7 Digital Business Strategies for Educational Publishers

The dominance of digital publishing is inevitable – make the most of it.

GUEST COLUMN | by Dovi Weiss, Yotam Kramer and Noam Green

CREDIT Time to KnowEducational publishers have invested heavily in digitizing their content, but many are disappointed with the market’s response. That is because widespread digitization has led to a glut of inexpensive or free material, which has reduced demand, while many governments have made life even harder by regulating the price of educational publications. Yet anybody with an ear to the ground in the educational publishing industry has heard some impressive success stories based on digitization. We have summarized the strategies that are working for various educational publishers across the world.

Direct Business to Consumer Sales. The web site and portal are now ways to reach the consumer directly. Publishers can connect with parents who want more of a hand in choosing the best supplementary books for their children. To this massive consumer group, publishers can offer their books precisely as they want, and can emphasize special features, data-tagging, and sales campaigns to every relevant market in the world.

Create Once, Distribute Everywhere. Apps have changed the way many industries distribute content, and this is exactly what is happening in the educational publishing market, albeit slowly. By meeting the content and technology standards (e.g. device agnosticism) of the App store, publishers can reach a fundamentally larger and more diverse market. Conversely, the slow advance of educational App stores is an opportunity for publishers to seize by becoming App stores themselves – if they are willing to take the risk.

Tailored Content. Adjusting content and services to fit the needs of a certain target audience can be a profitable differentiation factor. Publishers might want to include material that is of interest to regional consumers, or “borderless content”, in their selection. Other specialties might involve niche subjects, superior customer service, flexible currency choice, and web site language.

New Business Models. There is no longer a need to stick to a transactional model for book sales. One of the many new business models is Content as a Service, in which users pay a subscription fee and can download a limited number of books, sections, updates, and so on. In this manner, publishers can look forward to a more predictable revenue stream and compete more effectively with the secondhand book market.

Repackaging. Because digital content is modular, it is a simple matter to repackage books into single chapters, lessons, or sections. Publishers can then sell reorganized material with a price and content selection which might be more attractive to certain consumers than the price and contents of the entire book.

Enhance Print with Digital. The lack of consumer demand in paying for digital publications results partly from cheap, easily available material. But surprisingly, digital content is an effective way to boost hardcopy sales. Many people still prefer an actual book, so that publishers can use digital promotions to create interest in the full printed versions. As long as a digital copy is being made anyways (which is usually the case for educational books), boosting print sales in this way is highly practical.

Cut Costs, Improve Profits. Various publishing technologies can improve a businesses’ profit level. Authoring, production, programming, device formatting, and material design can all be made simpler and less expensive by applying the right technology mix, and can be included in the production process at any time.

According to recent market forecasts, traditional printing industry revenue will recede over the next few years, but digital printing revenue will grow. Educational publishers need to adapt to this reality and figure out how they fit into the digital world. Those that can make the change will find a new, exciting, and profitable marketplace.

Dovi Weiss, Ph.D., is Chief Scientist at Time To Know. Yotam Kramer is Director of Marketing and Noam Green is Product Marketing at Time To Know. E-mail: info@timetoknow.com  For more about educational publishing strategies, download the full white paper


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