Custom book publishing is already a reality. The new revamped offering from O'Reilly Media shows that the educational market too is ready for disintermediating large publisher while giving in to deep customization and teacher-driven content selection.
Photo credit: Andriy Doriy
Custom textbook publishing is next. In this new paradigm everyone wins, as the academic books can be custom-tailored to each course and professor, electronic versions extend access, while the overall cost to authors and students is nothing comparable to what we are leaving behind.
O'Reilly, one of the most innovative and successful technical publishers in the industry, has just announced its launching of the newest version of SafariU, a fully Web-based custom publishing platform allowing educators to create custom computer science and information technology textbooks and course materials by bringing together existing quality content already licensed by O'Reilly.
The custom textbooks get both to be printed as well as to be published online as an electronic syllabus, the authors/compilers need not to pay anything for this and the students get a higher quality learning support material at a cost that should be generally lower than the average cost of a traditional textbook.
In other words, by using SafariU, educators can create a custom textbook in real-time, drawing from a rich library of top technology books from publishers including O'Reilly, Prentice Hall PTR, and Addison Wesley.
John Blossom has an executive summary and commentary of this announcement:
O'Reilly Media is a leading innovator in online book marketing, slicing, dicing and bookshelving all manner of tech-oriented titles in electronic form for online audiences.
Its Safari U portal extends this concept by allowing educators to create custom textbooks from specific sections of content sourced from any number of titles available in the O'Reilly collection.
A great concept, but getting it working properly in a scalable environment with open-source technology was proving to be a challenge until O'Reilly signed on with Mark Logic to get some highly potent standards-based technology to drive the process. The result is the announced rebirth of Safari U, which facilitates the assembly of custom books and course packs from texts and multimedia sources as well as materials from the instructors assembling these materials.
These custom textbooks are printed on-demand for as little as USD sixteen cents a page and can be made available to others as templates for their own custom packs via Safari U's Learning Objects Exchange.
All of this is free to the instructors and oftentimes a significant savings to students, who can avoid buying stacks of books that are used only in part during their courses.
While the claims that this is a Web 2.0 phenomenon are a little suspect, it's nevertheless a key indicator that custom publishing at the behest of technology-empowered users is about to come of age.
With infrastructure such as that provided by Mark Logic it's now possible for publishers to assemble virtually any combination of content sources quickly and easily at a into a format suitable for mass-scale custom printing.
This begs the question: why are we doing this only for text books?
The whole concept of what's needed in a printed collection of materials is moving away from book, magazine and newspaper editors to technology-empowered users, who are able already to do their own custom printing in a crude form from materials garnered via Web browsers.
Custom publishing will enable these users to save a ton on printing materials and get both premium and ad-supported content to them in convenient packages suitable for both short-term and long-term use, along with electronic copies.
As portals such as Google and Amazon gear up for custom printing services the question will no longer be whether print is dead but rather whether print-based publishers who base their models on single-source print runs are dead.
For all of those who are smirking about this being a pie-in-the-sky notion, let's talk in a year or so. I prefer blueberry myself.
Download the case study from Mark Logic entitled "The Reality of Web 2.0: 0'Reilly Media's SafariU Leads by Example".
About the author
John Blossom is the founder of Shore Communications Inc. a research agency specializing in advisory services and strategic marketing consulting for publishers and consumers of content services.
If 2005 was the year that forced publishers, aggregators and content technology companies to come to grips with thriving new business models for content, 2006 is going to be the year in which these new models will need far greater investment in infrastructure and in new ways of publishing and marketing to tailor their services to increasingly sophisticated users untethered from many traditional content sources, distribution channels and platforms.
Four key areas are going to be critical for those publishers wanting to make this ride successful:
To learn more about these hot topics without spending an extra cent, download Content Industry Outlook 2006: Investing in Users, and learn directly from John Blossom and his research team all about user-generated content value, aggregating content, new monetization approaches and opportunities.