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Will text books face advertising crisis?

? Do we spend less on tech? |


| Pricing Cuts Hit Nascent Online Video Market ?

August 19, 2006

Will text books face advertising crisis?

Stephen Baker

One of the pleasures in working for McGraw-Hill Companies: When business magazines face a slump in advertising revenue, we have this big old text book division that keeps churning out sales, without a worry in the world about ads. Now I see that at least some text books are tweaking their age-old business model to make room for ads. Strange timing, I'd say.

We're packing to take a week at the Jersey Shore. Our neighbor says it's not even worth driving down there on a summer Saturday, losing an entire day on the Garden State Parkway. But like probably every other networked North Jerseyite, I've checked the "avoid tolls" option on MapQuest. So I'll be crawling along roads like CR-539. If any of you ride the Garden State south today, you might let me know what I missed. In any case, blogging over the next week will be iffy from my side, at best.

09:37 AM


Oh, I think textbooks will have bigger problems than that: There will be open wiki textbooks (see And I just canceled the book I was going to have my class read at CUNY this fall; there's too much fresher stuff online.

Posted by: Jeff Jarvis at August 19, 2006 04:46 PM

Text books do have bigger problems. They're expensive to make (perhaps because "quality" is defined by the publisher and not the customer), out of date before they're printed, and ridiculously expensive for students to buy.

When we debate whether or not books are dead, IMHO, textbooks will be the first to go - they're just data storage and retreival mechanisms and there are better ways to do that job.

I don't understand why anyone would want to advertise in them!

Posted by: ann michael at August 20, 2006 11:55 AM

I also think there are bigger problems with texts than advertising. The college formula of 300-400 page books doesn't match the reality of students' reading likelihood. The information, even with loads of photos and diversions, tends to be wordy and, in some cases, boring.

Posted by: anon at August 20, 2006 01:38 PM

As a consumer of textbooks of various sorts over the years, I am certainly familiar with their limitations. But they do have a large advantage of much of the internet content. Namely, that they are produced and edited by academics alowing for some agreed upon stadards and a certain degree of confidence in the accuracy of the information. Personally, I feel that primary sources would be better at a college level and above, but textbooks still offer an suitable medium for broad cursory understandings of things. As for advertisements, I would question the ethics in addition to the implications for the bottom line. The same goes for academic journals. That goes double for publications like JAMA.

Posted by: Aidan at August 21, 2006 12:45 PM

No I do not see larger problems, even if 600-800 sides contain the university formula. I would not only recommend announcing texts to each class participant to use

Posted by: Manuel at August 22, 2006 02:25 PM

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