CT: Are we at the tipping point with e-books because of hardware like the Amazon
Johnson: [In my study] ... I looked at hardware as well. In fact, [we]
had a piece of hardware that was identical to the Kindle. For the first eight
months [of launching Fourteen40], that's what I was pursuing. We rolled it out
at Stanford as a pilot and students said, "How much is this? $400? No way. I
just want [content] on my laptop."
Bryce also points out a common problem for many in the e-textbook space currently -- the lack of content (aka digital assets, aka inventory). Bryce predicts that once the content inventory is improved (which he estimates will occur over the next 12-18 months) that student adoption of digital will improve. I have made some of the same predictions -- that a big current barrier is the lack of complete or sufficient inventory. There are other barriers though, as well, so it remains to be seen how quickly adoption will unfold. I expect we will see improved adoption over the next academic year (2008-2009), but it is likely the following year where a bigger effect will be felt.
Finally, my favorite set of quotes from the interview:
CT: At one point last fall, you offered scratch-and-sniff stickers with a
musty smell to them. Where did that idea come from?
Johnson: We're brainstorming one day. In a survey, we asked students ... what they [would] miss in a normal textbook or book. I think 60 percent of them responded that they missed the smell. We thought, "They like the smell. We'll ship you a scratch and sniff you can stick in your laptops." That's where that came from.
CT: And does it really smell like an old book?
Johnson: It really does.