AcademicPub, a division of digital content provider SharedBook, is the latest service to reinvent the coursepack, those formerly unauthorized photocopied anthologies of textbook articles circulated to students. AcademicPub offers quick and easy access to a broad range of content from multiple publishers, on-the-fly permissions, and the ability to upload and add original content. Professors can even grab content off the Web to create quality customized educational anthologies—e-books or print, in color or black and white—at affordable prices.
AcademicPub (academicpub.com) is a service offering a new-wave version of the customized coursepack with the ability to "mix and match a variety of publishers' content and produce a finished professional book," said Michael Cairns, chief revenue officer at SharedBook during a conference call. SharedBook is a 10-year-old company based in New York with offices in Israel. It specializes in sharing and recombining digital content and offering it in a variety of formats. Eighteen months ago, SharedBook decided to expand its reach into the educational market with AcademicPub to allow faculty to create coursepacks in real-time and—thanks to a partnership with the Copyright Clearance Center—with permissions included. Since the launch of the service in April, about 135 publishers have signed on to make their content available through the AcademicPub content library—all of it aggregated to a granular level that includes full-text articles, chapters, and even single recipes. The service offers professors access to more than three million items of content, and Cairns said they expect to have more than 200 publishers in the program by the end of the year.
"We've got a couple thousand faculty members registered," Cairns said, "mostly in the U.S., but it's global and its expanding." Cairns said the service offers ease of use, broad content, fast turnarounds, and the ability to brand the service in the name of the school or for publishers, some of whom use the service in-house to quickly create anthologies of their content for general sale.
Once registered, faculty members can log onto the site and be presented with an easy step-by-step process that lets them choose appropriate content. They can upload original content such as lesson plans and class notes in Word. As they add articles to the prospective document, the software keeps a running tab on the price—publishers set the price for all their content— and permissions fees. If a faculty member has used the service before, the software's recommendation engine will suggest content to use. AcademicPub can even grab content off the Web and from blogs—for a demo Cairns grabbed an article from the Economist—put it into an AcademicPub template (it includes any accompanying photographs or images) and quickly got the appropriate permissions and royalty fees, all with a minimum number of clicks. "We can use content from anywhere," said Cairns.
Before finalizing the publication, the service provides an exact online preview of how the text, formatting, and layout will look in the finished product, along with pricing for print (black and white, color) and for the e-book version. (E-book coursepacks are rentals, Cairns said, and expire once a class is over.). Once completed, faculty can send e-mails to their students with links to buy the new course pack from the school bookstore, publisher Web site, or other outlet.
Cairns said AcademicPub is also offered as a "white label" service and can be branded as a university product and promoted on campus with a portal site at the college bookstore or copy center—colleges can even markup the pricing to recoup costs or subsidize the coursepacks. "We can load special content that is only available to approved users on the campus," he said. While there is a special $5,000 setup fee for a custom publisher site, AcademicPub makes its money off a fee added to the final price of each course pack, "otherwise, there's no other fee," Cairns said.
By the summer, the service will also be available via apps for the iPad and for Android devices. Cairns said the biggest obstacle to the service has been "to get faculty members to do new things, but we offer a better option. Content control and variety, more control over pricing, and schools can negotiate for special prices. We think the service addresses a lot of the publishing issues in the educational marketplace."