Jim Nye was one of the top executives running what at the time was called ITT Publishing, my first employer out of college...many, many years ago. Jim was an insightful leader and someone I always looked up to. We went our separate ways after ITT Publishing but our paths recently crossed again. Jim is a partner in a venture called NEW Publishing Solutions and I thought it would be fun to interview him on the blog:
JW: Ingram has certainly built a strong reputation as an important wholesaler in our industry. You've done a lot of work with their Digital Group -- what are some of the more interesting things Ingram is doing to further diversify their operation on the digital side?
JN: Ingram, through Ingram Digital Group (IDG), aims to be the number one distributor of digital content. Working with them to build the beginnings of all of what IDG has become was very exciting. The key focus of all of this is to help Publishers sell more content. IDG is organized into four main business units - publisher, retail, institutional and educational solutions:
Publisher Solutions (CoreSource)
Brings comprehensive digital asset management and distribution capabilities to publishers. Among the features of such a relationship are:
- Viral marketing via a widget
- The flow of content directly into print on demand
- Direct selling via websites powered for the publisher
- Custom publishing is enabled
- Content can be flowed to any customer through any channel
- Files can simply be transformed from one format to another
Allows publishers to sell content to consumers through the retail channels and includes encrypted eBook download in various formats, pdf, .lit, palm etc. Full search and discovery plus a browse inside the book capability are available. They have some 130,000 unique titles available.
Institutional Solutions – The MyiLibrary
Allows publishers to sell their digital content to academic, Public, Corporate and Government libraries.
The VitalSource platform is the leading textbook distribution platform and allows publishers to sell their eTextbooks to students, distribute them to faculty (eComps) and offers the capability for search within a title, across titles and within a class or course grouping.
Ingram now has over 500,000 digital files from some 4,000 publishers that are being and are optimised for all the solutions.
JW: You've had a couple of stints as President and CEO of two organizations with an emphasis on computer/web-based training products (Carnegie Learning and ExploreLearning). How did your traditional publishing background help you in both of these roles?
JN: With both Carnegie and Explore I was working with very bright people who had created ingenious answers to educational challenges without any experience or background in the business of educational content. Having a clear perspective on the relationship between content and intent as well as years of experience in the systems of learning gave me a wonderful chance to bring their great ideas into the mainstream.
I was able to not only help create appropriate systems of management, sales and marketing for them but I also introduced both of the companies to traditional publishers, their people and their business systems.
Interestingly there are a lot of wonderful, effective ideas that are being developed outside the publishing norms all of which can benefit from working with someone with a traditional publishing business experience base.
A number of my small clients fit this profile exactly.
JW: You also held a variety of positions with several educational publishing companies. Where do you see the college textbook market heading? Will a device like the Kindle ever live up to everyone's expectations and enable students to carry their entire textbook library with them (without breaking their backs!)?
JN: First, Joe, I do not think that the any answer being sought is going to be provided by a reading device. Kindle, the Sony Reader, and other such attempts have the limitation of primarily being black and white readers with little or no interactivity possible. To my way of thinking the most likely utilized "device" on the market today, that has tremendous potential, is the iPod Touch. And, the iPod Touch is much more a computer with reading, interactivity, wi-fi, etc. than simply an ebook reading device.
Much of what I see happening to the market is focused around the growing interest in access to content in a fluid and dynamic system, anytime and anywhere and within a wrapper that allows for measurement both normative and formative as the learner approaches desired outcomes.
Who makes the content decision, how it is made and how the selected content is presented and the results measured are undergoing change. Achievement that can be measured and outcomes that can be defined are clearly becoming a part of the educational imperative.
Technology allows for and supports such systems and technology also offsets the limitations of printed and bound pedagogical tools. We can house all of the content required for a college major and much, much more in almost any laptop computer in popular use today (no breaking of the back).
There are some fascinating initiatives underway that are attempting to deal with all of the issues of digital content in education. One of the most interesting is the California State University Digital Marketplace Initiative.
It is the intention of this program, as one example of the application, to have all of the classroom materials in use on any California State University campus in the future available in digital form. Ohio has a "like" program underway as do a number of schools and universities individually.
Other interesting initiatives are:
and other open source programs that are developed and developing.
Then, another force that I see impacting the educational content market is the entry of non-traditional providers such as Intel, Sun, Cisco, Google and Microsoft who are developing or supporting educational programs central to their corporate mandates.
One only need look at what is going on in the K-12 segment of the educational market to see the impact of new entries, modalities and designs that will bubble up in to Higher Ed.
JW: Finally, quite a few publishing professionals have toyed with the idea of eventually becoming an industry consultant down the road. You successfully made the transition, so what advice do you have to offer anyone who's currently thinking about making that switch?
JN: Network, network, network.
Know the people who are working in your marketspace, learn what their interests are, how they do their business and establish friendly relationships with them and remember who they are. They will be going places in their companies (or maybe the one you work for) and become an amazing resource.
And do not restrict yourself to meeting people in your specific business. If they are on your campuses or at the meetings you attend you need to know who they are and what they do.
Having this kind of perspective not only will pay off in the future as references, it will enhance your work with your primary targets if you better understand all the work of the people in their world.
Oh, and by the way, if someone is considering becoming a consultant I am always looking for new talent!