Inside Higher Ed

Publishing Genius

I enjoyed this Inside Higher Ed article on “Publishing Genius” on Adam Robinson’s publishing imprint in Baltimore, MD.  It sounds like he’s found success by publishing untraditionally–producing digital versions, or putting up “broadside” pages around Baltimore.  Even though I’ve never visited the city, I’ve had a soft spot for literary Baltimore since reading Laura Lippman’s books, which mention hometown luminaries such as James M. Cain, Edgar Allen Poe and H.L. Mencken.

Textbook Rentals

Inside Higher Ed has an article titled “Rent, Read and Return,” which I found pretty interesting and I would recommend reading.  It focuses on a number of sites that allow students to rent books for a reduced price. However, unlike Netflix, there often are late fees and penalties if books are not returned on time. Chegg, one of the sites profiled, agrees to plant a tree for each book rented.  Author Stephanie Lee writes:
“The site has gone on to make $10 million in revenue last year and more than that amount this past January alone, according to company officials…In an arrangement that will go live in August, McGraw-Hill Companies will provide the site with new books and share an undisclosed portion of the revenue, according to Couch. Until now, Chegg has been purchasing books on its own and through affiliate programs.”
I found this joint venture between Chegg and the publisher McGraw-Hill to be very intriguing-and I’m quite curious to know what those revenue portions are.  What do you think? The author links to an earlier Higher Ed article titled “Wanted: Book for a Term.”  In the comments section, University of Oregon Librarian Andrew Bonamici links to a program they’ve undertaken with their campus bookstore to try and reduce the cost of textbooks for students.  One commenter, ML, offered this opinion: “The single thing that would make the biggest difference in the money that students I know have to spend on books would be a liberalization of copyright law.”  Based on my own experience, I’m tempted to agree.  I often had to buy coursepacks, which were expensive, loosely bound article reprints-the cost of those materials was certainly not due to fine paper or binding.   With so many different stakeholders with competing interests, it’s hard for me to imagine a single, successful, solution built on compromise. 

Inside Higher Ed

Until starting work at Northeastern, I was not aware of Inside Higher Ed. I’ve been very impressed with the content I’ve read thus far, and it’s good to keep abreast of higher ed trends across the country. I was also pleased to see that one of today’s articles features the same title as Diann’s blog post: Sticker Shock! However, this article deals with the lowering value of the US dollar, the increase in the cost of fuel, and the shaky future of the US economy in the face of a growing emphasis (including at Northeastern) on college study abroad programs. Despite rising costs, there’s still a huge push (and student interest) in programs abroad. The article posits that the future for such programs may lie in cheaper foreign destinations, and that the ultimate effect on the future numbers who go abroad is still uncertain.