Why Innovation in the Textbook Market is Hard

On his AVC blog Fred Wilson shares an interesting piece from the American Conservative about why innovation in the textbook market is so difficult:

Within the world of regular public school education, educational professionals have distinctly limited ability to express any kind of preferences – and the Bush-era education reforms have reduced this scope even further. The target market for textbook publishers is the politicians who set the curriculum for the nation’s largest school systems where that curriculum is set statewide: California and Texas. It matters very little what an individual teacher in Houston or Oakland wants or needs – or thinks their students need.

If you want to see disruptive change in the textbook market, then, you’d need to identify both a potential supplier of the product with no stake in propitiating the incumbents, and a buyer of the product for whom the product solves a problem.

My suspicion is that your best bet would be to have the supplier and the purchaser be, in some sense, the same entity. And I can think of two parts of the educational landscape where that situation might obtain: the KIPP network of high-performing charter schools and the home-schooling movement.

In the past I've shared my frustration with the whole textbook cartel. I'd love nothing better than for someone to blow that industry up and figure out a better way to get teachers and students the tools they need.

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