Higher Educational Publishing: From Print to Digital

When higher education first started to include primitive digital technology across colleges and universities in North America before the turn of the century, educators and corporates alike were on the fence. Some saw the potential of integrating the old with the new and deemed it advancement, but others were convinced that new technology was a threat to the sacred institution of learning. However, living in a world like today’s, where our every waking moment is infiltrated, governed, and consumed by technology, only a traditionalist technophobe would deny the importance of digital learning. For those in the educational sector, digital solutions are just that – solutions, to rapidly increasing costs of operation, changes in student demographics, and an accelerated rate of demand for improved and effective methods of increasing student learning.

The prospective benefits of efficient digital learning tools are innumerable. While switching entirely to a digital platform may not be completely viable at this point in time, including a digital component to an existing course has proven to be very useful, especially in introductory courses. The demand for a more blended product – a textbook with supplemental resources – is continually growing. A vast majority of instructors at college campuses across the country say that one of the top factors affecting their decision for the adoption of a new text for their course is the supplemental material provided with it. Aside from ease of read for students, and content coverage of the text, the third most important factor is the price of the textbook. Digital learning tools thus lead the way in being both cost effective and supportive of individual student and instructor needs.

Well thought out and custom-tailored instructional products can be not just cost effective in their model, but also improve the quality of learning and reach a wider target audience and demographic. In fact, with the appropriate use of data analyses, student outcomes and learning efficiency can be improved significantly. These products can determine specific areas that students need to work on, provide opportunities for educational games or other interactive and engaging learning tasks, include simulations that enable learning practically without the risk, and help with reminders that enable metacognition. Metacognition has been proven to be effective in increasing scores on learning outcome measures, independent of demographic variation, scores at baseline testing, or differences in motivation levels (Wang & Guo 2003).

A growing number of higher education publishers recognize this need for quality digital learning products and are focusing their resources on bettering these products. Macmillan Learning in particular, has always been ahead of the curve with this. Their newly appointed Chief Technology officer reinforces their vision of “improving lives through education”. Chelsea Valentine, who has a unique background as both a technology leader and a former adjunct professor, brings a fresh perspective to the job. She emphasizes the company’s future digital vision for more innovative and flexible solutions to deal with modern educational challenges. Through their primary digital learning product Sapling Learning, Valentine hopes to develop tools that will effectively escalate student outcomes. Macmillan isn’t alone in this endeavor either; other leading higher education publications like Pearson are jumping on the digital learning bandwagon too. Chief Executive Officer John Fallon recently introduced a cost-cutting plan that revealed a move to digital learning. Albeit this plan was met with resistance and was indeed, more out of a necessity to recover from a recent hit the company took as a whole, than to drive the company towards technologically advanced learning products, it still demonstrates a shift in the industry. According to the NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief on digital literacy (which was sponsored by Adobe Technologies interestingly) however, the problem seems to be “the lack of agreement on what comprises digital literacy” and this in turn, is what is leading to the impediments in many colleges and universities developing programs and policies that support a more technologically advance learning atmosphere. The brief further discusses other challenges faced by higher education in the United States, illuminates the best models of practice for digital learning, as well as makes recommendations for the implementation of successful initiatives.

Despite the advantages outweighing any cons, there is a definite reluctance for higher education to make a complete switch to digital platforms. In part this is due to flaws in the current way that higher education operates. The Learning Management System (LMS), a course management tool (e.g., Blackboard), is the only form of technology adopted by most universities. The push for technology is largely hindered by monetary self-interests in colleges and universities. By charging students the same amount for credits earned in an online course and a physical classroom, universities operationalize cost-efficient methods for their own gain. It doesn’t help either that these online course do not have specific material geared towards distance learning, but rather use repurposed lecture material. Any progress made towards a technologically advanced initiative is rejected at the hands of deep-seated traditional practices of learning and archaic cultural conventions.

May 5, 2017

For sources see:

Adobe Systems, “Digital Literacy: An NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief.” NMC, October 2016, http://www.nmc.org

Geraghty, Kate. “Macmillan Learning Appoints Chelsea Valentine as Chief Technology Officer.” PR Web, May 2017, http://www.prweb.com

Hampson, Keith. “Is That All There Is? Higher Education’s Struggle to Leverage Digital Teaching and Learning.” Higher Education Management, December 2016, http://www.highereducation.net

Holton, Kate. “Pearson shares jump on new cost-cuts, investors rebel at AGM.” Reuters, May 2017, http://www.reuters.com

Steinberg, Scott. “Technology for Schools and Teachers: 5 Reasons Digital Learning Matters.” The Huffington Post, March 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com

Wang, Ling and Dejun Guo. “A Research on the Relationship between Metacognition and Learning Motivation.” Psychological Science (China), vol. 26, no. 5, Sept. 2003, pp. 829-833.

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Insidious Geometry

“Paint me like one of your French girls”?

                 Insidious Geometry 

Trace my edges,
like you never have before.
Flesh out my corners, 
like an artist in a trance. 

                            ~Jaipreet Ghuman

*As published in Font, Volume 7 (Spring 2017).

“No Women, No Rape”

Inspired by Kalki Koechlin and Juhi Pandey’s “Rape? It’s Your Fault Women” and “India’s Daughter”

              "No Women, No Rape"

It's my fault. 
I walked home alone one night. 
It's my fault 
I have no place in this society.
It's my fault 
I wore a dress, a short skirt. 

You condemn me for having a life,
for wanting human rights. 
The patriarchy is not to blame, 
it's my fault. 

I'm only human. 
If you cut me, I bleed too. 
But Shakespeare is for men alone. 
Bride burnings and dowry,
that's my fault to. 
I provoked you.
You're my husband,
so it's not rape. 

Mobiles and movies;
the leading causes of rape. 
This is a plague,
a disease. 
You lay your hand on me, 
not once did you hesitate. 
How can I get this insanity to cease?

                                  ~Jaipreet Ghuman 

*As published in Growl, Volume 1 (Spring 2017) and Ramblings of a Perpetual Drama Queen

If The Food In My Life Were The Guys In My Life

Food for thought.

     
    If The Food In My Life Were The Guys In My Life 

Ice cream. 
You're the guy 
who always gives me 
a shoulder to cry on. 
Dependable, but friend-zoned. 
I'm sorry.
I know I take advantage of you. 

Lamb over rice. 
The perfect combination 
of naughty and nice,
you always know
just what I need. 
I'd take you to go, 
meet my parents.
I know they'd love you, 
I don't know if I do. 

Spaghetti and meatballs.
You're my go-to guy
when I know it's last minute
and I have nowhere to turn to, 
you satisfy my cravings
never asking hard questions. 
But we both know
our tales have different ends. 

Bangers and Mash.
A thing of beauty,
the cadence of your voice 
drives everyone insane.
Sexy and soft-hearted. 
You're a perfect catch. 

Pizza. 
I'd have you any day,
time or place
but you're my favorite 
on a Saturday night
when I'm drunk at 1. 

I try not to despair 
the task at hand is hard.
Each one of these foods
has my heart
when I'm in the mood.
So many choices— 
decisions, decisions.
Why can't I 
order everything 
I see on the menu?  

                      ~Jaipreet Ghuman

*As published in Font, Volume 5 (Spring 2016)

Alvida

A ghost-sonnet for a ghastly day.

                 
                  Alvida

Punjabi Bagh was damp with countless tears
and the sky turned a murderous gray 
as the doctor confirmed the mother's worst fears. 
The crematory mob had nothing to say. 
She plummeted to the bitter land,
not knowing the gods could be so heartless. 
Across the body lay a solitary hand.
Frozen, she grieved to a heaven so godless.
No respite was the unwed woman to find:
The scarlet letter, brighter than ever, shined.
Never would it have happened in her right mind.
The town square clock meekly wailed the time.
      The crowd cleared out till no one was left behind,
      save the mourning woman and her only child. 

                                             ~Jaipreet Ghuman

*As published in Font, Volume 1 (Spring 2014) and Ramblings of a Perpetual Drama Queen

Sample Book Promotional Material

As part of my Book Promotion class, I had to prepare a number of different components used for advertising and promotion in the publishing industry. Here are a few samples I created for a book I pitched. I also include my pitch letter and other materials I used for this fake title. The book is completely made up and was a completely original idea as Whitney Cummings had not come out with her first book at the time. Here’s the book proposal I wrote to start off with, including market analysis and an editorial report.

Pride Press Inc

Memo

To:        Editorial Board

From:    Jai Ghuman

CC:       Barbara Heinssen

Date:     10/12/16

Re:        I’m a F*cking Princess (working title)

 

New Book Idea

 

Dating is hard. And if you’re a woman, there’s a whole list of added problems to worry about. It doesn’t matter if you’re 35 or 65, it’s awkward, it’s emotionally distressing and at times seems completely pointless. Yet we suffer through the whole process anyway in the hopes of eventually finding a companion to share our lives with. Whitney Cummings, lets women know that they’re not alone in feeling that way. She manages to engage audiences by sharing her own amusing dating experiences.

 

I’m a F*cking Princess is a book that will enchant readers with Whitney’s sassy sense of humor and raw, naked honesty. As yet there are no books about, or by Whitney, so this would hold a distinct advantage in being a first. The book will be a memoir, primarily a collection of Whitney’s funniest dating stories, but also including a few serious ones from her life growing up as a child of divorced parents, and the daughter of a prominent public relations manager, and then later being broke and trying to break into the film industry in Los Angeles. Ideally, the book would be about 352 pages as a 6×9 book, including pictures, bibliography, and an index. The book will take 6–8 months to complete from the date of the advance payment. The book would be of interest not just to those in the industry, but to most single women in as well.

 

Market Analysis

 

The book is targeted at readers that are primarily female, between the ages of 18–40 and most likely feminists. Similar books in the past by standup comedians include:

  • The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer (Gallery Books)
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler (Harper Collins/ Dey St.)
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey (Regan Arthur Books)
  • Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (Three Rivers Press)
  • Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari (Penguin Press)

However, all of these books with the exception of Amy Schumer’s have been out for a while now and the market is ripe for a new take from a leading female standup comedian.

 

Whitney has captivated millions of hearts as she has toured across the nation for I’m Your Girlfriend, her latest standup that premiered on HBO in January, and has done so in the past with her work on TV shows like 2 Broke Girls and Whitney. Her first feature film The Female Brain is all set to release in 2017, so interest in Whitney is at a peak right now, there is no doubt that sales will be high. The material she works with is provocative, true to life, and presented in a raw manner which makes it an excellent acquisition. Most books on the market currently in the genre take on a more serious tone and prove to be “heavy reading” like Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, which tackles issues of race and identity through the lens of history in a series of letters. Others still like Elizabeth Vargas’ Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction talk about serious psychological issues. A book like I’m a Frigging Princess would be ideal reading for readers looking for something light they can read on the train to work or waiting at a doctor’s office.

 

Strengths and Weaknesses of Competition

 

A major strength that the competition has is that their authors are more established and have had longer running and more successful careers so far. Some of the books have even won awards, but that only proves that the market is truly interested in similar books. I have no doubt that I’m a F*cking Princess will sell as many, if not more copies and receive acclaim. Whitney is still a lot younger and is as yet still relatively at the start of her career. She has a lot of potential that can be capitalized on if the book release is timed right. However, we have an edge over the completion by being current. Most of the competing titles were released over a year ago or more, which means that interest in the books have died now and the market is now primed for a fresh outlook.

 

Editorial Report

 

The book will be an excellent acquisition for Pride Press Inc., as it is a fresh and interesting read. We will have the advantage of getting there first as this will be the author’s first book. Cummings has proved her mettle as a writer with Comedy Central Roasts and 2 Broke Girls. It is only a matter of time before other publishers approach the client and it would be beneficial to beat competing houses to the punch.

 

Key Features and Benefits

 

Whitney is a true raconteur. She has a strong voice that will come across no matter what the medium. Her live performances are witty and engaging and will certainly be evident in her writing as well. The raw and openly honest cadence with which Whitney tells her story is appealing, and her strong message of women empowerment and feminism will make the book a compelling read for everyone. Whitney is known to have the ability to make light of her failures and simultaneously reveal a darker side to herself. Added to that is the advantage that her story is as such, “untold” so the book will present insight into Whitney’s life as never seen before. Fans will be itching to get their hands on a copy. Other books on the market do not have this advantage as their authors have been constantly in the limelight, so there is very little about their professional and personal life that is unknown to the masses.

 


 

Book Content

 

The book will be about Whitney’s personal experiences and her humorous take on dating and relationships. As a standup comedian and screenwriter, Whitney writes her own jokes and often draws from her own personal experiences. The book will also include chapters on her own life growing up as a child of divorced parents and her struggle to break into a predominantly male industry.

 

Here are some quotes from interviews with Whitney, and from her various stand-up specials, which will help present a better picture of Whitney’s essence. A combination of quotes showing her darker side and some showing her lighter, more humorous side, would be ideal for the back cover or book jacket (along with quotes from reviewers of course).

  • “Stand-up is a lot like sex. There’s a lot of crying involved and I get paid to do it.” (I think this one would be great for the front cover)
  • “I don’t get what is so cool about dating DJ’s. That’s like dating a valet because he drives a nice car.”
  • “After school, I’d wait for someone to pick me up and no one would, so I’d be like, ‘I guess I’ll walk home.’ I had to be a hustler because nobody did anything for me.”
  • “The only two places you’ll ever hear ‘Would you like whipped cream on that?’ are a whorehouse and Starbucks.”
  • “If Wednesday is Hump Day, Thursday should be Panic, Regret, I Can’t Find My Left Shoe and Why Does It Burn When I Pee? Day.”
  • “Found a fragrance called Vixen. Guess they can’t name them after the people who actually wear them. Nobody’s going to buy Secretary.”

 

Structure

 

Some possible design specifications are as follows;

Trim Size – 6 1/8 x 9 1/4

Approximate Pages – 352

Text Typeface – Serif Text (size 11, leading 15)

Display Typeface – Slab Serif

Hardcover – 3 piece and audiobook, successive prints can be in paperback and eventually e-book made available

Full Color Jacket

Matte Film Lamination

 

Design, illustrations, electronic media

 

Print books can include stills from Whitney’s live performances, pictures from her childhood (as required) and the e-book and audiobook could include short video/audio clips from her performances featuring some of her punchlines.

 

Author Profile: Whitney Cummings is an actress, writer, and standup comedian best known for her role on NBC’s Whitney and her comedy specials on Comedy Central – Money Shot and I Love You, and more recently, I’m Your Girlfriend on HBO, which she is currently on tour for. She has also made appearances as a Roaster on the famous show Comedy Central Roast (Joan Rivers, David Hasselhoff, Donald Trump). As a director, her first feature film The Female Brain is set to release in 2017. Although not an author, she has written before and even crafted works such as Whitney and 2 Broke Girls. This is to be her debut book. Forbes listed Whitney as one of the highest paid actresses in television in 2013 with an income of $5 million for the year. Her shows had an average of 11 million viewers during Primetime.

 

Title, Table of Contents, and Cover Concept

 

I’m a Frigging Princess is a working title; a line taken from her stand up Money Shot. The table of contents, for now, has three parts;

Part 1: Roots – which will contain stories from her childhood and growing up,

Part 2: Girl No More – which will include the more recent tales of her constant tribulations with love and dating, and

Part 3: It’s a Woman’s World – will be more about her struggle to break into a predominantly male industry and a reflection of the more feministic ideals that Whitney holds.

1. Book Cover

Ghuman_Sample Cover

2. Consumer Ad

Ghuman_Sample Consumer Ad-1

 

3. Trade Ad
Ghuman_Sample Trade Ad-1

4. Tip Sheet

Ghuman_Sample Tipsheet-1

Ghuman_Sample Tipsheet-2

5. Catalog Copy

Ghuman_Sample Catalog .png

6. Sample Pitch Letter

Ghuman_Sample Pitch Letter.png

Starving Artists

A happy, conflict-free life is the worst thing that can happen to a writer. There’s a reason why artists are called starving (it’s not just because we’re broke and without a penny to our names) — it’s because we’re starving for something to feed on, to draw from, something to mould into our own.

We need fuel, sustenance, energy, inspiration; whatever you want to call it. But it is vital for our existence, for the existence of any art form. Something needs to start a fire, there must be a little spark to get things going before the world can be set ablaze and amazed. It is believed that Leonardo da Vinci recalls a significant moment from his childhood when the tail feathers of a kite brushed against his face — this he claims was an omen — one that possibly led to his interest and experimentation with aerodynamics. While I can’t say that I can recall a similar moment from my childhood, inspiration does often hit when you least expect it to, and more often than not, at the most inconvenient times. Inspiration is like one of those friends you love, but they have an incredible propensity for showing up unannounced at your door with some life crisis or the other, the night before your big interview or final exam. Not that I’m saying this happened… but you get the gist.

Those who chase thrills — adrenaline junkies, have a lot in common with writers and artists. We chase a feeling, we need to ride on a high that isn’t always the most accessible, but we need it all the same, and there are no lengths that some will go to for it. Research has shown that gamblers and addicts light up in the same parts of the brain (I’m trying not to bring in the scientific jargon), and I have a sneaking suspicion that brain imaging performed on adrenaline junkies and artists would show similar results as well.

Most days I’m like a surfer looking for that perfect wave. Sometimes I find the sufficient inspiration needed, sometimes I come up empty handed. But when I do find that big one, I can ride on the high for days, sometimes weeks if it’s a really good one. But eventually, it does run out. And then I’m off again, looking for the next one. Each time hoping it will be better than the last. But over the years, I’ve come to realize that most people only get one or two big ones. So when the wave comes for you, you better not miss it. You need to either ride it or let it wash over you, but know that it may be a while before the next one.

I can keep going on and on about inspiration and my need for it, but in reality it’s not a prescribed formula that everyone can use. People find inspiration in different things, from the smallest details, to life-changing events. So here’s little something that I found a spark of inspiration in. Ben Marcus, a short story writer and creative writing professor at Columbia, whose work I became acquainted with fairly recently, uses a beautiful metaphor to express how he thinks of language and stories in his editor’s note for New American Stories. It goes a little something like this —

Language is a drug, but a short story cannot be smoked. You can’t inject it. Stories don’t come bottled as a cream. You cannot have a story massaged into you by a bearish old man. You have to stare down a story until it wobbles, yields, then catapults into your face. But as squirrely as they are to capture, stories are the ideal deranger. If they are well made, and you submit to them, they go in clean. Stories deliver their chemical disruption without the ashy hangover, the blacking out, the poison. They trigger pleasure, fear, fascination, love, confusion, desire, repulsion. Drugs get flushed from our systems, but not the best stories. Once they take hold, you couldn’t scrape them out with a knife… The potent story writers, to me, are the ones who deploy language as a kind of contraband, pumping it into us until we collapse on the floor, writhing, overwhelmed with feeling.

Food for thought huh? At least for me, it was sort of meta, the way he used language to convey how language makes us feel. If you love reading (and writing), hopefully it did for you too.