This blog is dedicated to the topics of Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education. it is intended as an information source for the college store industry, or anyone interested in how course materials are changing. Suggestions for discussion topics or news stories are welcome.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Something fun to tide you over...

I am about to leave for CAMEX and from there to OCDE, so I will be away for a week. I know I promised an update yesterday on some new developments, but I am afraid that will have to wait until after the NACS board meets later this week. In the interim, I thought you might find the following site interesting -- it shows a number of new technologies in prototype stage, some of which are very cool.


I, personally, would love one of the Nokia phones pictured near the top of the list. As for the lamp inside the book? Well, I am not sure what the market demand will be for that one.

Have a good week. I will work on posting from the road, although usually the format ends up pretty off when I do that. We'll see.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Upcoming at CAMEX

Next week one of the biggest NACS event of the year begins -- CAMEX. There will be plenty there to whet your digital appetite.

There will be a great catalyst session on Friday morning with Michael Wesch. Michael is an Anthropology professor in Kansas. He has become well known in the Internet/YouTube world for his videos on students and technology. Check out some of his videos: The Machine is Us/ing Us, Information R/evolution, and A Vision of Students Today. Along related lines, also check out Academia 2.0 and the "are we relevant" videos.

I will have the digital update session: Fighting Fire With Fire: Understanding Opportunities for College Stores in the New Digital Landscape. The title was set about a year ago and many things have happened since, but it should be a lively session this time. Among discussing some important new developments, we will also be laying out some of the elements and proposals put forth by the Digital Content Strategic Planning Taskforce, which will be discussed by the NACS Board the day before. Some of you have seen earlier drafts of that report, but we have some new action items in response to developments within the past two weeks.

At the same time as my session, the NACS General Business Meeting will take place. The general meeting is expected to run longer to allow for questions and recent developments are sure to engender some discussion.

On Saturday morning Todd Anderson will be giving a presentation on Print-on-demand (POD) entitled Espresso Books: Print-on-demand in the College Store . This should be a great session and one I hope many stores will attend. POD will be a big part of our strategy for stores this year, so here is an opportunity to learn from one of the most innovative stores in North America.

On Saturday afternoon there will be the E-books, Custom Books, and Print-on-demand - Idea Exchange . I am scheduled to be on a panel for health science stores at that time, but I am looking to hear what comes out of the discussion. I will be attempting to sit in for part of the discussion.

Of course there are many other sessions that are covering digital and retail technologies. I plan to make my CAMEX talk a bit different from earlier talks, and also different from the talks for PSG and LSG coming up in April. There always needs to be a bit of overlap, but I will do my best to provide new content -- this time around that should be easy as there are many new things to discuss.

Hope to see many of you at CAMEX!

Nearing our "i-Pod" moment?

Are textbooks, publishing, and college stores about to face their "i-Pod moment"? That was part of the discussion last week in a session at the O'Reilly TOC conference. The question, though, is: Is it possible that our "iPod moment" is coming more quickly than we expected? Could it arrive within the year?

Between now and CAMEX we will be sending out an announcement to members about a recent development that has come to our attention. We are still tracking out information and trying to learn more. From what we have confirmed at this stage, however, appears that the digital environment for textbooks is about to become far more competitive. There is a device, that currently lacks a sufficient content inventory, but that may be about to change. Furthermore, the company owning that device is approaching academic institutions directly through the IT branch. We know a bit more than that, but not a whole lot more. Once the announcement goes out, I will post a copy here.

If we are facing our "iPod moment," are we ready? I would like to seriously engage in a discussion on this topic, our opportunities, and our options. I will bring the topic up in my session at CAMEX next Friday at 4pm. I would be interested in having more conversation on this either here through the blog or via other avenues.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Okay -- I am trying out a new feature to the blog -- it may stay, it may not. I have added a widget so people can IM me while I am online. It requires that I actively log into MeebOme, so I am seeking out a widget for my desktop as well. Feel free to leave a message while I am offline and I will respond when I next connect.


Future of textbooks....interesting quote

Here are some excerpts from a recent interview with CJ Rayhill from Safari Online. I think her comments relative to textbooks are interesting and worth discussion. Particularly in light of some new big news that came our way this week (and which I will be posting here shortly -- so stay tuned!) You can find the whole interview with CJ Rayhill on the "Confessions of a Science Librarian" blog.


Q4. What's the future of the text book? Do you think this model would
apply to other disciplines as well? Physics, marketing, philosophy?

The future of the textbook market is clearly shifting. You have products like
SafariU, iChapters, and CourseSmart beginning to emerge to solve a difficult
issue -- the high cost of textbooks. In addition, most higher-education courses
involve exposure to content from multiple sources which makes the cost of
purchasing all of the required and recommended reading for students out of
reach. So what happens is that students end up not even purchasing required content which must diminish the value of their educational experience. I'm not sure which model will emerge as the clear leader in this space...

Q5. What do you see as Safari's biggest competition, other ebook publishers or free stuff on the net?

Both! Our biggest partners (Google, Amazon, etc.) can potentially be our biggest competitors. And the balancing act is not getting any easier. Especially for technical reference-type books, how much do you give away for free on Google Book Search before it eats into your revenue stream possibilities? Does the exposure help or hurt sales? I think free content is great -- but I also think that there is a place for being able to search across and access good, vetted content from trusted sources. The next 3-5 years is going to be one of the most revolutionary periods for publishers in my opinion, especially in our space.

The next 3-5 years will likely be a very revolutionary period for stores as well. This theme was repeated over and over at the TOC conference last week and in other publisher venues I have tapped into lately. Our timeline to prepare is diminishing. Where is all the discussion of this topic within our portion of the industry???

Thursday, February 14, 2008

New concept store has a focus on digital

Here's an interesting story on Border's new future of the bookstore that appeared in yesterday's USA Today. The concept store is based heavily on digital. Read the full story at:

The first concept store opens today - the list of other concept stores opening this year is towards the bottom of this piece. Perhaps we can arrange a trip to check it out and see what we can replicate? Perhaps a member or two could check it out for us and give us a report back? Maybe someone from this initiative would be willing to talk to our group at Innovate? What would it take for us to help create such a concept store in the college store industry? All just thoughts.

It is a very interesting read though - and seems to be on the right track. I think what is interesting about some of their concepts is that we have been talking about some of these things - from POD, to becoming that hub for knowledge, entertainment and digital downloading. These are all ideas we (and others) have bounced around in the past couple years, but they have gone ahead and implemented them. Several of these ideas appear in the proposed report from the digital content taskforce which is a reassuring sign that perhaps we are moving in the right direction. At least we have an opportunity to learn from the Border's experience before trying any of these things on our own.

If you happen to see follow-up stories on this that I miss, I would be interested in seeing them. I would also be interested in hearing your ideas about what stores or NACS could do to increase experiementation. If we were to create a digital concept store, what would it look like? Do you think Border's idea is a move in the right direction?

Here are the 13 other concept stores Borders plans this year:
California: Alameda (San Francisco area) Alameda Towne Center Mira Loma (Los Angeles) Eastvale Gateway Mall National City (San Diego area) Westfield Shoppingtown Plaza Bonita
Colorado: Park Meadows (Denver) Park Meadows Mall
Connecticut: Southbury Southbury Plaza
Florida: Panama City Beach Pier Park
Indiana: Noblesville (Indianapolis area) Hamilton Town Center
Louisiana: Baton Rouge Mall of Louisiana New Orleans free-standing store in the Garden district
Massachusetts: Wareham (Boston area) Wareham Crossing
Nevada: Las Vegas Las Vegas Town Square
Texas: Allen (Dallas area) Watters Creek at Montgomery Farms
Washington: Tukwila (Seattle area) Westfield Southcenter Mall
Source: Borders, as reported in USA Today

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Twittering from the road...

Hi folks.

Yesterday and today I am at the OReilly Tools of Change (TOC) conference. I had planned to blog parts of the conference, but yesterday's Blackberry outage put some end to that. See, even tech guys can get stymied by tech now and again.

Yesterday's TOC sessions were great. Many stores could have benefitted from some of the sessions. Over the next week I will post a number of my notes and observations from the conference. Right now I have about 30 pages of notes and a number of ideas and thoughts to include in upcoming presentations.

Some quick-hit themes to perk your interest: the importance of experimentation keeps coming up, as does varying incarnations of Web 2.0 and collaboration. The concept of community and how that figures into the equation has raised several ideas and implications for college stores. There was a great session on e-textbooks yesterday that will be repeated today due to popular and high demand -- something that stores should take away as an important indicator of what is to come. There are other themes and topics too-- but that will have to wait until a future posting. I will verify that this "posting from the road" arrived correctly and then perhaps begin a new posting from the train home tonight. I have lots of good content to post over the next few days.

Have you seen anything interesting lately? Any news stories you would like me to discuss or post more on here? I have another posting coming on clickers suggested by a reader. More to follow-

Happy blogging--