On December 3, 2009, AEP will induct Nelson B. Heller, Ph.D., MDR; Michael Ross, Encyclopaedia Britannica; and Pleasant Rowland, Rowland Reading Foundation and American Girl into the Educational Publishing Hall of Fame. Here in his third installment, Michael Ross, Senior VP, Education General Manager for Encyclopaedia Britannica, discusses the greatest challenge facing educational publishing in the next five years.
The market for educational materials will remain highly segmented. This is an enormous challenge for publishers because the direction for effective and profitable products will not be clear. Lack of clarity will be pervasive in both the adoption and non-adoption states. Decision makers will remain confused about how much print they will want and what kind of electronic products they need. They will also lack the experience and tools for evaluating electronic products and how to determine an electronic product’s true value and effectiveness.
Budgets will not make this process any easier. Budget planners are likely to be uncertain as to how much money to allocate to electronic products versus traditional products, and funding will be erratic.
The educational publishing environment will be “eclectic” at best and fractured at worst. The evolution of product types will accelerate. And I believe that we will see a new era of innovation emerge from all of this. Products will greatly improve and innovation will come from non-traditional sources. We can already see this happening.
Within this rapidly changing environment, it’s important for educational publishers to stress product quality, depth, and flexibility to meet the needs of a variety of learning styles—and to take advantage of the technologies that are emerging. If publishers focus on providing the best content and the best user experiences possible—and pay attention to how young people are learning—their products will end up being used and funded.