On the heels of Apple’s big education and iBooks event, it’s worth taking a quick snapshot of the education publishing industry as it stands today.
Not because the tools announced today will inevitably transform the future of education the way iTunes and the iPhone did the music and smartphone industries — however fun that may be to imagine.
Rather, you simply can’t understand Apple’s interest in breaking into the education market without at least a little understanding of that market’s scope. And you can’t understand why Apple’s adopted the approach that it has without understanding that market’s connection to our wider media ecosystem.
So, first things first.
The biggest publishers in the world today are education publishers.It’s not even close. In 2009, Pearson’s Education division alone brought in more revenue than any other book publisher besides number two, Reed Elsevier, whose biggest businesses are Lexis-Nexis and Elsevier Science.
Education publishers dwarf trade presses. Only the top trade press, Random House (itself owned by Bertelsmann) is bigger than Cengage, the little-known education publishing division that Thomson spun off in 2008 before merging with Reuters.
Education publishers are also much bigger than other media companies that attract much more attention. Pearson is far bigger than AOL or The New York Times Company (and much more profitable). In order to find publishers with greater revenue or profits, you have to go up the ladder to companies like News Corp that include global television markets, or retail entities, like Amazon. This makes companies like Pearson too big to ignore, especially when they’re willing to partner up.