Top Five Best Things about Working in Higher Education Publishing

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Textbooks may often be overlooked in favor of glitzy celebrity memoirs and glamorous literary fiction hits, but publishing them can be a great joy. While some Higher Ed folks joke that no one dreams of editing textbooks when they’re a little kid, the work we do is unique and rewarding. If you’re starting your career in publishing, or looking for a change, here are five reasons to consider working in textbooks:









5. It’s steady:

Higher Ed can be one of the steadiest divisions of a company financially. Before a textbook can be published, before it can even be signed, a peer review must be conducted. Commonly thought of as the purview of Academic-Trade publishing, expert reviews ensure the accuracy and quality of a book, lending credibility to the title and helping editors decide whether to publish the book. In Higher Ed we run extensive peer reviews, which give us a sense not only of the quality of the book, but also how many copies we can realistically expect to sell. This way, we’re usually prepared for the sales of a book before it comes out, making budgeting a bit easier. The fact that many people decide to further their education during recessions also helps to keep our sales up during difficult times, giving us a little more job security in an uncertain economy.

4. But, It’s Also Always Changing:

Like all parts of publishing, though, Higher Ed is facing big changes. While everyone is seeing a change in the way people read, in Higher Ed, we’re also seeing the changing ways people are learning. We explore e-books and social media, but we’re also pioneering digital products built specifically to work in the changing classroom. As the Washington Post noted in 2007, class sizes are increasing across the country, and to help professors teach these larger courses, we’re working hard to make their jobs easier by building test banks and ancillary material specifically designed for their courses. For students, we’re offering material to bring our textbooks to life, including video tutorials for visual and auditory learners and access to online scholarly resources for those who want to do further research on a given topic.

3. And If Something Goes Wrong, You Get a Do-Over:

Once a trade book has hit the shelves, it isn’t often you get a chance to change very much about it. Not so in textbooks. While some people may scoff at multiple editions of a title coming out too often, each edition gives us a chance to perfect the book. Each new edition features updated scholarship, of course, but also new pedagogy and streamlined prose. Every edition is higher quality than the last, and having the chance to perfect a book based on previous experiences with it is one of the best parts of publishing in Higher Ed.

2. It’s Educational:

The transition from school to career can be a bumpy one. While Higher Ed publishing isn’t the same as being in college, it can be nice to stay in that mindset a little longer, which makes this an appealing area for new grads. Every day we think like students, and professors to determine how to make our books and technological products work best for them. Further, working on textbooks means that very often we are helping to set a canon for each of our particular disciplines. If our Introduction to Philosophy textbook is the only philosophy some students will ever study, we want to be sure it’s the very highest quality possible and that it includes diverse voices that will speak to a wide audience of readers. Knowing that every one of our books is meant to educate is a big source of pride for me.

1. The People:

Most importantly, Higher Ed people rock. The professors and writers who author our books are some of the smartest and kindest people I know; one even mailed me a package of fudge when he sent in his manuscript – on time. My coworkers are similarly great. All of them are passionate about their work, incredibly helpful with questions, and fun outside of the office. With interests as varied as wine, poetry, volleyball, karaoke, and everything in between, I can say without a doubt that we have the very best parties in the company. And if you’re not in publishing for the parties, then why are you here, exactly?

Kristin Maffei is an associate editor for textbooks at Oxford University Press and a poet. You can read more of her work at

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