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."
The other thing that impacts the ability to go straight to digital is that a number of faculty still … allow students to have print books in front of them, so they can leverage their notes. But if you go digital, … [the students] have access to other content, products, services, etc., and the possibility of cheating. [In many cases] their professor is not allowing them to use that computer or tablet.
So digital is going to grow, but I think it's going to grow faster in the discretionary and study-aide side of the business than on the core casebook side of the business. It's also going to be aided by leveraging of things like flashcards and memory devices.
BB: What do you anticipate will happen with mobile apps in the education/law market over the next year? How will West Academic respond?
Hummel: I expect smartphones and tablets are going to put more pressure on publishers to deliver digitally. We certainly hear from the market [that] there is demand for our products to be optimized for smart devices, or for us to develop applications for smart devices, and we've done some of that. We released "Black's Law Dictionary" on the iPhone about a year ago, and that's doing really well for us. We will soon release that for the Android [operating system], followed by the Blackberry operating system, and we expect those to do well.
It gets to be difficult from a publisher's perspective to think about building digital offerings in the native application manner because you're right back in the software world, which most of us got away from with the advent of the Web. It was much easier to develop products that worked on a browser because you could develop them once, and it was easy to update. With software products, you have to continuously update as the operating system changes, so there is a lot of overhead that goes into managing and developing your localized applications. It can be much more costly than developing a Web application.