The future of educational publishing

Sheila Bounford wants your input on a TOC Frankfurt session

This post originally appeared on Sheila Bounford’s Off the Page Ideas Blog. This version has been lightly edited.

As I’m pathologically unable refuse a challenge, next Tuesday morning I’ll to be in Frankfurt moderating a panel discussion on Digital Textbooks, Online Learning and the Future of Educational Publishing at the O’Reilly/ Frankfurt Book Fair Tools of Change Conference. I’m privileged to be hosting three expert panelists Amir Winer, Michael Cairns and William Chesser all of whom have deep experience of how higher level education is changing – and the ways in which textbooks and learning materials are changing with them.

We’ve been talking between us for some time about how best to run this 50-minute session. The Frankfurt Tools of Change audience is infamously diverse, knowledgeable and yet hungry for insight, which – in combination with the sheer rapidity of technological, educational and commercial change – presents a challenging mix for speakers and panelists. Just as the changing style of pedagogy means that college and university tutors are engaging with students differently – we also need to break away from the conventional PowerPoint x3 and Q&A format.  At risk of sounding dangerously Rumsfeldian – our expert panel know what they know. What they don’t know is what you know, don’t know and want to knowSo here’s your chance to tell us.

The format we’re adopting is for each panelist to make some brief opening remarks about how they currently see change in action in the textbook arena. Then we’re throwing it open to you to ask questions, make comments, and get involved. We’ll be taking questions from the audience in advance and during the session through Twitter hashtags #tocffm #digtxt, (and I’m @SheilaB01) or by email to I’ll be producing a post-conference write-up to share online with all participants. We’re aiming for an outcome that’s greater than the sum of its parts – but that’ll only happen if you pitch in.

Questions Kat Meyer of O’Reilly posed when the panel discussion was originally mooted included:

  • What kinds of results have we seen from the early experiments in this field?
  • How are students and educators adapting to digital learning/teaching ecosystems?
  • Should we embed media or link to it online?
  • Should we allow students easy access to the web and online excursions or try to capture their attention in a closed environment?
  • Is learning with tablets more shallow and scattered?
  • What are benefits of open platforms vs proprietary?

To those we’d add:

  • How is faculty influencing and even dictating content and format?
  • Will licensing income supersede conventional sales –and if so are Publisher’s current commissioning approaches sustainable?
  • Where are the business models headed?

We’ve also some suggested background reading for you – just to get you grey matter in gear for the matter in hand. In the past seven days alone these posts have all weighed in to the debate with relevant information:

This post tweeted by Joe Wikert of O’Reilly references Matt MacInnis devastating phrase “The textbook has become this crutch holding everybody back” (it’s on the second page of the article)

This piece from Inside Higher Ed on Elsevier and free textbooks (although interestingly the stats suggest that the free books have actually driven sales of the bought edition)

Brian O’Leary’s post (referencing the work done by Michael’s company)

Get reading. Get thinking. Get asking. Get tweeting: #TOCFFM #DIGTXT. Let’s make 50 minutes next Tuesday much greater than the sum of its parts.

Have you registered for TOC Frankfurt yet? If not, do so now and use the TOCPartner20TSpeaker discount code to save 20%.

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