Technology has been changing the landscape of higher education textbook publishing over the last several years, and the textbook that is just a textbook -- with no software or other digital accessories -- is becoming a thing of the past. Many of the largest college textbook publishers' products now run the gamut from hard-copy textbooks to fully online course learning materials.

John Wiley & Sons

John Wiley & Sons, commonly known as Wiley, began in 1807 as a small print shop in Manhattan. After many years of publishing mainly literary titles, the company shifted to nonfiction in the latter part of the 19th century, with science and technology becoming the company's focus, especially with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Post-World War II, Wiley expanded its offices to other countries and began to focus on college textbook publishing. It acquired other publishing companies such as Pearson and Jossey-Bass and developed an online platform, Wiley Online Library.

McGraw Hill

McGraw Hill did not start out as a college textbook publisher; rather, it began in the first half of the 20th century by publishing trade books and by midcentury had moved into secondary and elementary school book publishing. In 1988, after buying the college division of Random House, McGraw Hill expanded into higher education textbook publishing. In the past decade, it has launched a few major technology initiatives with its LearnSmart and SmartBook tools, and, most recently, with its Connect higher education platform.

Macmillan Higher Education

Macmillan's Higher Education division encompasses imprints Bedford/St. Martin's, W.H. Freeman, Worth Publishers and Palgrave, all of which produce college textbooks. Macmillan also offers eLearning solutions such as e-books, FlipIt, LaunchPad and LearningCurve. Instructors can also find customized print and online solutions for their individual course needs.

Cengage Learning

Cengage Learning's Course360 takes textbooks to another level, with the bulk of course materials available digitally in a Course360 textbook and the ability to synch with the school's course-management system. Along with its Higher Education division, Cengage encompasses the venerable Gale library reference imprint as well as National Geographic Learning. Along with Wiley, Macmillan, McGraw-Hill and Pearson, Cengage became part of a group called CourseSmart whose focus was e-textbooks and whose offerings included textbook rentals.

OpenStax College

Reducing students' textbook costs and digital solutions for learning are leading concerns for textbook publishers today. In fact, the federal Higher Education Opportunities Act, signed into law in 2008, represents an organized effort to control the costs of college textbooks and thus to make higher education more accessible to more students. To address the high cost of college textbooks and thus to provide greater student access to higher education, nonprofit organization OpenStax College provides free online open-source textbooks with support from several foundations. In print, the books are less expensive than books published by traditional textbook publishers. Rice University was behind the genesis of OpenStax, and this link to the university helps ensure that OpenStax textbooks are written and vetted by credentialed scholars.

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