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, September 30, 2008

E-textbooks, piracy, open access, and college stores

There was a long, but interesting piece in the Seattlepi last week about digital textbooks. The primary focus was on the dual challenges of access and affordability. It mentions some of the challenges with digital offerings, particularly those related to the user interface elements. Bryan Pearce, chief executive at the University of Washington Bookstore was interviewed:
In most instances, online publishing remains a side project for presses as well as bookstores -- a tentative product offered to a somewhat apprehensive digital generation."Students, I don't think they're quite ready to get into the digital course world until the user experience improves," said Pearce.
The piece covers a lot of topics touched on before, but is worth reading. I liked the varied perspectives on the topic -- university press, publisher, bookstore, faculty member, and student.

Monday, September 29, 2008

e-readers battle for channels...

There was a short but interesting piece on the O'Reilly TOC blog about 10 days ago on the growing "face-off between Amazon's Kindle and Sony's Reader" for distribution channels. SONY has been working on expanding availability through multiple channels, while Amazon has stuck mostly to its own channel for distribution.

The question we have, is which one will be willing to sell their device through the college store channel first? We have been speaking with one of the companies, but would be very interested in talking with the other (or other e-reader companies) about doing some pilots in the college store space.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

E-books and law schools

There have been a few articles on e-textbooks recently. The Seattlepi reported this week that law schools, book publishers and e-book device makers Amazon and Sony were expected to meet in Seattle yesterday. The focus? e-books for law schools.

The article notes that "A typical law student lugs around 28 pounds of books worth about $1,000 per semester. In creating cutting-edge future lawyers, some legal professors say, paper is a problem." It goes on, "What this workshop will do is bring the reformers of legal academics together -- the most distinguished scholars who have built their reputations on pedagogical reforms." Having discussions about the pedagogical aspects of e-textbooks is a critical step for the eventual adoption of the technology in higher education.

As noted in a follow-up piece that appeared in The Pendulum,

The Kindle costs $359 on Amazon.com, which is relative to what a college student may spend on books for one semester. The wireless service is free and allows access to the store, e-mail and Wikipedia.org. The absence of paper will contribute largely to cutting costs. Although the device is pricey, it could save students money in the long run. A better timeline for the possible adoption of this technology by universities may be more apparent after the results of Saturday’s meeting between publishers, device makers and school representatives are announced.

We will be watching for follow-up news and will post links in here when we learn more about anything that came out of the meeting.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

First Media Solutions pilots and PR

Well, the first press release regarding NACS Media Solutions came out this week, which has left me pretty busy responding to phone calls and e-mails on top of other tasks. This is just the first set of pilots -- and the first set of content and delivery mechanisms. This is a follow-up to the article that appeared in Campus Marketplace last week.

Over the past few days, the press release has been picked up by several sources. The article in The Chronicle of Higher Education has driven a lot of attention. The article notes, however, that there will be 30 stores in the pilots by January. This is actually incorrect. In the January timeframe we will begin recruiting the next set of stores to participate, and about the same time will be adding the next set of content. The goal is ultimately to provide content in any format students want, and reduce the costs for delivering that content for students, stores, and content providers.

Beyond the Chronicle piece and other articles, several blogs have also picked up on the story. Some have been favorable, others have been less so. I should note that the pilots include a web-based component in addition to the kiosks. This will allow students to pre-order or pre-reserve content, allowing them to avoid any lines that may form at the kiosks. in 2009, streaming download of content should also be possible. We are still looking for partners for content, as well as some infrastructural components.

Another announcement will follow on Monday, Oct 6.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The End of Books...

A totally engrossing article appeared last week in New York Magazine. The article was entitled simply, "The End," and discussed changes underway in the book publishing business. The opening of the article was fascinating, though. It began with a recent visit to a new startup within HarperCollins. Here is a short excerpt:
But first, a horror story. Debbie Stier, Miller’s No. 2 at HarperStudio (as this little imprint is called), has been collecting videos for their blog. “You want to see what happens to books after they go to book heaven?” she asks. On the screen of her MacBook, a giant steel shredder disgorges a ragged mess of paper and cardboard onto a conveyor belt. This is the fate of up to 25 percent of the product churned out by New York’s publishing machine. Everyone’s eyes widen, as though watching some viral YouTube gross-out. “It’s like Wall-E,” says marketing director Sarah Burningham. “It’s depressing,” Miller adds. They had sent in a flip camera with a warehouse worker. “You can see our books go through there,” says Stier. "The Crichton, the Ann Patchett.”

I would love to see that video. I tried to find a link to their blog, but was not successful in the few minutes I had this morning. The greatest or perhaps saddest quote comes from Stier's 12-year old son, when asked for birght ideas to save publishing he comments: “So maybe you have to turn all the books into movies so nobody has to waste their time.”

The article is quite long, but has some fascinating history, alongside some contemporary challenges and discussions. Midpoint in the article is an interesting discussion of how "traditional marketing is useless" that has some good lessons, or at least items to ponder. There is also some interesting analysis and insight into how Amazon works with the publishers, and what that might mean for both publishers and bookstores. Some quotes near the end could easily be modified to fit the bookstore industry. It allowed the article to end with a start as engrossing as the beginning:
But going back in time isn’t an option. A hundred Bennett Cerfs wouldn’t save the current publishing model—not without a hundred Bob Millers puzzling out the way forward, unhampered by fear or complacency. The kind of targeted, curated lists editors would love to publish will work even better in an electronic, niche-driven world, if only the innovators can get them there. Those owners who are genuinely interested in the industry’s long-term survival would do well to hire scrappy entrepreneurs at every level, people who think like underdogs.

It’ll be rough going in the meantime; some publishers will transform, some will muddle through, some will die. And there will, no doubt, be a lot of editors for whom even this diminished era will look like the last great golden age, when some writers were paid in the millions, some of their books produced in the millions, and more than half of those books actually sold. Book publishing is still a big-league business, and that’s a hard thing to let go of. “There’s something terrible,” says an editor at a prestigious imprint, “about admitting that you’re not a mass medium.”

Wow. It is like looking in a mirror and not liking what one sees, but being too engrossed to turn away. I thought the article provided a good read and some things to think about -- which is what all good reading should do.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Kindles in the classroom...

Teleread featured an an interesting post this week. They interviewed a high school teacher using the Kindle device to teach world history. I really liked how the teacher was integrating the technology, not just as a gadget, but within a larger historical context. He comments:

The reason I like to use the Kindles is because it is a constant reminder of one of the main themes of the class and that is that the compilation of human knowledge has been a key feature in world history. Every time knowledge was translated into a single language and stored in one space the culture that had access to it took a great leap forward. This occurred at the library at Alexandria for the Hellenes, at the House of Wisdom in Iraq for the Arabs, and in Latin speaking Western Europe for the Christian monks.

The language that the world’s information was translated into then was Greek, Arabic, and Latin. Now, remarkably, through Amazon and Google, the world’s knowledge is being translated into binary code (1, by the way was invented by the Sumerians, and 0 by the Indians in Gupta dynasty, so that’s historically related) and is cheap and accessible. I believe that by using the Kindle we’re not just playing with a toy but are reinforcing the idea that we are a part of an historical story that is still unfolding.

The full interview makes for a good read, with several other interesting quotes. I did note that they are not really reading textbooks on the Kindle devices, but using its web search feature instead. Still, it is an interesting use of a technology and another sign that such devices are moving toward a maturity level that will make them useful tools in the educational environment.

Monday, September 22, 2008

NACS announces digital content pilots

In a story from last Friday's Campus Marketplace, NACS announced the first pilots for NACS Media Solutions, the new digital LLC initiative launched back at the end of June. The first pilots will be focused primarily on entertainment content, specifically commercial TV and movies (new release to long tail). We are working on expanding the content and capabilities for the Spring and are interested in talking with potential partners, especially for content. An RFP for regional and local print-on-demand capabilities is expected to be released in mid-October.

The first round of pilots are expected to be launched between mid-October and mid-November, and will focus on seven locations. The initial pilot stores include:
I would like to reiterate my thanks and appreciation to these stores for participating in the first round of pilots. I would also like to extend thanks to the other stores who volunteered. I hope that we can add many or all of you into pilots and participation soon. In Spring 2009 NACS Media Solutions plans to grow the number of pilot and partnering stores to 20-30 sites to expand the diversity of institutions and store types participating. Full offerings to the NACS membership is anticipated beginning in summer and fall of 2009.

A prior posting on this blog provides information from the original announcement of the new LLC.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Libraries and POD

According to an article on the U-Michigan website the university library at the University of Michigan will become the first university library to install an Espresso Book Machine by On Demand Books. The story was also reported in the Chronicle's Wired Campus blog. According to the U-Michigan article:

The book machine prints out-of-copyright books from the University's digitized collections. At a cost of about $10 per book, the service is available to researchers, students and the public. The printing process begins with a reader selecting a digitized book from U-M's pre-1923 collection or from another online source, such as the Open Content Alliance. Most books printed prior to the early 1920s can be reprinted without seeking the permission from whomever holds the copyright. Then the file is downloaded to the Espresso Book Machine, where it is formatted, printed and perfect bound with a four-color cover. A finished printed book takes 5-7 minutes, depending on the number of pages.

This is an interesting development, and continues to blur the lines between the business of the bookstore and that of the institutional library. It suggests opportunities for college stores and libraries to partner together, and perhaps offer new services that either one alone might not be able to afford.

Another story about the Espresso printers comes this week from Australia. This time by a bookseller. There is an interesting quote from this piece, that couples with the above story:

Print-on-demand means that you can extend the range of products in your stores by theoretically millions of books," Dymocks CEO Don Grover said.
"At this point in time the digitisation phase and the digital rights management and copyright issues that face the industry worldwide are preventing that from happening. So that's why there is a very narrow range of product that is available for print-on-demand technology."

Getting access to content that can be printed on demand has two challenges. Both challenges affect the availability of content for print-on-demand. The first challenge is the copyright and reproduction rights issues, which both of the above stories address. The second is a formatting or content format standard that allows the content to print correctly within the POD environment. These are both challenges that are likely to drop away in coming years. In addition, campus stores that have invested in POD have found that there are many other opportunities to generate revenue or save costs by producing campus-generated content. For stores where a faculty member selects an open-source textbook, local POD could ensure some revenue -- allowing stores to continue to be supportive of faculty efforts to reduce textbook costs for students.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

e-books in France

An article this week in France 24 reports that Sony's e-reader is soon to be released in France, adding another country with access to e-reader devices. The article discusses some of the perceived benefits and weaknesses of e-books for the French market, and how some booksellers are preparing. The comment provided near the end about how there will need to be a "serious reflection on the issue of royalties" for authors and publishers was interesting.

Friday, September 19, 2008

CourseSmart-USO agreement

For those looking for more information on the recent CourseSmart-USO agreement, to understand the terms and conditions, a copy of the agreement is now publicly available in pdf format. The agreement spells out a number of points, but leaves some open questions for college stores operating in the State of Ohio.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Textbook downloads...

A bonus posting today, since I was unable to get to posting content earlier in the week...

Another article appeared this week, touting open access textbooks and other options for getting textbooks in digital format. This weeks' piece appeared in Sunday's New York times. It covers much of the same ground as other pieces: Flat World Knowledge, Connexions, and CourseSmart all received coverage. The one piece I did find interesting was based on a quote from Frank Lyman at CourseSmart who noted:

[Lyman] said that tens of thousands of textbooks have been read online and that 1,240 separate institutions have a student who has made at least one e-textbook purchase.
Over 1200 institutions with at least one student purchasing a digital textbook. That's an interesting number. One can probably assume those are via CourseSmart, so the number may actually be larger than that when you consider all the ways students can get digital textbooks today. That makes for fairly good odds that digital is penetrating to a larger number of campus communities, whether or not the stores provide the content. Sales are still weak, but each year they appear to be getting better. It will be interesting to see the numbers for this content category if IDPF or another source is able to start reporting them at some point.

It was also interesting to note the absence of any mention of the Student PIRG study on textbooks and their conclusion that many of the digital options available may not save students money when the total cost of ownership is calculated.

Question on college stores in other countries...

With readers of this blog now coming from over 85 different countries, and having heard from stores in about 5 or 6 countries, I would like to pose a question. What are college stores like in other countries? Are you grappling with digital textbooks yet? What other issues do you have? What things are happening in college stores in your country that you believe is innovative or unique?

These questions came to my mind, not just as I was looking at the blog traffic reports this week, but as I prepare to make a couple trips to Russia and some other countries. We will be spending some time in Yeketerinburg, home to over a dozen academic institutions. So I began to wonder if those inistitutions had college stores or not. Anyone know the answer or like to share their experiences of college stores and/or textbooks in other countries?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Blogroll added

I have mentioned several blogs in the past on this site, so a couple days ago I began to add a list of them in a blogroll to the left. If you have a blog or know of another blog that is relevant to this blog then post a response or drop me an e-mail and I will add more to the list. One of the items I added today is the blog for Speak Up, which is part of the Project Tomorrow initiative. For some interesting data on k-12 and technology from both student and teacher points of view, check out their presentation materials and other data.

Also, today I added the link for the Being Five blog, one of my favorite online comics. The format for the site changed recently, and yesterday's comic is one that appeared before, but it is a good one. Here it is:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

July e-book stats from IDPF

eBook sales stats for July 2008 have been released from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) who collects these statistics in conjunction with the IDPF. Trade eBook sales were $4,500,000 for July 2008, a 71% increase over July 2007. Calendar Year to Date Revenue is up 47.5%.The statistics, historical data and information about the numbers can be viewed at: http://www.idpf.org/doc_library/industrystats.htm

Sunday, September 14, 2008

and then e-magazines

The second great story in The New York Times tech section this week was a short piece on Esquire Magazine's 75th anniversary issue. A related story appeared on MSNBC's website. For the special anniversary edition of the magazine, Esquire placed a 10 inch eink display on the cover of roughly an eigth of the magazines circulated. Inside the cover is a second 10 inch display with shifting colors for an advertisement of the new Ford vehicle.

What does that have to do with this blog, you ask? Well, the magazine and newspaper industries are experiencing a transformation from digital to print. Ad revenues are down, as are newstand sales. Overal economic downturn is also having an effect. Esquire is attempting to show that there can be excitement in the magazine business again. Some of their future plans for updating content live -- creating a "living magazine" are very much the stuff of the movie Minority Report, which came out a few years ago. It won't be long and we will probably be having the characters on our cereal boxes talking to us too.

Anyway, I have been out hunting for a copy of this edition to bring with me on my college store talks this fall. No luck yet. The hybridization of ink and eink, paper and e-paper is a fascinating concept to consider. Imagine how the cost on the display technology must have come down in order for Esquire to produce this issue in this way.

To learn more about the special issue, including some videos of the cover, and information on how Esquire went about conceiving and then implementing the idea, check out the following links from the magazine:

They also have a couple interesting pieces on recycling the cover (if you are into recycling history), and a challenge to hackers to hack the cover.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Video on the Plastic Logic reader

Thanks to Melanie Sparks who sent along a link to a video of the new Plastic Logic reader, which will be announced more formally in January '09.

From e-books to e-newspapers

There were two great stories in The New York Times tech section this week worth extra notice. Today I will comment on one of the articles. Tomorrow I will comment on the other.

The first piece of interest was an article on a new e-newspaper reader. Devices for the same purpose have been test marketed in a few markets in Europe for several months now. The new reading device by Plastic Logic uses the same e-ink technology as the Sony reader and the Kindle, but sports a screen the size of a 8x11 piece of paper, allowing the device to mimic the look, if not quite the feel, of the traditional newspaper. The device allows for continual content updates via wireless connection and can store a a fair amount of content -- whether books, newspapers, or documents.

The device, while being demonstrated now, will not be available until sometime in 2009. Prices are expected to be announced in January. While not mentioned in the article, properly positioned, the device could become something usable for etextbooks. If anything it is a signal of some of the technology yet to come and the growing viability of e-formats for traditionally printed content. The article does note that the EInk creators say color is still a couple years off, with a production version of newspaper-quality color expected by 2010.

One of the aspects of this article I liked was the discussion of some of the implications and potential of this technology. The ability to do tracking and data analytics is a powerful argument for the digital distribution of newspapers. The related privacy concerns are worth mentioning, although data analytics are so sophisticated these days, anyone believing they still have privacy related to anything online is probably being naive. The article also discusses some of the initiatives with e-newspaper readers in Europe, and some of The New York Times' own experiences with digital and subscriptions.

Anyway, a fascinating article. I would give up my Sony reader for a device like that, particularly if it has wireless capability and can hold other documents and books. The device is also thinner than the Kindle and weighs just two ounces more, thanks in large part to the usage of different materials (lightweight plastic v glass) for some of the screen components.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Teens in Tech

There is a new website initiative to watch -- http://www.teensintech.com/. The site is the concept of a 15 year old, and is already starting to get a fair amount of press and attention. Here is the site description:
Teens in Tech (www.teensintech.com), the new community for teenagers who produce new media content, including podcasts, blogs, videocasts and more, has launched into private alpha. “Today’s teens are the most media-savvy and self-expressive in history. Yet until now, no company has focused on their needs. Teens in Tech gives teens tools that are designed by teens for teens."

The next generation of content creators -- soon to arrive on our campuses, are now beginning to create their own tools for content, media, social expression and communication. This will probably be a site to watch to get a catch on the "new media solutions" teens create to communicate with each other.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

RealNetworks to Introduce a DVD Copier

Following up on the piracy story from a couple days ago, on Monday The New York Times reported that RealNetworks is introducing a DVD copier application-- "a $30 software program for Windows computers that allows users to easily make a digital copy of an entire DVD — down to the extras and artwork from the box." The article goes on to discuss how the movie studios have fought such applications in the past, and how those protections and arguments appear to be weakening in the face of new tools that offer some piracy protection.

I think the key quote from the piece is the closing line: “Once you give consumers a legitimate path, you can do all kinds of other interesting things with them.” That is a lesson to remember for content producers and content sellers -- like college stores. College stores have an opportunity to work with content producers to find mechanisms that provide legitimate paths to digital content, and that must be done in an affordable way. We must define, design, and develop new business models and make the investments to establish industry capabilty and credibility in this domain. Otherwise, others will do it for us, leaving stores increasingly marginalized in the move to new mediums for content delivery. The new NACS subsidiary will be helping stores accomplish this goal. The first pilots will be starting in the next 6-8 weeks and more public announcements are soon to follow.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Is textbook piracy bigger than we thought?

A very interesting story was shared with me this week by a colleague. The article appeared in Thursday morning's Chronicle of Higher Education, with the headline: Students flock to web sites offering pirated textbooks. The article is based on a study by the Student PIRG, which was given to students at two institutions (City Colleges of Chicago and Portland State University), for a total of roughly 500 students. Roughly a quarter of the students reported looking for an illegal copy of a textbook from pirate web sites, although only 8 percent reported success in finding a copy.

The article goes on to include comments from Ed McCoyd, director of digital policy for the AAP. Mr. McCoyd gave an interesting interview on the NPR station from American University a few weeks back. An audio copy of the call is available online in a couple different formats and lasts about 23 minutes. Also on the call were a law professor who is an expert on intellectual property and copyright, and a representative from the Scandinavian-based Pirate Bay organization.

The comment in the Chronicle article that I found interesting was the following remark by Mr. McCoyd, "I think there's just unfortunately a culture of piracy out there." A culture of piracy. Quite likely. That culture of piracy began in the 1990s with the advent of P2P applications like Napster, where consumers were telling the IP owners they wanted a different product and in a different way. We are now seeing the same phenomenon moving into the textbook arena. Prices have hit a barrier where consumers are beginning to decide that the perceived risks and costs of breaking the law are lower than the perceived benefit or value from paying full-price for content. Stores and publishers are working on a wide range of initiatives to help combat piracy and reduce the cost of textbooks for students. However, the big spike in physical textbook costs this semester will likely fuel piracy even more.

That raises a question of whether the textbook industry as a whole (from one end of the chain to the other) is engaged in a feedback loop of actions that is fueling the very piracy we would hope to avoid. Many years ago I had a great opportunity to work on a problem a state agency was having with legal compliance. We worked with them to develop a system that made compliance easier and less costly, at which point compliance went way up, to everyone's benefit. As part of the process we learned that many people do not want to break the law, but in some cases an organization or industry create an environment where breaking the law is perceived as being necessary, or is perceived as having fewer potential negative consequences than doing what is right according to the law.

Addressing this problem may require some radical steps for all of the stakeholders, but it is a critical problem to address or it will only continue to get worse. Finding creative ways to reduce the cost of course materials, without sacrificing educational quality, is critical. Allowing for the continued financial health of both content providers and college stores is also important. In the latter case, stores provide more back to their students, institutions, and communities, than many realize. They perform localization functions and services that are difficult to replicate online, as those services and functions vary greatly based on the needs of a local campus community. That said, stores and their related institutions have a critical stake in helping to solve the piracy challenge that goes beyond the local bottom line.

Okay -- I am trying to stir the pot and get some conversation going... the problem will not go away if we avoid discussion. What would it take to make textbook piracy a less attractive option, while still ensuring the profitability and survival of publishers, stores, and insitutions, and maintaining (or improving) the educational quality of the end product? That is perhaps really three different questions, but let's give it a go... thoughts?

In the end, we have very little data on how extensive student piracy of content really is. We know little about the representativeness of the data collected. The topic is getting a lot of media attention lately -- the newest twist on an old annual story about the high cost of textbooks. That is not an argument to avoid the discussion, but rather let us consider this within the context of a much bigger picture. Is piracy greater than or less than e-book sales for publishers? How many students have really considered piracy? What other legal sources have students looked at to find substitutes? How often are faculty encouraging students to pirate the content versus acquire it legally? We need more data to inform the discussion. Anyone have some additional quality points of data they can share? Perhaps there is data or data collection techniques from the music and video industries we could examine -- with some longitudinal trend information? Again... any information or thoughts to share/add?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

June 2008 ebook sales statistics

IDPF has provided eBook sales statistics for June 2008. These statistics have recently been released from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) who collects these statistics in conjunction with the IDPF.

Trade eBook sales were $4,900,000 for June 2008, an 87.4% increase over June 2007. Calendar Year to Date Revenue is up 43%.Q2 of 2008 is the first quarter to top $11,000,000 in wholesale revenues among the 12 - 15 reporting Trade Publishers.

The statistics, historical data and information about the numbers can be viewed at:

Friday, September 5, 2008

A response to a response-- CSO and CourseSmart

I came across a posting on a posting on LJNDawson's blog that referenced my blog posting from last week on the CSO and CourseSmart arrangement. After quoting a passage from the earlier blog posting, she writes:

Apparently CourseSmart is making it possible, however, for college bookstores to participate in offering digital textbooks - something many brick and mortar stores have been quite concerned about. If books are available for download, where does that leave the bookstore? For so long, bookstores looked at record stores with a "there but for the grace of God" eye - but now that it's time for books to be distributed over the wires, how can a bookstore play?

Right now, college bookstores are buying packaged bits of paper with key codes on them. A student buys this package, goes to the URL that's printed on the paper, and types in a code that gives the student access to the digital textbook. But this will eventually go away as well - students will be buying their digital textbooks online and receiving an email that contains the same information as the packaged bit of paper.

Digital textbooks, therefore, are only viable to the college bookstore as an "also" purchase - while I'm here in the store buying my humanities textbooks, let me pick up this ebook for my science requirement - but not as the main focus of a bookstore trip.

Yes, CourseSmart is making it possible for college stores to participate in offering digital textbooks, as my blog posting explains. That is not really the concern of the piece, nor is the passage quoted. For that matter, the concern is not even really about CourseSmart. The concern lies more in a state office negotiating the terms of sale on behalf of all institutions in the state, public or private.

Stores are able to sell digital in formats other than "packaged bits of paper with key codes on them." Digital can be sold directly through store websites. In addition, NACS recently launched a new initiative that over the coming year will allow participating stores to offer digital via a variety of channels (web, kiosk, among others) based on a student's preference or choice. Students will be able to get content in the store in whatever format they require or prefer (e.g., print, or electronic to a particular device).

Digital textbooks are not necessarily only viable to the college bookstore as an "also" purchase. There are many localization services that make the college store the best place to buy course materials, whether digital or print. For example, students wanting to pay cash, use financial aid, or other forms of campus currency (e.g., student accounts, campus cards, etc.) would still want to use the bookstore because of their ability to handle these different forms of payment that many others cannot. By some estimates, this is over half of all students. Stores authenticate that the proper content is being purchased. If a student drops a course within a particular timeframe, or needs to return the content, stores can authenticate for vendors that the refund request is legitimate. Again, by some estimates, over a fifth of students seek to return some content each semester. By buying content through the stores, the store is offering some guarantee to students and providing value and services others cannot.

For these and other reasons, the store does have a place being involved with digital textbooks and those options are viable as more than just an "also" purchase. As stores become more sophisticated in the methods of delivering content, the options for students (both for convenience and cost savings) will lead them to the college store first for content, choice, and service options that they may not be able to find elsewhere.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A new Kindle? Not this year...

According to a news story on the Dow Jones news wire last week, Amazon will not be releasing a new Kindle this year. An Amazon spokesperson noted that a new version of the Kindle would not be out until next year at the earliest.

The article is interesting for its references to e-textbooks. Among other points they note that the publishers are not in discussion with Amazon over e-textbook initiatives, and that the devices are not yet ready for what would be required of textbook content. This conclusion is consistent with conversations and information we have gathered as well.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

CSI: Future of reading?

There is an interesting blurb in last Friday's Shelf Awareness. It notes:

CSI: Publishing Industry. Anthony Zuiker, creator of the numerous CSI television series, "has made a seven-figure deal with Dutton to create a series of three suspense-thriller 'digital novels,'" according to Variety, which reported that the new enture "is a publishing hybrid that broadens traditional book reading into a multiplatform experience that includes filmed components and an interactive social networking site.""I want to give traditional crime novel readers a more immersive experience," Zuiker said, noting that the online features give "publishing a chance to catch up with the YouTube generation that has lost passion for reading.""I personally don't have the attention economy to read a 250-page crime novel from start to finish," he continued. "I realized that the way I'd like to consume a novel is to be rewarded every couple of chapters by seeing something visual that enhances the narrative."

A step closer to born digital. It sounds like a cool idea though -- perhaps something lke the way pictures work in printed books. Such interactive content or "digital book models" could be particularly useful in travel books. I have already seen some similar type of content appear in some of the health sciences. Perhaps the CSI textbook series in forensics is next???

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Weird Blame site and contest

On to the news post for today -- which makes a nice follow-up to last Friday's posting. Check out the Weird Blame website sponsored by the CCRA up in Canada. The site has a well done video -- kind of weird, as you might expect. They had some variations, so I hope those get released at some point as well. The Weird Blame site was conceived of by the CCRA members and is a great idea. Here is some of the text explaining the site, and a related contest they are running...

... The textbook industry operates according to some very weird market forces. In what has been coined a "Broken Market," the student does not choose their product, and the instructor or department that does choose the textbook does not actually purchase it. As a result, price is removed from the purchasing decision, allowing publishers to set higher prices. In addition, there exists very little competition in the textbook market, with only a handful of major publishers to choose from.

It would also be 'weird' if university bookstores selected which textbooks to be used for every course. If that were the case, you can rest assured every book would be in stock well before the start of class! Unfortunately, textbooks can't be shipped until orders are received from the instructors, who first have to wait for department administration to decide their courses of instruction. As a result of this process, orders are often placed too late for the books to arrive before classes begin.

Although the prices of textbooks are climbing faster than would be expected, and communication problems can result in textbooks being ordered too late for the beginning of classes, it should be noted that both bookstores and faculty are committed to do all they can to get orders in on time, resist new editions of textbooks, prevent unwanted add-ons, and encourage peer-to-peer exchange (sale) of used books.

Kudos to the CCRA members!