A Lesson in E-Literacy
The education market has made major technological strides—but in some ways, it’s still a bit behind the learning curve.
You hear it all the time—the joke that kids these days come out of the womb with a laptop. More than making for a painful birth, it signifies that the Internet is the future of business, in both sales and marketing. Still, most educational publishing orders are made through paper channels, and direct mail continues to be the major method to attract sales. Then again, teachers are making these purchases much more frequently than the more tech-entrenched students.
“You’d think the Internet would be the main source of revenue, but the numbers say not even 10 percent of our business comes from it,” says Jay Castelli, vice president of marketing for the Benchmark Education Company, whose most notable series is “Reader’s Theater.” “I think we have to keep an eye open for the day it changes, but you can’t cut back on sales reps or catalogs when that’s still clearly the effective way to approach teachers. … Right now we have 85 reps and send out big catalogs every three weeks to teachers.”
However, despite paper’s hold on educators, there are other online opportunities that have shown major gains—and publishers are clearly the ones resisting. According to Charlene Gaynor, president of the Association of Educational Publishers (AEP), one company revealed to her a 20-percent to 30-percent sales-revenue gain on a book it offered for free online––not a free excerpt, mind you, but the entire title. “It makes a lot of sense to me,” says Gaynor. “Even if you get the information for free, it’s much more convenient to get it from a bookshelf than from a computer. If your book is quality, being able to see it all [online for free] can only help the sale.”