Dear Publishers: (McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Thomson...etc.)
It is time to set your digital content free.
What better stage then EDUCAUSE 09 here in Denver to announce that you have decided to put Creative Commons licensing on all your digital assets and make them available freely to the world!
With one move you could make your associated textbook content relevant and compelling.
Your digital assets, if branded with the textbooks that they correspond with, would be the best marketing possible for your books. Instantly you would create good will among educators, and the opportunity to up-sell your textbooks. By making all your digital assets available, all your animations, movies, question banks, images, etc. etc. you would encourage the community to mashup this material and make it even more valuable to the textbook.
Your big announcement at EDUCAUSE that you are setting all your materials free would blow away anything else announced at the conference. How many high quality videos and animations do you have in your database? Loading each video and animation to YouTube, with appropriate branding, would instantly give you a marketing and communications platform and a distribution channel. These videos and animations could then easily be used by instructors and students in their course LMS, using the embed code function. The branding would follow the learning.
How much money would you instantly save getting rid of confusing course pack id codes, logons, and the necessity to get "permission" to view and utilize the materials. Support calls for locked content for students or faculty would drop to zip. Your book reps would be able to share the wonderful material available in your catalog using social networks ..... say by tweeting an animation on photosynthesis. Your content would become part of the discussion, and part of the material that students use to create knowledge.
Yes ... I know you will say that creating digital assets is expensive. That you need to re-coup your costs by bundling these with the textbooks. I say, use your digital assets to replace your marketing budget. Your academic images, animations, videos, and test questions should be your marketing strategy. Stop spending money on proprietary platforms to distribute these assets (either your own course platforms or LMS cartridges). Let the consumer social media platforms be your distribution (and review and conversation) platforms. Let the learners search and utilize the materials in any of the ways that they see fit.
Your value proposition is in creating curricular content. You get paid by books. Your digital materials make your books more appealing. Stop trying to be what you are not. Give a gift to the world that will also work to your long-term strategic business interests by supporting your core value proposition. Use EDUCAUSE 09 to make the big announcement that you are setting your content free!