The arrival of the digital age has greatly augmented the means through which publishers can add value to the books they promote. Not only can publishers and authors now chat and interact with their reading audiences but supplemental materials can be created and shared digitally—an effective means of increasing reader loyalty, community, and insight in the topic of a given book’s content, and a low-investment, low-risk action on the part of the publisher.
For example, when Ooligan Press took on the project of reissuing legendary Oregon author Robin Cody’s novel Ricochet River for its twenty-fifth anniversary edition, Team Rivers wanted to capitalize on the book’s favorable position in high school English classrooms but needed something to catch the eye of the decision makers in the purchasing process. Who decides which novels will be taught in a classroom curriculum? Teachers themselves. Therefore, it only made sense that a novel that lends itself to all of the common themes of YA literature—recognizable teen characters, controversial scenarios involving reckless behavior, tumultuous relationships—include supplemental teaching materials. Many classrooms throughout the Pacific Northwest have taught Ricochet River for years, but teachers still had to create their own lesson plans around the novel’s content and then align their lessons to the specific learning outcomes called Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Digital media provides the platform for Ooligan Press to do the planning work for teachers ahead of time and add incentive to their classroom purchasing decisions.
Team Rivers went straight to work drafting a fully aligned CCSS teaching unit. Team members drafted discussion questions, writing rubrics, and SAT/ACT-formatted quizzes based on the themes, characters, and Pacific Northwest setting of the novel. The team also accessed a bevy of free online materials that teachers use (e.g., Quizlet and Kahoot!) and created the quiz and game show materials teachers use to make their classrooms interactive and fun. The entire package will be loaded onto the Ooligan Press website and lauded as an added bonus for purchasing classroom sets of the novel. Ooligan passes the added value to the consumer—in this case, teachers—and the purchasers in turn pass the value to their students: they prepare for their college entrance exams, experience the human condition through a colorful and nostalgic coming-of-age novel, and have fun while they learn.
Utilizing the digital realm to house publishers’ supplemental material is a win-win endeavor for publishers. It’s low risk—no extra printed materials are needed or require extra financial gamble—and low investment because the only cost of producing the teaching unit was time, research, and writing on the part of Team Rivers’ members. Publishers discern the motivating factor behind a purchaser’s buying decision and satisfy a need on the part of that purchaser to reinforce the confirmed order. In the case of Ricochet River, teachers purchasing a classroom set save their own lesson-planning time and energy by taking advantage of the digital bonus.
Additionally, the investment on the part of the publisher is front loaded. Once created and published via the website, occasional maintenance might be necessary, but the supplemental content can stand on its own for years to come, and teachers make purchasing decisions regarding novels every school year. The same is true with digital supplemental content for all books, including cookbooks, self-help manuals, or historical pieces.