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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Amazon and the Textbook market

Speculation continues to swirl around the potential of Amazon entering the digital textbook market with an upcoming Kindle release. A posting last week on TechCrunch suggests this is likely based on a leak from an Amazon insider. The posting has received a fair number of responses of interest -- they illustrate some misunderstandings of how textbook pricing works, along with interest for a Kindle-like device for student textbooks. We are expecting a number of pilot projects in this general area this coming year and are aware of some specific initiatives at more than one institution. Nothing, I am afraid, that we can discuss at this time. There are some store opportunities here, which we are exploring. It is yet another sign that stores should be thinking about digital content delivery and getting their online transaction capabilities up to speed.

In March of 06 I predicted that within 5 years college stores would feel the effects of a shift to digital with a measureable and significant percentage of content (i.e., more than 10%) being delivered in that format by then. Of course, all kinds of caveats apply, but with 3.5 years to go, we are already seeing some stores hitting 20% where digital is an option. If a good reader comes out by Fall of 09, backed with a good inventory of content, then 10% or more by 2011 seems like a conservative estimate. It would be good to be proven wrong, but to quote others, are we prepared if the estimate is low rather than high?

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