Education And Publishing: The New Investment Glamour Boy

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The numbers have changed dramatically...and the impact is even greater today. This article from the 1960s offers an historical glimpse into the cost of educating the kids; with the advent of the Internet, some things have changed, but the educational publishing market continues to grow.

A recent survey has shown that every person in the United States now spends $1,000 annually just to cover costs of educating children and teenagers. And American industry spends more than three times this amount to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

Education has indeed become the country's biggest industry— bigger even than any of the industries which function primarily to feed, clothe and house us.

Two fields have benefited most from this boom in education; book publishing and programmed learning. Let's examine publishing first.

"It comes as rather a shock," remarked Bennett Cerf, president of Random House. "Suddenly to find Wall Street tycoons embracing us and waving certified checks in our faces." And Mr. Cerf was speaking for the whole industry.

For years Wall Street regarded the publishing business with skepticism. For years its profit margin had been in decline, generally lower than the average manufacturing operation. For years the plight of publishers had been so well publicized that the industry was among the last things associated with the word "growth."

What has brought about Wall Street's about-face toward publishing issues as a means of investment? Maybe the Sputniks had something to do with it. It seemed as though reading-weary Americans suddenly awoke, in the twilight of the Russian satellites, to the grim reality that they no longer held a monopoly of the modern sciences and technologies. Perhaps they had been too preoccupied with TV, bowling, boating and motoring to catch up with books. Maybe books should have more share in their ever- increasing leisure time.

Maybe even Charles Van Doren had something to do with the sudden outburst of interest in reading. As an actor, Van Doren was certainly superb in his lonely booth. Perhaps he had actually done a service of lasting value to America by the excitement he had aroused in thousands upon thousands of American homes. Perhaps, after all, bookworms were not as remote from money as Americans once had thought they were. And, as more and more girls wrote to Van Doren, exploring the possibility of marriage, it seemed as if Americans were finding truth in an old Chinese saying, "Only in books can you find things as yellow as gold and as ivory as the complexion of a beautiful woman."

But neither the Sputniks nor Van Doren were more than passing influences in making Americans read more books. The real underlying force can be found in the tremendous increase in school enrollment—the most serious result of today's population explosion.

In 1959 elementary and high school enrollment totaled 41 million. This sum is expected to approach 48.5 million by 1965. During the same period, college enrollment is expected to rise from 3.4 million to 5.2 million.

Based on this enrollment projection, the growth prospects of the textbook industry are fairly clearly defined. In 1960, textbook sales shot up to $351 million from 1959's $325 million. By 1966, sales of elementary school, high school and college books are expected to rise 60, 80 and 170 percent, respectively.

The school market has also gotten a big booster from the 1958 National Defense Education Act, which provided some $300 million in federal funds (on a matching basis) to schools for science, language and mathematics instruction.

The language laboratory, for example, is now a status symbol of the American high school. "If you haven't got a language lab," quipped one leading educator, "you're just not fighting the Russians."

While the lingo in this historical article might not be relevant today, the growth of educational publishing continues. Investors would be wise to do their homework, then look at the potential this market has to offer.

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