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XanEdu Buys MetaText from OCLC
Posted On August 19, 2002
XanEdu, a division of ProQuest Information and Learning, has purchased MetaText, a provider of digital textbooks, from OCLC. The acquisition will allow XanEdu to combine its curriculum products and tools for the higher education market with MetaText's substantial collection of digital textbooks from leading publishers such as Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Wiley, and Houghton Mifflin. Terms of the deal were not released.

"This acquisition is strategic to XanEdu's vision of being the leading provider of customized learning materials for the higher education academic market," said Lew Gossage, XanEdu's senior vice president and general manager. "With MetaText, we can deliver the best integrated solution possible, offering faculty the most extensive selection of textbook content, tools, and services. With a common focus on synergistic course content, superior platforms, and superior service, XanEdu will take instruction and learning to the next level and continue to be the industry leader."

XanEdu's CoursePacks offer a customized approach to delivering digital and print supplemental college course materials. XanEdu's databases (from ProQuest) provide millions of articles from thousands of copyright-cleared scholarly journals, magazines, and newspapers. XanEdu also has a large business case archive, including Harvard, NACRA, Ivey, and additional unique, hard-to-find materials. The combination of this content and Web-based delivery enables faculty to select specific course-centric textbook readings with current and highly relevant articles, cases, and other curriculum materials. They also have the option to add other content through XanEdu's copyright clearance service.

According to Gossage, about a third of the content that the company gets copyright clearance to use in its CoursePacks is from textbook chapters. So XanEdu already has many textbook publisher relationships in place, and the addition of the MetaText collection will make the company's job that much easier. Gossage said the company's first priorities would be to review publisher relationships and work on technology issues to merge the two platforms. He said that the first phase of a fully integrated digital content solution should be ready by early next spring. The company expects to have some prototypes prepared within the next few weeks.

MetaText provides more to XanEdu than just digital textbooks—more than 250 "from 80 percent of the leading college textbook publishers." It also offers tools for customizing text and communicating between faculty and students. With MetaText's syllabus-creation tools, faculty can organize the content without having HTML knowledge. In addition, instructors can annotate any paragraph or highlight information. Students can also highlight specific sections of text and make annotations in the margins. Other tools are available to help faculty track student progress and easily communicate with them.

When OCLC purchased netLibrary in January 2002, the netLibrary eBook division became a division of OCLC and the MetaText eTextbook division became a "for-profit subsidiary." At that time, Jay Jordan, OCLC president and CEO, said, "netLibrary's eBooks will provide synergies in OCLC's core service areas of cataloging, resource sharing, reference, and digital and preservation services, and the MetaText division will allow OCLC to develop services that will provide new links and synergies involving textbooks, classrooms, and library collections."

Despite its stated good intentions for MetaText, OCLC possibly was overly optimistic in thinking it could break into the provision of curriculum materials for the higher education market. A spokesperson from OCLC stated: "Libraries are our primary focus. We felt MetaText could be better served by partnering with XanEdu and ProQuest." XanEdu is singularly focused on the higher education market and has a great deal of expertise with courseware technology and established connections in the higher education and publishing communities. MetaText seems like a synergistic fit with the XanEdu organization.

MetaText, Inc. was founded in 1998 and was acquired by netLibrary in March 2000. OCLC continues to operate netLibrary from its Boulder, Colorado, location. MetaText's computing operations will be moved from Boulder to XanEdu's Ann Arbor, Michigan, office. About 20 MetaText staff members will be asked to relocate to Ann Arbor.

Herb Hilderley, formerly MetaText's division manager, will join XanEdu as a consultant during the transition period. Hilderley lauds this acquisition, saying: "We are thrilled to join XanEdu. XanEdu has established a strong position in the higher education academic market and benefits MetaText greatly by opening previously unavailable distribution channels to MetaText's products. In addition, XanEdu's large and growing customer base of early-technology-adopting instructors is an ideal target audience for MetaText's services."

XanEdu has been in growth mode since its launch in July 2000 and has announced new publishing partners and alliances. The company boasts of a content and distribution Partner Program that comprises more than 30 leading publishers, collegiate sites, bookstores, e-learning systems, and education associations. In April 2001, XanEdu acquired Atlanta-based Campus Custom Publishing. The purchase of this national provider of custom print coursepacks further diversified XanEdu's CoursePack capabilities. By adding print CoursePacks and complete copyright clearance services to its lineup, XanEdu offers instructors a turnkey solution to building CoursePacks in whichever format they want—print or digital. According to Gossage, over 1,200 educational institutions will be using XanEdu before the end of this year.

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

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