A better mousetrap

A couple of years have passed since I started working on "Context first", a story of what I feel publishers must do to compete in an era of content abundance. That assessment offered four implications for content management and dissemination:

  • Content must become open, accessible and interoperable;
  • We must use context to promote discovery and access;
  • We compete on breadth of use, not the cost of content; and
  • We will grow the pie by providing readers with tools that help them manage abundance.

Sharedbook's AcademicPub service provides an example of a service that capitalizes on all four observations. In an article in Publishers Weekly, Calvin Reid captured Michael Cairns, SharedBook's chief revenue officer, describing the service. In Cairns' words, AcademicPub users can "mix and match a variety of publishers' content and produce a finished book."

AcademicPub includes a recommendations engine that can suggest content to instructors based on their past coursepack orders. The final product can be generated in a print or digital format, with the digital offer "expiring" at the end of a course.

Permissions and prices are tied to the content itself, eliminating a barrier to reuse. Seamless permissions also reduce the likelihood that someone frustrated by the traditional authorization process will give up and just copy something.

Rather than limit the sources of content (as is the case with competitive options like CourseSmart), AcademicPub has signed up 135 publishers who are willing to sell or license their content in chunks. Cairns expects to have more than 200 publishers on board by the end of 2012. By meeting the needs of instructors, students and publishers alike, AcademicPub has created a real-world example of the opportunity in abundance.

A bit of disclosure: Michael Cairns, who blogs (and tweets) as Personanondata, is a smart, witty colleague. Had he any knowledge of this post, he would have tried hard to stop me from writing it.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.