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Accounting Professor Takes Online Approach to Textbook Publishing

Marianne Bradford, associate professor in the Department of Accounting at North Carolina State University College of Management, didn’t follow the usual path for academics when she recently published her new textbook, Modern ERP: Select, Implement, and Use Today’s Advanced Business Systems. She decided to publish it through the online self-publishing company, using

Although courted by big-name publishing houses, Bradford says, “Their vision for the textbook did not match mine.” By using the software on Lulu’s website, Bradford was able to design a textbook that could be exactly what she needed it to be, for herself and, more importantly, for her students.

Students, in fact, became a part in the publishing process. Bradford was approached last year by John Keadle, a student in the college’s Jenkins MBA Program, who had heard she was writing a textbook. He needed just one more course to finish his degree requirements, and Bradford agreed to engage him in the process as a guided project.

Keadle worked with her as she weighed the pros and cons of self-publishing, and then served as her editing, publishing and marketing partner, earning not only a grade for the course but also a contributing editor credit in the book. Although he graduated in May 2008, Keadle continued working on the project until it was finished later that month. He has continued to work with her on updates to the textbook.

The self-publishing route allowed Bradford to save the cost of using a traditional publishing house’s marketing services. She also eschewed the marketing support offered for an additional fee by Lulu, opting instead to handle direct marketing herself, working through her contacts in the American Accounting Association, of which she is a member. That enabled her to market the book to the people she knows are most likely to adopt it in their classrooms and universities.

Bradford is relying on her connections in the business world as well, not just to buy the book but also to help sell it. The book has been reviewed, edited and endorsed by executives in major corporations like Microsoft and SAS as well as the accounting firm, Deloitte. Such professional reviews are important, she said, because “it’s being put out there for the students and the information has to be right.”

Bradford also declined Lulu’s editing service. Instead, she involved students in her Enterprise Systems class this past summer in the review process. They ’pilot-tested’ the text and were offered a few extra credit points based on the number of errors they found.

Correcting the edits herself was easy to do, she said. “I opened the book in a Word document and was able to fix them within a few minutes, in time for its next on-demand printing. This is different than traditional publishing where a single typo could plague a textbook writer for years before the next edition is released,” she said. The short turn-around time for her textbook editions also allows Bradford to keep the material current so that her students have the most recent information available in a constantly changing field.

“Self-publishing does have its limitations, though,” Bradford said. Color printing is expensive and also narrows the number of book size options. Bradford said she hopes to open up these options by printing the next edition in black and white, which will also cut the cost of the book by half. is a growing company that publishes more than just textbooks. The company offers publishing services for everything from sales proposals to family vacation photo books. It describes itself as a company that “eliminates traditional entry barriers to publishing, and enables content creators and owners – authors and educators, videographers and musicians, businesses and nonprofits, professionals and amateurs – to bring their work directly to their audience,” according to their website.

But will self-published textbooks like Bradford’s change the way the textbook publishing industry works? “Not immediately,” Bradford says. “Right now, self-publishing is fairly unchartered territory, and it has a a long way to go.”

For textbook authors and their students, though, the advantages can be great. One advantage is the price tag: Bradford is selling the textbook to NC State students at cost, which helps relieve the strain put on student wallets by the ever-growing price of textbooks.

Another advantage is tied directly to teaching. “What it comes down to is the success of the book and its effectiveness in the classroom,” Bradford says. “In this case, the book fits the class perfectly. The proof is that students like the book and they’re learning something from it. Their favorable response convinced me that I’ve done the right thing with this. I feel totally in control of my book, and I don’t have to make excuses for outdated content.“