Monday, March 2, 2009

Publishing in a World of Free

My Prediction: Chris Anderson, editor of Slate Magazine and author of The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, is about to reach the New York Time's best sellers list again, with the upcoming publication of his book, Free, set to be released in a few months. Anderson has already published a series of articles and blog posts in which he argues the price of many goods is dropping to zero. As you know, newspaper content is now free. Blogs are free. So, too, the information contained in textbooks has become less and less expensive.

If you don't believe me, just read this article from Edutopia. The author Tamim Ansary writes, "I got a hint of things to come when I overheard my boss lamenting, "The books are done and we still don't have an author! I must sign someone today!" The educational publishing industry may fast be moving to an age when the author of a textbook doesn't really matter, as long as the quality of content is present. When it comes to quality - non-fiction content, particularly much of math, social studies and English/language arts, changes little. So, the content should be very inexpensive. It can be "Free."

So, the question is, how are publishers going to make money in the second decade of the Twenty First Century and beyond?

One school of thought suggests that publishing companies can offer their content at little cost and charge for professional development activities. Perhaps!!

But, I much prefer the possibility that content alone will cost very little. But content (i.e., written prose) has never been and will never be the core of a learning experience. Instead, the value of content is comparable to a students ability to engage with the content. Engagement that demands critical and creative thinking about important ideas is inherently more valuable than other content.

Engagement is not free ... Developing Twenty First Century Engagement comes at a cost!!

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