Open Minds hangs in balance

<p>The Publishers Association Textbook Action Group (TAG) is to drastically scale back its student-facing Open Books Open Minds (OBOM) campaign, turning its focus onto lobbying the government and senior academic management on Higher Education (HE) issues instead.</p><p>The decision was made after Blackwell, Waterstone&#39;s and John Smith&#39;s had difficulties implementing the 2007 Back To University (BTU) promotion alongside their existing offers. However, after listening to independent academic booksellers at the APSBG conference, TAG is now also considering rolling out an OBOM for indies for BTU 2008.</p><p>Last year TAG, the consortium of publishers and booksellers that has run the promotion for the last two years, had a &pound;100,000 OBOM budget, given mostly from publishers.</p><p>Dominic Knight, Palgrave Macmillan m.d. and TAG chair, admitted that with OBOM &quot;we didn&#39;t get much bang for our buck&quot;. He added: &quot;A student-facing campaign was always going to be number three [after retailer and publisher campaigns].&quot;</p><p>With the pace of change accelerating in HE, TAG has a &quot;unique opportunity&quot; to engage with university officials and the government about upcoming moves within the sector such as university procurement of e-content, and students being charged higher fees. Knight stressed the need for publishers and booksellers to collaborate with HE administrators and &quot;get into that space&quot;.</p><p>Just over 400 bookshops took part in OBOM 2007. The promotion gave students who spent more than &pound;40 on textbooks an opportunity to try an activity such as scuba-diving, reflexology or horse-riding for free by signing up through the campaign&#39;s website.</p><p>James Newby, manager of the University of Surrey Bookshop, said one of the difficulties was that the offer was so good some students &quot;couldn&#39;t believe it was true&quot;. He added: &quot;We were also competing with stores who, quite rightly, wanted to do their own campaigns.&quot; Just under three thousand students claimed prizes in 2007. Of the three chain retailers, 47% of claimants were Waterstone&#39;s customers, 29% Blackwell&#39;s and 4% John Smith&#39;s.</p><p>Decisions on lobbying efforts, the make-up of a possible independents&#39; OBOM and budgeting will be made later this spring.</p>