Twilight Of The Big Publishers?

The other day I pointed out something we’re noticing in our work researching Common Core implementation:  In the past the largest states had disproportionate influence, now it’s the states moving the fastest that may end up setting the agenda.

Here’s another, related, question.  One of the promises of Common Core is to break-away from the homogenized textbook and move toward more customized (and primary source) texts and materials for students.  Will Common Core create an entry point for smaller publishers or will the big ones just reposition and take advantage of the scale Common Core offers and continue to dominate the market?

8 Replies to “Twilight Of The Big Publishers?”

  1. States and districts make the market for publishers. The issue is whether they will ask for something beyond what they have previously. And, between the CCSS and technology shifts, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that change is in the air. Scads of anecdotal evidence emerging:

    * LA delays adoption b/c of lack of alignment:

    * NC and FL mandating shift to digital content; other states opening the doors wide open

    * UT and WA pursuing open-licensed resources

    We break this down in our report, Out of Print: Reimagining the Textbook in a Digital Age at and provide insights into state instructional materials policies on our State Ed Policy Center database of state policies:

  2. We are WAY past textbooks here. It’s not part of the common core but just for example, textbook publisher Pearson has a nearly 1/2 billion dollar contract with the state of Texas to develop standardized tests.

    These big “publishers” like Pearson have moved way past the mere publishing of textbooks. They are now selling complete curriculum packages to schools with all manner of online and electronic media, a lot of which is junk and looks like it was put together by graduate assistants on 2 hours sleep.

    Anyone who thinks the big “publishers” will lay down and watch small start-up firms capture market share doesn’t understand this market. And it’s hard to consider them publishers anymore as they are becoming educational tech companies.

    Sure one can go to education tech fairs and find all kinds of small start ups. But the big publishers will still capture the big contracts because they can put together complete packages (all grades, all subjects etc.) that the small firms can’t match. Having been involved in the adoption process it is pretty obvious to me that most schools will jump on the opportunity to sign contracts with big firms that can supply all the tech for the school or department so that network administrators and the like don’t have to deal with 25 different systems for each grade and subject. No network administrator wants to deal with supporting 25 different software and website packages and once we move into the area of electronic media the school district network administrators are going to have as big of say in what gets adopted as the teachers and administrators.

  3. Digital books are all very fine and well but how do we get iPads or laptops in the hands of poor, urban students and how do we get their homes wired for wifi? Really, I want to know because I want to do it for my district but the big non-profits only seem to have money for their pet projects. The digital divide is still big.

  4. The call for primary sources also will give government agencies a mission to publish documents and data that aren’t currently available. Think the Library of Congress, state library systems, NASA, NOAA, the Smithsonians, the national research labs, etc. Given original texts or raw scientific data, high school students could do creative and maybe even groundbreaking scholarship.

  5. Yes, David but teachers or district curriculum specialists will have to align the new activities to the standards. It’s a lot of work. Don’t get me wrong, I think that should be the case, but it will be more expensive than paying a multinational media empire for its recipe texts.

  6. Electronic books does appear like a great idea, like the others have pointed out, but for people in the developing world, like here in Swaziland, we are still struggling with the basic educational necessities. the use of technological gadgets like the basic computer, are a far fetched dream.

  7. It would be a good idea if teacher study program include skills on technology because they might see the need to participate in producing e-learning material.

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