling the material together, compiling information and charts and illustrations, so they're entitled to be reimbursed for their labors. In essence, they act as freelancers and like freelancers they don't get much in return.
In the past, the university had to send the manuscript off to the copy department to be bound and collated, adding another expense that the student had to cover through their book fees.
It is now so much easier, but possibly not less expensive.
McGraw-Hill's higher education unit offers university teachers the opportunity to compile a course text through McGraw-Hill's database. The instructor has access to all of the publisher's textbooks, along with countless articles that are accessed via the publisher's special search engine.
Point and click. An article here, a chapter from an existing textbook there, and the specialized copy is created. McGraw-Hill then whips up an e-book for the teacher to peruse and approve, and once the galleys have passed muster, McGraw-Hill prints to order.
If it sounds like vanity publishing, it is.
The difference here is that the professor is compiling a book that fits a very tiny niche. Never would McGraw-Hill use the traditional publishing platform because they'd lose a fortune on such a small run. However, printing on demand makes plenty of sense.
It also means that McGraw-Hill doesn't lose those hundreds of little bits of market share. By using modern POD technology, they can make money in an area that used to be a loser for them.
The university no longer has to tie up their printing department to crank out the myriad special texts required, and the instructors have the ease of use that McGraw-Hill has built into their system. The student has the option of purchasing an e-book, which is more efficiently produced by McGraw-Hill than the school itself, particularly if it's a small, two-year college with a limited budget.
And the student?
As always, they pay the going rate for their books and if McGraw-Hill has to earn their fare share, it means the student will pay a premium over what was once a fairly cheap enterprise in which the university wanted to cover their costs and not turn a profit.
The most popular students on campus may end up being the computer geeks. Anyone who can get hack into the system and download expensive e-books for free may find their skills in demand.
Students, as ever, are always looking for a way to economize.