Thursday, October 29, 2009

HMH in $40M deal to provide high-tech teaching system to Detroit schools

I have 3 kids in the California public school system and while I applaud the innovations that schools are embracing, I wonder if our generation of children will truly be better educated or will their teachers' learning curve negatively effect how and what students learn.

The ramification for those publishers who 'lock up' school districts is much more far-reaching than many of may have realized. You can toss a textbook program and opt for a new one, not so easy to unravel your computer system from your publishing partner's software, especially when you've paid a $40 million dollar dowry. And in a few years when most school district have signed these long-term, high-cost contracts and a limited number of publishers dominate the field, will the lack of competition be a disincentive to further innovation?

In 5 - 10 years, high-tech teaching will be as commonplace as textbooks are today and students now entering preschool will reap the benefits. I just hope students currently in K-12 will be as lucky.


Some excerpts:

Houghton will be providing a computer-based teaching system it developed with Microsoft that will connect teachers, students, and administrators. It’s a radical shift away from the classic textbook publishing model and represents an industry transformation, as technology supplants books.

“The textbook is no longer the center of the educational universe,’’ said Wendy Colby, a senior vice president at Houghton, which is based in Boston.

The Boston publisher is selling some textbooks to Detroit, but most of the contract is for such software such as Learning Village - a customized, interactive classroom network....

The education publishing industry is being swept up in the swing toward digital products, which has accelerated in recent months, thanks partly to the availability of federal stimulus funds....

“It’s much more than just e-book versions of textbooks. It’s companion videos, interactive games, assessment, curriculum planning tools, and on and on and on.’

It’s also changing the relationship between schools and publishers. It’s one thing to discard a paper text; it’s more difficult for a school district to walk away from a computer system on which teachers and students depend.

A product such as Learning Village, Mickey said, “puts the publisher at the center of school action. It ties the school district to the publisher.’’ ...

The challenge, Johnson said, will be in training teachers on the new Houghton systems.

In a five-year study in the public schools of St. Lucie County, Fla., the publisher found that once teachers became proficient in using Learning Village, student performance improved.

“It took a while to get teachers trained on the system,’’ said St. Lucie assistant superintendent Owen A. Roberts. “But eventually, we were able to take advantage of the fact that everything was in one accessible place.’’

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Three interesting short articles in PW today. Man oh man, what will tomorrow, next week, next year bring?

1. Barnes & Noble Defends Its Turf
"...the nation’s largest bookseller held an investor conference this morning where it made its case for being well positioned to take advantage of its leading spot in traditional bookselling, its growing online sales and its expanding presence in the e-book market."

"Mass merchandisers sell only a fraction of the available titles, B&N said, noting that bookselling is a long tail business. Growth opportunities at the stores include the company's recently introduced educational games and toys as well as the entire children's and teen segment. "

2. B&N Sees Store Consolidation Ahead
"B&N is “highly confident” that the industry will consolidate over the next few years, COO Mitch Klipper said. “There are 1,500 superstores now, there won’t be 1,500 five years from now,” CFO Joe Lombardi added. (B&N has about 700 superstores). B&N estimates it has a 17% share of the bookselling market, a percentage that should increase as consolidation among competitors takes hold."

2. The Nook is B&N Top Seller
"The Nook has become the fastest selling single item at Barnes & Noble since the retailer introduced the e-reader October 20, company CEO Steve Riggio said in Tuesday morning’s investor presentation. Last week, Amazon reported that the Kindle was its fastest selling product in both unit and dollar terms. Neither company has disclosed the number of devices that have been sold and/or ordered, but B& president William Lynch told analysts the company expects to get a “big chunk” of the 900,000 e-readers that some analysts believe will be sold over the holidays."

Monday, October 26, 2009


By Carol Fitzgerald -- Publishers Weekly, 10/26/2009

In an industry without a lot of good news to report, the one consistent bright spot has been publishing for teens. While adult trade sales are expected to fall 4% this year, juvenile and young adult sales are expected to increase 5.1%, according to the PW/IPR Book Sales Index. Although it's impossible to completely break out juvenile from young adult (YA), it is possible to look at expected growth rates for different categories. In the fiction/fantasy/sci-fi segment, where most sales in the YA category fall, we expect nearly 13% growth in 2009, reaching $744 million. By 2013, sales in this segment are anticipated to hit $861 million, a 30.6% increase over 2008...READ FULL ARTICLE HERE.

So many fascinating facts in this article like:

What Motivates Them to Buy

Consistent with our 2005 survey, book copy was the most important factor that would make teens pick up a book. A stunning 91% saw this as the most important influence. The cover was important to 79%. The next most important influence, with 77%, was familiarity with an author's previous work; 74% were looking for the next book in a series. For 73%, the title was important. (See related post HERE)

While we are not exploring results of those over 18 in this article, it is noteworthy that 89% of those over 18 chose familiarity with the author first, with the description on the back flap (86%) and the next book in the series (79%) all more significant than the cover (76%). There's likely a difference between the way that teens and adults make book choices.

Most reported that parents don't monitor what they read (55%), while 23% said their parents do weigh in some of the time, and 13% said they are monitored by their parents, but still read what they want. Only 9% follow parental monitors.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

ABA Asks for Government Investigation of Price Wars - 10/22/2009 4:30:00 PM - Publishers Weekly

ABA Asks for Government Investigation of Price Wars - 10/22/2009 4:30:00 PM - Publishers Weekly

By Jim Milliot -- Publishers Weekly, 10/22/2009 4:30:00 PM

In a letter sent to the antitrust division of the Department of Justice Thursday, the board of directors of the American Booksellers Association requested that the government begin an investigation into what the organization believes is the illegal predatory pricing policies being carried out by Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target in selling 10 hardcover titles for as low as $8.98. The ABA requested a meeting with officials as soon as possible, arguing that left unchecked, the predatory pricing policies “will devastate not only the book industry, but our collective ability to remain a society where the widest range of ideas are always made available to the public.”

The letter charged that the big box retailers are using predatory pricing practices to “attempt to win control of the market for hardcover bestsellers.” By selling books below cost, Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target “are devaluing the very concept of the book. Authors and publishers, and ultimately consumers, stand to lose a great deal if this practice continues and/or grows,” the letter stated. Furthermore, the letter noted, the companies involved in the price war are not engaged primarily in selling books, yet their fight could result in the entire book industry becoming collateral damage.

The letter added that the price war over hardcovers was precipitated by Amazon’s decision to price e-books at $9.99. “We believe the loss-leader pricing of digital content also bears scrutiny,” the letter stated.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


November 7 - SCBWI-V/SB Workshop

Tips and Tricks to Hook an Agent

Fairview Baptist Church, 113 E. Fairview Rd., Bakersfield CA 93307.

Corcoran will share insider tips on what an agent looks for in queries and first pages, as well as what turns an agent off. She’ll spill the beans on what The Herman Agency is looking for as well as answer all your burning questions.

FIRST PAGES OPPORTUNITY: Bring 2 copies of your query and your
wip first page if you would like a critique plus help with revision.

CLICK HERE for more details and registration form.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Today there is probably no better expediter of literary dreams than Jonathan Karp, the publisher and editor in chief of Twelve, an imprint of the Hachette Book Group. In 2005, frustrated by his lack of freedom at Random House, where he spent sixteen years editing acclaimed best-sellers such as Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit, Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief, and Matthew Pearl's The Dante Club, Karp quit and founded Twelve with the objective of publishing no more than one book per month.

And his advice for writers:
"Aggressively seek the truth--forget about your ego--and do one more draft than your agent asks you to. The writers who I have noticed being successful are the ones who are making their agents wait for that next draft. It's the authors who don't pursue that next project until they're sure it's the right one for them. It's the ones who turn down the easy overture from the publisher for the quickie book and wait to do the book that they can really commit to."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


You hear it all the time....boys don't read. They bounce balls, they kill things in video games, they zombie-out in front of the tv....but they don't read.

One thing a 4 million book print run proves is if you give boys books they'll love, they DO read.

Click HERE to read more about the WIMPY KID 4 launch.

For more books that will make boys beg to visit their nearest indie bookstore check out GUYS READ, and be sure to visit their BOOK LIST page.


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