The Outlook for Textbook Publishing
A conversation with Pat McKee of McGraw-Hill
by Carole E. Scott
Pat McKee is Vice President and Group Editorial Director of the Glencoe/McGraw-Hill Book Company and is the current Executive-in-Residence at the Richards College of Business, University of West Georgia. Carole E. Scott is B>Quest's Editor-in-Chief.
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Pat McKee anticipates that education will be characterized by an ever-increasing use of technology. Already most classrooms are connected via the Internet. However, there are still a lot of one-computer classrooms. There are, she observes, still a lot of students who do not have computers at home. All the major publishers are getting into some kind of learning network. McGraw-Hill has developed a learning network that provides access for parents and for schools and for students so that textbooks become more interactive and accessible. She anticipates that her company, Glencoe, will keep as its focus, a content provider in several different mediums for grades 6-14.
Paper is not on the way out because, she says, "we have too many schools out there, especially in rural areas, that are dependent on textbooks." While technology is integrated into virtually everything her company publishes, the only significant area in secondary education that dispenses with textbooks is middle school computer literacy. It will be several years before this will change completely.
McKee commented that it appears many of the larger publishers are looking for ancillary materials, particularly in reading and math to supplement basal texts and adoptions. Many states are looking for quality material to help students increase their reading and math ability.. Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, she says, is also looking for "information-type companies that will provide digital-type, on-line access for education." She feels that McGraw-Hill is, as it has been for the over fifty years, focused on its three business areas: financial ratings, information and media, and education, and that future acquisitions will not change this. Company growth, she says, will target such areas as expansion abroad, online services and subscriptions and strong national adoption opportunities in the educational market.
Like all publishing companies, Glencoe operates in an environment of adoption cycles. As a result, revenues are greater in years when large states are adopting new textbooks. Glencoe makes medium revisions of its 6-12 textbooks every two to three years. Major revisions are made every five years. Once a book is written and edited, it takes about six to eight months before it is ready for distribution.
The relative profitability of books at the different grade levels varies from year to year. The pupil editions themselves generate profits from textbook publishing, as ancillary materials are usually provided at no additional charge. As a result, profitability is substantially dependent upon controlling the cost of these materials. The acceptance by teachers of CD-ROMS and sites on the Web has significantly reduced the cost of providing ancillary materials.
She disagrees with the belief of some that a handful of our largest states pretty well dictate what goes into textbooks. While she admits that her company always looks at key states, it has to follow national guidelines that are published in all the subject areas. "We make sure that we meet their (large states') guidelines, but we look at national standards very, very closely and with all state requirements." National subject-area tests, she points out, are based on the standards set by national education associations in each subject area.
Because many K-12 students do not have computers at home, students must have textbooks. Higher education, she says, is more accepting of e-books and on-line than is 6-12 because the equipment is there. On all levels, she believes, the success of on-line learning is substantially dependent on the "energy and effort" the instructor puts into it. Instructors tell her that teaching an on-line course is harder than teaching a regular class. At the secondary level on-line courses tend to be either a course such as advanced chemistry or a course such as Latin for which the enrollment is such that a self-contained classroom is not economically feasible.
Training teachers to utilize computers in their courses is a big issue. "State departments of education struggle with funding to train teachers, and it is tough to give teachers release time to get that training." Part of a publisher's selling process is providing the training teachers need to utilize computers in their classes. To help teachers, publishers may provide consultants to conduct workshops on how to use the computer programs it provides or mentors who are paid on a per diem basis. So that teachers do not have to leave their schools, this help may be provided on line. How the training is provided depends on what the market demands.
"Teachers," she says, "aren't lecturers anymore. Teachers are facilitators, and we have students today who are not linear learners. They grew up with MTV. They grew up with the computer. Understanding how that student learns and the different learning styles is very, very important."
When asked about the problem of a one-computer classroom and students finding other things that they would rather do than to look at pictures on a screen, she says that "if the only method is for a student to look at a screen that's far away, it's like putting too much on a transparency. It's the same concept. That problem really has been around forever." Now we simply have the same old problem with a new technology when it is misused. "Technology is a tool. It can be misused." How successful it is depends on how the instructor is using the tool. The student must be an active, rather than a passive, learner. "
Pat McKeeBio Pat McKee (B.S. in Business Education, Florida Southern College; M.A. in Business Education, University of South Florida) oversees product development for five editorial groups: Computer Education, Communications, Business Administration/Accounting/ Marketing, Occupations and Careers, and Office Technology/Keyboarding. The five units, consisting of over 200 active titles, generate approximately $55+ million in annual revenue. She manages all print, media, and Website development initiatives, as well as acquisitions. She is also responsible for developing and implementing strategic long-term publishing plans that position the organization for double-digit revenue and market growth as well as identifying and leveraging assets within McGraw-Hill to produce new revenue producing products.
A diverse, multimedia publishing and information company headed by Harold "Terry" McGraw III, the McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. provide information products and services to business, professional, and educational services markets throughout the world. Perhaps best known as the publisher of textbooks, Business Week Magazine, and Standard and Poor's ratings, its key markets include finance, business, education, construction, medical and health, aerospace, and defense. Through Business Week McGraw-Hill continues to expand what it considers to be the world’s leading business information resource both online and in print.
McGraw-Hill's component businesses are shown below.
1. INFORMATION AND MEDIA SERVICES
KGTV (San Diego)
B. Business Week Group
McGraw-Hill Construction Group
McGraw-Hill Construction Information Group
C. Publications Services Group
Aviation Week & Space Technology
Business & Commercial Aviation
World Aviation Directory
Aviation Week Newsletters
D. Healthcare Information Group
The Physician and Sportsmedicine
Healthcare Education Group
E. Science & Technology Group
Global Energy Business
Information Technologies for Utilities/IT
Utility Data Institute
Tower Group International
Tower Group International
2. EDUCATIONAL AND PROFESSIONAL PUBLISHING
A. Educational Publishing
McGraw-Hill School Division
McGraw-Hill Consumer Products
McGraw-Hill Higher Education
Primis Custom Publishing
B. Professional Publishing
Professional Book Group
Science, Technical and Medical
C. International Publishing
McGraw-Hill Ryerson (Canada)
McGraw-Hill Latin America (McGraw-Hill Interamericana)
McGraw-Hill Europe, Middle East, Africa
McGraw-Hill Lifetime Learning
3. FINANCIAL SERVICES
Standard & Poor's Ratings Service
Standard & Poor's Financial Information Services
McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin, Harcourt General, Scholastic, and John Wiley are the nation's top publishers of textbooks. Fueled by demographics and rapidly changing educational theories, textbook demand is growing rapidly. McGraw-Hill Education provides learning solutions that recognize that education at all stages of life is key to economic opportunity. The education group is the largest content provider in the U.S. and is the world’s leading provider of Spanish language learning materials. McGraw-Hill's Primis Online eBook delivers students courseware via the Internet. Provided by Primis Online are 450 textbooks from which professors can create custom courseware. Students can either access these materials from a website hosted by ebrary or download them from the Primis Online site. McGraw-Hill, Random House, and Pearson have invested both cash and content in ebrary. (ebrary develops software and services for the secure online delivery of copyrighted content.)
GlencoeThe Glencoe Division of McGraw-Hill is the nation’s leading educational publisher for grades 6-12. This division of McGraw-Hill Companies publishes in every academic area and is the industry’s most comprehensive provider of academic and applied learning materials. This division also publishes a broad range of materials for postsecondary, adult education, and work-place training programs. Its distance education courses, available on the WebCT and Blackboard platforms, feature the same course content as its textbooks and tutorials in print. (McGrawHill/Irwin, a college textbook publisher, offers both these platforms as well as PageOut, eCollege, and Top Class.)
A journal of applied topics in business and economics