Publishers, Developers, and School Districts: Change Agents in Transformation

One of the key themes running throughout the 2009 AEP Summit was that all players in educational publishing need to work together more efficiently and effectively to succeed in the new digital world, as well as in difficult economic times. During the session “Publishers, Developers, and School Districts: Change Agents in Transformation,” Randi Brill, President and Founder of Quarasan!, and Keith Garton, Managing Partner of Garton Media Strategy, discussed the four key groups in our industry, the challenges facing them, and 20 actions each could take to try and move ahead. Here are highlights from their session.

Randi Brill and Keith Garton began by reminding everyone that no contributor to the educational publishing industry can do business the same way that they did a year ago. The belief in technology and how it affects our business is manifest. Where once developers might be able to charge $88 a page for a textbook, sometimes they now can charge as little as $7. But while contributors are not going to be paid as much as they were before, Brill and Garton believe that financial restrictions can bring opportunities for innovation, as long as you understand the Fab Four of our industry.

The Fab Four Contributors, according to Brill and Garton, are Publishers, Educators, Developers and Freelancers.

  1. Publishers: The view starts and ends with products. Publishers need to hit margins and covers costs. They worry about shareholder value, and they need good, accurate products fast and cheap.
  2. Educators: The view starts and ends with kids–their responsibility is raising test scores. Educators struggle with the budget and trying to accommodate the needs of all the different students in their classroom.
  3. Developers: The view starts and ends with creative ideas. They need to sell and deliver great products. Developers struggle with money, needing a lean staff plus a stable of reliable freelancers.
  4. Freelancers: The view starts and ends with content. They work all the time and struggle with money, constantly worrying about where the next project will come from. They often miss being part of a school or a larger group.

Once you look at each group, it’s easy to see what they share.

  • A passion for education
  • A desire to have/create the best products
  • A commitment to excellent results
  • Worries about money
  • Worries about selling in the current economy
  • Struggle with balancing priorities
  • A general belief that there is a better way to get things done.

Garton and Brill counsel that in order to succeed, you need to ignore your vantage point. No matter which sector of the industry you are in, you need to spend time in a classroom; get to know how a development house really works; talk with freelancers about how they spend their days; and learn about the business, marketing, and creative sides of publishers. Everyone in the industry connects with each other; close collaboration at every level will help you successfully move forward to the next phase of educational publishing. Where we do business doesn’t matter; it’s the who, what, when, how, and why that can help us succeed.

  1. Who: Forge new partnerships
  2. What: Create innovative products
  3. When: Deliver to Markets sooner
  4. How: Work in new ways
  5. Why: Share the risk

See Randi and Keith’s presentation, including the 20 actions each group could take.

Read more posts from the AEP Summit.

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4 Responses to “Publishers, Developers, and School Districts: Change Agents in Transformation”


  1. 1 Rod Martin July 13, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Useful ideas if well-established players can change their ways. One other suggestion that might be useful — the establishment of ‘clusters’ of players who feel comfortable working with each other and sharing ideas. It’s the same principle used in Silicon Valley.

  2. 2 juliorvarela July 15, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    Nice post. I know Randi and Keith very well, and they are both good friends and are highly respected. One thing that is missing here is that the current model, publisher hires developer who hires freelancer who does work, is outdated. In essence, if the publisher can go directly to the freelancer, then the cost would change dramatically. The role of the developer now needs to be more of a hub, a flexible virtual place that attracts the top talent and provides a unique value that a publisher cannot bring any longer. Everyone is working with less and expecting to do more.

    • 3 Lesli Evans February 28, 2011 at 10:50 am

      Thank you Julio. The virtual model you described is exactly the one Professional ED Corp. has been using for several years. We customize solutions for publishers and developers. We build and manage virtual teams for major publishers and developers. It’s efficient, effective, and some team member even say fun!


  1. 1 Building Strong Relationships Between Organizations and Independent Contractors « Educational Publishing Trackback on February 22, 2010 at 11:59 am

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