When the Webster Publishing subsidiary of McGraw Hill Book Co.
merged with The Economy Co. of Oklahoma City in 1986, it opened a
major potential for school textbook innovations as well as Oklahoma
City's economy with two striking ingredients:
- The decades of nationally-respected performance of The
Economy Co. in publishing elementary school books on reading, a $500
million industry by itself.
- The financial and textbook strength of McGraw-Hill Book Co.,
which reached $563.9 million in operating revenues during 1987.
That was more than one third of the $1.75 billion in revenues of its
parent firm - New York-based McGraw-Hill Inc., now celebrating its
Now, that potential has produced an historic achievement with a
$35 million pre-printing investment.
On April 1, the firm published a "unique'' program that blends
reading with English and language arts for elementary schools, said
Richard L. Smith, president of what is now the McGraw-Hill
Publishing Co. of Oklahoma City and executive vice president of
McGraw-Hill Book for acquisition and planning.
The investment included the editing, layout and design managed
in the Oklahoma City offices at 1200 NW 63rd St., said Smith. It
made up most of 800 new titles with 35,000 pages published this
As a result, the Oklahoma City office has more than doubled to
100 employees, including executives attracted from major cities.
While this growth eventually could attract other firms in
publishing-related fields, the immediate accomplishment is plenty of
reason for celebration.
"This never happened before in history,'' said Smith. "For the
first time, there are complete basal (or core) programs for reading
and English that are integrated, lesson for lesson, from
kindergarten through the eighth grade.
"A specific lesson in reading, for example, is matched with
specific lessons in English and writing. That helps a teacher relate
one to the other easily.
"To get all this done, more than 1,500 people worked on the
project - many of them independent contractors. They included
authors as well as editors, advisors and everyone else involved from
around the country."
The response, said Smith, already has been overwhelming.
"We sent out galley proofs ahead of time," he said. "We are in
the finals for adoption by several states. At least four school
districts already are considering adoption of the whole program.''
The $35 million investment included the writing, editing,
design, layout, typesetting and color separations, said Smith -
everything before the actual printing and marketing.
"We contract for printing all over the country,'' he said, "and
marketing alone costs about $20 million. That is a herculean task.
"With The Economy Co., we also acquired a national sales staff,
and that is a major advantage. Reading is the most difficult kind
of educational program to sell. The sales representatives must know
reading to present it properly."
Most competitors are "wedded" to investments in revision after
revision of previous books and could not tackle a giant task such as
the new program, he said.
"This could only be done," he said, "with the kind of opportunity
we had with the merger to start a new project from the beginning and
also have the staff to market it."
McGraw-Hill already was one of the leading textbook publishers
before the merger, having published educational materials since the
19th Century. It has produced secondary school textbooks on math,
spelling, social studies, literature and foreign languages as well
as college textbooks.
"What we did not have was the experience in publishing books on
reading,'' said Smith. "The Economy Co. gave us that.''
The Economy Co., which was founded in 1929 by David D. Price in
Oklahoma City, had become the largest privately-owned publisher of
educational books in the country. …