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The Amazon-ification of Higher Ed?
July 14, 2014 - 9:00pm

Higher ed and publishing.  

Publishing and higher ed.

How are we the same?  Where do we differ?  

What can we learn in higher ed from our colleagues in publishing?

These are the questions that kept emerging as I read David excellent NYTimes article this past weekend, Amazon, a Friendly Giant as Long as It’s Fed.

Where do we land when we think about Amazon and books and publishing through a higher ed lens?

How much are our classes like books, our professors like book authors?  (Weird question, as our professors are also book authors, but go with it).

How much are our colleges and universities like publishing houses?

The Amazon-ification of higher education does not mean that Amazon suddenly goes into the higher ed business.  

Rather, Amazon-ification is a metaphor for what happens when new market players and new technologies change the game in ways that (may) benefit consumers, while simultaneously altering the ecosystem which previously nourished the providers and consumers alike.

What would the Amazon-ification of higher ed look like?

Some of you will argue that the process is already occurring.  

That colleges and universities are on the cusp of being squeezed by new models (competency based accreditation) and new technologies (adaptive learning platforms, open online education etc.).   

As a book reader, the growth of Amazon has been almost all positive.  My books are less expensive, and are provided to me in formats that make reading more convenient and pleasurable (e-books and audiobooks).

But I worry that the cost of cheap and convenient books will eventually be a decline in the number books worth reading.  That Amazon’s growing book monopoly will damage authors as it threatens the traditional world of publishing.  

I’m not totally sure that this will happen, as Amazon’s book platforms have encouraged me to spend more money than ever on books.  

The quote in the NYTimes article from Russell Grandinetti, Amazon’s senior vice president for Kindle, rings true from my book buying experience:

 “You have to draw the box big. Books don’t just compete against books. Books compete against Candy Crush, Twitter, Facebook, streaming movies, newspapers you can read for free. It’s a new world. It’s so important not to simply build a moat around the industry the way it is now.”

Could the publishing industry gotten out in front of Amazon?  Developed e-book and audiobook platforms and services before Amazon built the Kindle and purchased Audible?

Can we imagine a similar fate for higher ed as Amazon is delivering to the publishers?

Is there anything there to learn from the Amazon/publisher/book/reader story for our world of colleges/professors/classes/students?  

What can we learn, and what can we do, so that we don’t end up suffering the same future as our colleagues in publishing?

How can we avoid, or should we welcome, the Amazon-ification of higher ed? 

 

 

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