The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Update on Caravan Project Pilot

The following posting went out to schools participating in our pilot initiative with the Caravan Project. I am reposting it here due to other inquiries. The timing is also good as there was an excellent update and summary of the Caravan Project as a whole that appeared in the Shelf Awareness newsletter on Friday of last week.

Originally distributed: Friday, 13 June, 2008

Hi everyone,

I am writing to provide an update on the Caravan pilot project. As we indicated back in late April and early May, just before our first meetings and the kickoff of the project, we learned that we would need to change the planned order of the project. This required moving the activities originally planned for late summer or fall (specifically, getting access to the digital assets) up by several months. In attempting to gain access to the Caravan digital assets other positive developments occurred.

First, one of the companies holding Caravan digital assets (OverDrive) informed us that they were not particularly interested in working with us to provide only the Caravan titles. It would be just as much work for them to provide us the 60-90 Caravan titles as it would be to provide all 60,000+ digital assets they provide. Having the larger set of titles and content to work with should make this project more robust. However, it also led us to realize that we could move up the proposed timeline on several other initiatives as well (more on that in a moment). Second, the other major company holding the Caravan digital assets (Ingram) has been less responsive. However, we have scheduled a meeting with them for the last week of June and we expect to make progress at that point. We expect their position to be similar to that of OverDrive.

These required changes in project scope, required some rethinking to determine what is best for both participating stores and the industry so that we can yield a successful result. The exploration into how to deliver the content in multiple formats, coupled with the sudden potential access to a much wider range of content options, has led us to several exciting new possibilities. In addition to the 14 stores currently participating in the pilot, over a dozen others have requested to participate in the past 6-8 weeks. Many of these inquiries would provide a broader range of participants, leading to a more robust pilot. Many of these other stores do not sell many university press titles, and thus might not gain much from the project as originally conceived. However, with access to the larger digital asset inventories, the project becomes more interesting and viable for other groups of stores to consider. In many ways, just by trying to launch the Caravan pilot project we have realized several outcomes of benefit. In addition to getting wider interest in participation than we hoped, we also found methods to provide a wider array of content via an equally wider array of delivery mechanisms and formats. It resulted in discovering a path to implementing the digital content strategy approved by the NACS Board in February that we had not foreseen as possible in the short term.

As noted above, our having access to a much, much larger set of digital assets opens up several other opportunities for this pilot project. It also speeds up several other timelines, encouraging us to rethink our direction. Following several discussions, we have a proposal going before the NACS Board at next week's meeting. If that proposal is approved, this project will take a different direction that will provide participating stores access to a wider array of digital content options, and some additional technical options and assistance. I am limited in the information I can share at this time, but following the Board meeting next Friday and Saturday I should be able to provide additional information and have a clearer indication of the direction this pilot project will go.

The developments in this project all represent positive opportunities for the pilot stores and the college store industry as a whole as it relates to digital content delivery. We are still working toward having working pilots in place by mid-to-late fall. Which direction we go with those pilots will depend somewhat on what the NACS Board decides at their meeting next week. Any stores currently participating in the Caravan pilot project will have the option of stepping out if the new direction is of less interest. As soon as I have more information to share, I will certainly be in touch. In the interim, please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about the current or future state of this pilot project.


rgm2007 said...

Does NACS refer to the National Association of College Stores, or some other NACS?

M said...

Yes, NACS is the National Association of College Stores.

Bob Martinengo said...

I have been following the progress of the Caravan project since I first heard about it a year or so ago. I hoped it would address issues of accessibility for readers who may be blind or otherwise print-impaired. What is the connection between Caravan and the NACS?

M said...

Interesting point, Bob. There are some efforts out there focused on accesibility issues for the coming e-book, perhaps mostly in the education arena (or at least in the initiatives I am aware of). It is certainly an important topic. I will write myself a note and see if I can find some newer and more useful links related to this topic. Caravan does provide books in an audio format -- not a perfect substitute for the print-impaired, but a start.

On the Caravan-NACS connection, we are currently working on a pilot project with Caravan, sponsored by the NACS Foundation. The project involves 14 schools and it looks to further extend the idea of Caravan -- that separation of content from format to give readers what they want. Caravan has been successful at many of its goals on the publisher side, but part of the original vision included the bookseller side of the equation. The reality of that part of the vision is making progress, but (like ebooks and ereaders) is not quite there yet.