Digital disruption of education publishing is win-win for all

By Monica Malhotra Kandhari,

22 November 2017

Monica Malhotra Kandhari, MD, MBD Group, explains the ways digital technology has disrupted traditional education publishing, and how this disruption has also opened up new avenues of content dissemination for education publishers.

monica-malhotra-kandhari Monica Malhotra Kandhari

The invention of the printing press is directly linked to the proliferation of knowledge consumption through easy access to printed books. Today, publishing continues to be an important backbone for the education sector as educational materials, including textbooks are designed, produced and distributed by publishers to be consumed by students, teachers and enthusiasts in schools, colleges and homes.

Educational publishing has over the years evolved to become a highly lucrative and intensely competitive business. Established publishers often accumulate vast resources of knowledge banks and develop credible expertise in acquiring new contents and an eco-system of well-developed and efficient distribution network.

Advancements in the field of digital technology and their proliferation in the field of education over the years have caused serious disruptions in educational publishing. Knowledge and information consumption has seen a gradual shift from the printed format to digital content and online access.

This shift gave rise to and is further hastened by a host of related service providers, such as software developers, courseware designers and online revision sites, etc. This shift in pattern has also allowed schools and colleges to enjoy a great deal of flexibility in imparting knowledge to meet varying learning needs of the students.

The onslaught of digital disruption on education publishing not only redefines content delivery, syllabus and assessment methodology, it also gave rise to new platforms and partnerships in the generation, delivery and servicing of educational contents to the consumers. The whole eco-system associated with education is also evolving to enable stakeholders like traditional publishing houses, online players, software developers, content contributors and educational institutes to jointly create additional value for the sector.

The shift towards digital content also necessitates publisher to adapt to the changing environment for their own survival.

Publishing houses have over the years benefitted from the business of scale. But with contents increasingly going digital, mass production of printed material is becoming unnecessary and unsustainable. With digital distribution already undercutting sale of printed materials, the traditional business model based on scale and an education sector dominated by printed materials needs to evolve with the times.

The shift, however, comes embedded with a silver lining. By adapting existing contents and making new contents available through digital medium, publishers are in fact expanding their business into newer markets. And the diversification of distribution channels also adds a new revenue stream which can enhance profitability as well as shore up market share for the publishers.

Educational publishers today are offering their products in the eBook format along with the physical printed copy. This format is well accepted primarily in the K12 segment. These eBooks can be accessed through various mediums such as mobile phones, personal computers or a dedicated reading device for such formats. With digitisation, the entire repository of accumulated knowledge lying with the publishers can now be more easily shared and updation or addition of content, if and when required, can be easily undertaken through the internet.

With digitisation, education publishing has become more engaging and informative as links to external contents, audio/visual aids or codes that when scanned using a learners phone bring the text to life, can now be embedded in the textbooks.

Augmented reality or 3D models of the solar system or of the human body, for instance, will be much more informative than mere texts and deliver a better understanding of the subject at hand. Established publishers globally are well aware of the benefits of these disruptions and are adopting these changes to continue delivering meaningful contents to their readers.

Apart from AR/VR, artificial intelligence and 3D printing have immense potential to disrupt education publishing in the years ahead. These technologies though already available today are yet to mature and publishers as owners of a huge repository of educational contents are once again playing a key role in the design, development and delivery of such contents to the learners.

The traditional buying and selling process and distribution channels in education publishing are also undergoing changes to reflect the shift to digital. In effect, digital disruption of education publishing has precipitated a significant restructuring of the entire industry and publishing houses are investing in revamping their strategies and training their skill force to operate in the changing environment.

However, printed books as we know it are yet to become obsolete and may not be so, at least in the foreseeable future.

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