The sales code

To appeal to students reluctant to read, Stephen Brown presents his marketing study material as 'management thrillers'

September 10, 2009

Having come across innumerable lacklustre textbooks in his 23 years of teaching, Stephen Brown set out to break the mould of traditional scholarly publishing.

Next week, the professor of marketing research at the University of Ulster releases the final part of his trilogy of "management thrillers".

Professor Brown's latest release, The Lost Logo, coincides with the publication of Dan Brown's latest novel, The Lost Symbol, and is written in the style of the bestselling conspiracy thrillers.

In his trilogy - the first business books of their kind - Professor Brown fictionalises marketing concepts and ideas and presents academic problems in a compelling manner.

He believes that many students are reluctant to read, and are especially hesitant to pick up "the dry-as-dust textbooks" that are prevalent in his subject.

Seeing the popularity of titles such as the Harry Potter novels and Dan Brown's blockbuster, The Da Vinci Code, among his undergraduates, Professor Brown decided to present study material in a genre that students were fond of and familiar with.

"My students are responding very positively to the textbooks - they have never seen anything like this before and are very intrigued by it," he said.

Professor Brown said that when he adapts examples from his textbooks to classroom discussions, students are far more willing to participate. His textbooks examine the formula behind Dan Brown's writing, analysing factors such as narrative, which Professor Brown believes is essential to improve students' writing skills.

"It makes them take into consideration the importance of composing prose, which is of great significance and not discussed enough in business life," he said.

Professor Brown believes that publishers are too fixed on traditional ideas of what constitutes a textbook and must move in a different direction to succeed in future.

"We live in an increasingly visual society, and the problem is that students are not going to want to pay extortionate amounts for monotonous textbooks."

The popularity of Dan Brown's novels has had a profound impact on the sales of conspiracy thrillers everywhere, and Professor Brown thinks a similar phenomenon could also occur in academic publishing.

"Sooner or later, a textbook will come along that shatters the traditional formula of what comprises a textbook and transforms the industry for good," he said.

The Lost Logo is published by Marshall Cavendish and will be released on 15 September.

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