How we got started
From 1967 to 1969, Mike Murach worked as a staff writer for a college textbook publisher that was a wholly owned subsidiary of IBM. During that time, he was surprised to discover that none of the managers had any notion of how a textbook should be planned, how a chapter should be planned, how illustrative material should be used, or, for that matter, how to do any other phase of writing a textbook and developing its courseware.
Founder, Murach Books
When Mike asked the top manager how he defined a good book, the answer was “one that sells.” When he asked why the company didn’t develop a theory of instruction that could be implemented in their books, he was told, “No publisher has the time to worry about educational effectiveness.” When he asked why they published more than one book on each subject, he was told, “That way the market can decide which one is the best.” And when Mike suggested that one of the books that they were working on wasn’t going to be nearly as good as five other books that were already on the market, he was told, “Don’t worry about that...our marketing is better than theirs.”
At that point, Mike quit working for the company as an employee, and became a freelance author of two best-selling college textbooks for the same company. As part of that experience, he developed his own theory of instruction as well as methods for all aspects of writing a book.
But as part of that experience, Mike also learned more about how the college textbook publishing industry worked, and he didn’t like what he learned. For instance, textbook publishers pay professors to review manuscripts for courses they teach, not so much to get recommendations that will improve the manuscript, but to get the professors to adopt the book when it is published. Textbook publishers also are likely to publish the manuscript of a professor who teaches a course with large enrollments, no matter how bad the manuscript is, because the school will almost certainly adopt the book and those sales alone will insure that the book will reach its breakeven point.
Our founding principles
Concerns like those and many others eventually led Mike to start his own publishing company in 1972...a company that would be run on an entirely different set of principles.
- Do everything we can to publish the best book on each subject.
- Make sure every book is based on a theory of instruction that works.
- Make sure that the courseware for every book uses the best training practices.
- Never let schedule or budget compromise the quality of a book.
- Market each book in an open and honest way.
- Never try to make a buck by being unfair to a customer, vendor, or employee.
But how do you develop the best book on each subject if you use the traditional textbook publishing model in which books are written by instructors who have no training in writing effective training materials, who base their tables of contents on the way they’re currently teaching the course, and who write their books as side projects, on weekends and during their summer vacations? It’s pretty tough.
That’s why Mike started by hiring Kevin McQuillen, a brilliant friend from his days at IBM, as a fulltime employee to write the first Murach book. It was a book on System/360 Assembler Language; there were already 12 textbooks on the subject; and Mike was advised by friends to start with a book on some other subject.
Nevertheless, Mike not only believed that he and Kevin could develop the best book on the subject, but also that the best book would get more than a fair share of the market. He was right. The book was published in 1974 (some two years in the making) and within three years, it had more than 200 college adoptions. Murach Books was on its way.
What keeps us going 40 years later
President, Murach Books
During the last 40 years, a lot has changed in the computer industry, but one thing hasn’t changed. We’re still the only company that publishes only one book on each subject and the only company that puts all of its strength and energy into making that book the best one on its subject.
The good news for us is that it feels good to stay out of the helter-skelter world of textbook publishing and to keep trying to improve on our own standards for making the best textbooks. Although that may not be a fast path to riches, it sure is satisfying. And nothing feels better than when an instructor writes to say:
“Your book reminds my students of the best teacher they’ve ever had.”
Or when a student writes:
“Your books are so good that I threw away the assigned book for my class and bought your book (which by the way helped restore my 4.0 GPA).”
Today, Ben Murach is the President of Murach Books, and Joel Murach is our lead author and editor. They were raised to believe in the principles that the company was founded upon, and they are currently carrying those principles forward. As a result, every author, every editor, and every employee is committed to providing the BEST in every book we develop and in every interaction we have with you. Although that business model obviously doesn’t appeal to every technical publisher, it’s kept us in going for the last 40 years, and we’re looking forward to the next 40.