In our conversation with Lance Liggin with LAD Custom Publishing, we'll talk about the importance of giving faculty the flexibility and control over their material, and the cost of that material through custom course packs. Lance will also touch on a new partnership that they have with a company that produces game-based simulations aligned specifically to your course objectives.
Lance: Hey, thanks Carrie. Thanks for having us.
Why don't you give us a little bit of information about what your role is at LAD Custom Publishing...
Lance: Yeah, I'm actually the President and co-owner of LAD Custom Publishing, and a little bit of everything I guess, in a smaller business like ours. But we help with the day to day operations, and I'm really responsible for sales and marketing for LAD. That’s really the main role that I play.
How many people do you guys have over there at LAD?
Lance: We’ve got 20 full-time employees, and then we actually employ another anywhere from 8 to 12 during rush, due to the seasonality of our business. All of our success really goes to our staff. We've got a great group of people that have -- the majority of them -- have been working for us for a long time, and many of our staff actually worked for us at our old company.
Obviously you do custom publications, so tell me a little bit about what that means in the education space...
Lance: Yeah, our specialty and our niche space is really in the copyright clearance side of the business, so we actually clear permissions, pay royalty fees, and indemnify our partners like MBS or faculty and our students. We really focus on the legal aspect and that’s the real challenging part for faculty or colleges and universities that try to do it themselves. That's really where our specialty comes in. We are a full production warehouse as well, so we actually handle all of our printing and digital delivery of all of our custom course materials as well. We're really a full-service, one-stop shop for our partners.
So you guys do print and digital, or a combination depending on what the school is looking for?
Lance: That's exactly right. We're unique in the sense that we actually do our own printing in house, so we control our quality and if there's ever an issue — we are human — that we can correct those issues really quickly in here. We offer color and black and white solutions, and pretty much anything custom you can think of. We laugh and say, "We put the custom in custom publishing." Then delivery-wise, we have a PDF delivery, we have an iPad app, and we have an HTML online solution as well.
How long have you guys been at this?
Lance: Just over 20 years for me personally, and we actually had another company many years ago that we sold, and stayed in the business. Then back in 2003 was when LAD was created.
What problem were you trying to solve when you started LAD Custom Publishing, and has that changed over the last 20 years?
Lance: There's a two-tiered approach that we had. Mainly in the beginning, it was more about helping faculty members get specific content at a reasonable rate, and the challenging part of that is that with thousands and thousands of publishers out there, we wanted to streamline that process there. From us, faculty that don't want just a traditional textbook in here, we allow them to pick and choose from many sources and create a perfect book that's specifically for their class.
Is there a new problem now that you're really looking towards and trying to focus on?
Lance: The second thing now that we really focus on is simply to reduce the cost of quality content for students, which is a big problem in the Higher Ed space right now.
Carrie: Absolutely. You guys are in kind of a unique position, because there is a lot going on. Even though you've been doing this for 20 years, now is a huge push where faculty really have a lot of — and they always have — but really understand that they have the knowledge of their material and their learning objectives, and they're just as qualified if not more so to create the content that really fits what they're trying to do in their class. Folks like you guys over at LAD are positioned very well in order to help them not only get the content that they need for their class, but also get it at a point where they're controlling, the faculty are controlling the cost to the student.
Lance: Yeah, that's exactly right. That's a great way of explaining it, because the faculty does control the cost of that. We can add, remove, and we recommend if there's some permissions that are really high, that the faculty members can take it out, put it on reserve in the library or give some other options in there, and then we can recommend other content that may be similar to what they're looking for. They really have a nice control of that. Our average custom book is $38 on a national level, and that's servicing over 900 colleges and universities nationwide.
Carrie: That's significantly lower than the traditional textbook, for sure.
You guys have seen a lot of change in education over the last couple decades, and there's a lot happening right now. What do you think is the most interesting element to the educational industry right now?
Lance:I think that the game-based learning is really interesting right now. We've actually partnered with an interesting company called Toolwire, a group out of California, that has taken game-based learning to another level. These games are professionally created with live actors and real-life environments that are based off a discipline, whether it's writing, or psychology, environmental science, student success, different disciplines like that. Business now, and they really help the student and professor assess and perfect certain disciplines, and at the same time engage and retain these students throughout the course, which is a big deal right now. They've got great learning objectives, and I'm really anxious to see how this rolls out over the next three,
Carrie: There is something brewing out there, that is getting faculty to really understand that content doesn't necessarily mean a book, and that there's a lot of other ways to distribute and engage students outside of just a traditional book, whether that's a digital book or a print book. Some of these game-based solutions like Toolwire fit in very nicely.
How does a custom publishing company who is focusing on the written word get involved with a company that makes games?
Lance: Well, it's a great question. I think the thing for us is we're a service provider, and we've always said that from Day One, from 20 plus years ago, as I mentioned. Anything that we can do to enhance our services towards our faculty and students, then we're going to take a look at it. I think for us the reason that it happened was simply because we've got a pretty deep reach into the Higher Ed community with like I said, 900 colleges and universities, thousands of professors that we service. We've got great relationships with faculty members. We've got the relationships in place, and we can go in and actually map out from a syllabus, for example — where the professor gives us a syllabus, or we already have it — we can actually map out the games that are relative to that professor's course and introduce those. It was a great partnership, because Toolwire has got a great technology, but not necessarily the relationships at the faculty level at this time, and so they partnered in with LAD to be able to handle that and distribute through our bookstore partners like MBS and others.
So you're still customizing that material? It's just a different format?
Lance: Yeah. One of the other things we actually realized and found out was some of the Toolwire customers are now actually coming in and creating custom course content with LAD around the games, so it's a real interesting partnership that we have with these guys.
Carrie: One element, one pathway, isn't necessarily going to take out all pathways. There's still a need for a number of different elements to really get the student to learn.
Lance: Yeah, absolutely.
Outside of working with your MBS Direct Account Manager, what is the best way to learn more about LAD, your partnership with Toolwire, and some of the other stuff that you guys do?
Lance: Visit our website at LADCustomPub.com, or you can give us a shout toll-free 877-318-8800, and we do have outside sales managers that would be glad to give you a call or even come by for a personal visit.
Carrie: Well, thank you very much, Lance. I appreciate you joining us and talking a little bit more about LAD Custom Publishing.
Lance: Thanks Carrie, we appreciate it and appreciate our partnership we've had with MBS for many years. Thanks a lot.
For more information on any of the topics discussed in this podcast, or any other questions you have about digital content options, contact your Account Manager or you can reach out to me, Carrie Watkins, Senior Digital Consultant, on Twitter, @CarrieJWatkins.