Publishers' Outlook 2011
According to West Academic's Justin Hummel, the company's digital tools, such as The West Education Network (TWEN) "are changing how people are using [and] accessing content."
You can [also] get updates and leverage those [online] tools to interact with authors. … You can more easily ... form a stronger relationship not only with the book, but with the people creating the book, and in turn have impact on what is included in the book because the authors now have a mechanism to get [user] feedback.
BB: Are new digital products starting to become more free-standing, rather than supplemental to the print book?
Hummel: We are starting to play around with those things through our Law School Exchange [website for law faculty]. We are delivering books that are electronic only, and we create those a bit differently than we would our traditional print books ... [developing] things that are supplemental, but could be used separately from the book, such as quizzes.
[Product decisions] also are impacted by faculties' use of classroom management systems [such as Blackboard or West Academic's Twen] ... which allow them to have different types of interactions with students than they otherwise would have had available to them. They are using those tools to deliver their own types of content, to measure students' understanding of things, to do things like instant polling to get a sense of students' comprehension of whatever they are covering in class that day. So those tools are changing how people are using [and] accessing content.
BB: Do you anticipate more integrated print/digital offerings in 2011, or will the trend be toward replacing existing print products with digital?
Hummel: I think that is very much still in the nascent stages. I anticipate that we will continue to live in both worlds for awhile.
If you consider, for example, how students use the core case materials—the case books—they spend a lot of time on a page or two, heavily invested in understanding the concepts and elements of a particular case, and they write their notes in the margins, and they highlight and do all these things that print does a fantastic job of facilitating. Digital offerings are getting better with those functions, but they haven't yet completely reproduced what is possible in a print book. … For an invested, deep, interactive reading experience, print still does a really good job.