Textbook Publisher Dips Further Into Customized Marketing

Textbooks That Professors Can Rewrite Digitally (New York Times)

Textbook MarketWhen most marketers think about product decisions they generally focus on developing products with a specific set of features intended to appeal to a fairly large group of customers.  And in the most likely scenario this means each customer purchasing that product receives the same exact product features.  This approach is common for marketers targeting mass and niche markets. But as we discuss in the Targeting Markets tutorial, customized or micro-marketing is a strategy designed to target customers at an individual level by offering each customer the ability to essentially create their own product.  For instance, at a very basic level, this can be seen at a pizza shop where customers can add their own toppings.

This can also be seen in the college textbook market where publishers have for many years allowed instructors to order custom textbooks by giving educators some flexibility in determining the materials contained in the publications they use (e.g., textbooks, casebooks).  But for the most part customization options did not include making changes to materials written by textbook authors but was instead limited to adding, removing or adjusting certain items (e.g., re-arranging the chapter order, adding own notes).

As this story discusses, this has now changed. Book publisher Macmillan is allowing instructors to change content found inside of textbooks, something that textbook authors previously would not permit.  While educators are technically not direct customers but instead are order influencers (i.e., they recommend product but do not buy), the customized marketing strategy is as relevant with this group as it is with a consumer ordering a pizza with their favorite toppings.  Though it should be noted that for now these changes appear to be mostly limited to the digital version of a book and not printed copies.

While many publishers have offered customized print textbooks for years — allowing instructors to reorder chapters or insert third-party content from other publications or their own writing — DynamicBooks gives instructors the power to alter individual sentences and paragraphs without consulting the original authors or publisher.

Beside the ability to add or alter material found in an electronic book, what other type of customization options could textbook publishers offer to instructors?

Image by matsuda.yukihiro

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