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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Friday, October 31, 2008

Google reaches settlement with the Authors Guild and AAP over Google Book Search

Earlier this week, Google announced a settlement with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) to expand online access to millions of in-copyright books and other written materials in the U.S. from the collections of major U.S. libraries participating in Google Book Search. More details of the settlement can be found in an article posted on Tuesday in Publishers Weekly. Another article also appears in this week’s Campus Marketplace.

The Official Google Blog notes that the agreement is truly groundbreaking for three reasons. “First it will give readers digital access to millions of in-copyright books; second, it will create a new market for authors and publishers to sell their works; and third, it will further the efforts of our library partners to preserve and maintain their collections while making books more accessible to students, readers and academic researchers.”

The settlement must be approved by the court but includes a $125 million payment by Google as well as the establishment of a new licensing system allowing copyright owners to register their works and receive a share of subscriptions, book sales, and ad revenues.

However, if the settlement goes through as stated, some parties may not participate. On Thursday, Harvard University Library announced that they find the terms of the settlement unsatisfactory and will not allow their in-copyright works to be scanned. Harvard’s concern includes questions regarding access to the scanned books, prices charged for access, and the quality of the scanned books. University spokesman John D. Longbrake noted that Harvard participation will be dependent on the result of the settlement and they may decide to join “if the settlement between Google and publishers contains more reasonable terms for the University.”

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Christian Science Monitor to end print edition

According to an article in The New York Times, after a century in publication, The Christian Science Monitor will be the first national newspaper to discontinue its weekday print edition and move to online only in April 2009. John Yemma, The Monitor’s editor explains, “We have the luxury – the opportunity – of making a leap that most newspapers will have to make in the next five years.”

This development provides another signal that digital forms of reading are gaining ground and other newspapers are sure to track The Monitor’s success as they determine the future of their publications. Last year, in an interview with Arthur Sulzberger, owner, chairman, and publisher of The New York Times, he suggested that they too could move to online only in five years. Sulzberger said, "I really don't know whether we'll be printing the Times in five years, and you know what? I don't care either.” Sulzberger later clarified his statement by saying, “So let me clear the air on this issue. It is my heartfelt view that newspapers will be around—in print—for a long time. But I also believe that we must be prepared for that judgment to be wrong. My five-year timeframe is about being ready to support our news, advertising and other critical operations on digital revenue alone ...whenever that time comes."

The change to online only versions of newspapers could disappoint faithful subscribers but as John Yemma explains the transition is inevitable, “Longtime readers love coffee and a newspaper. So do I, there’s nothing like it. But everyone, sooner or later, is going to have to make the transition, and that’s recognized.” The same can probably be said of textbooks and course materials. If the shift to digital is inevitable and if it begins to have an impact within the next 3-5 years, will your store be ready for the transition?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The DMCA turns 10

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the passing of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In commemoration of the event, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released a new report titled, “Unintended Consequences: Ten Years Under the DMCA”. DMCA has not always been well received by higher education, and as the EFF notes in their report, there have been a number of specific instances where the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was not used against copyright pirates but instead against legitimate activities conducted by consumers, scientists, and businesses. Over the years, EFF has fought against many DCMA suits in the name of free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights. However, a posting on the Wired Blog provides a different perspective on the DCMA saying that it is often misunderstood and although it has caused problems and abuses, the internet would not be where it is today if it were not for the law. The posting notes,

“Blogs, search engines, e-commerce sites, video, and social-networking portals are thriving today thanks in large part to the notice-and-takedown regime ushered in by the much-maligned copyright overhaul.”

The posting goes on to say that even Google which also owns You Tube credits the DMCA for its success.

In the future, Congress could reopen the DMCA which will create an opportunity for reform but also an opportunity for the MPAA and RIAA to influence the law. We have already seen instances where the RIAA has influenced recent legislation, such as the reauthorization of the higher education act, which will now require institutions to perform some of the policing function for content providers that they have previously avoided. A reopening of the DMCA could have significant implications for DRM, and digital course materials. This presents both opportunities and challenges for the college store community, as well as much of the rest of higher education related to digital content and intellectual property.

Information on the basics of the DMCA, as well as links to the DMCA itself, are available through the UCLA Online Institute for Cyberspace Law and Policy, as well as other sources.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Could Oprah help boost Kindle sales?

On Friday, Oprah Winfrey announced on her talk show that her “Favorite New Gadget” is the Amazon Kindle. Oprah declared, “It is absolutely my new favorite thing in the world”. Oprah went on to describe the Kindle as “life-changing for me” and the wave of the future”. Oprah gave each member of her audience their own Kindle and provided viewers with a promotional discount code to save money on their purchase. Oprah’s endorsement could be just what Amazon needs to boost sales in the upcoming holiday season. To date, Amazon has not released any information regarding Kindle sales and according to the market research firm, Codex Group, it could be because there is a difference between the hype the Kindle has created and the amount of actual purchases. Oprah has proved many times in the past that she can significantly influence consumer product sales through her annual “Favorite Things” show which has brought overnight success to many small companies and through her famous book club which has put many authors on The New York Times best-seller list.

On Friday’s show, Oprah also spoke about her desire to use the Kindle for textbooks at the school she opened in South Africa as well as her prediction for the future.
“I was telling my head of school in South Africa about it because my little girls are 12 and 13 years old and they have 60 pounds of books on their back. I’m trying to figure out a way to get all of their textbooks downloaded to the Kindle so they do not have to carry their textbooks around.” Oprah went on to say, “I do believe this is the future for academia, period.”

We look forward to finding out more about Oprah’s influence on the Kindle sales.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mag Rack Entertainment buys on-demand television network

Mag Rack Entertainment is an interesting new company to take note of. The company was formed this year by two entertainment and technology entrepreneurs and in October they announced the purchase of Lifeskool on-demand television from Cablevision’s Rainbow Media Holdings. According to Lifeskool’s website,

“Lifeskool is the only FREE On Demand television network dedicated to helping you make the most of your life with exclusive content that inspires and informs.”

The on-demand service is offered on the web and also on TV through certain cable providers. Currently the shows are updated each week with 13 categories to choose from including: Cooking, Health & Fitness, Music, and Video Gaming. However, we may see enhancements to these offerings soon as the network develops under its new owners.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

New e-book application for the iPhone

According to Apple designer, Sebastiaan de With’s blog, Apple will soon release Classics, a new e-book application for the iPhone featuring some great enhancements to the other applications currently available. Classics' interface is designed to allow users to read comfortably in any light including the bright afternoon sun. The application also includes custom book covers and 3D page-turning animation. Classics will include 12 books when it is released and additional books will be offered via free updates.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Speed-reader lives in Sony storefront to promote new e-reader

At the beginning of October, Sony launched a nation-wide campaign known as Reader Revolution to promote the release of the new PRS-700BC e-reader next month. Since then, Dave Farrow, a speed-reader and memory expert has been living in a NYC storefront reading books on the e-reader. For each page Farrow reads, Sony will donate an e-book library of 100 classics to a school. The first 100 schools to download their e-books will also receive five e-book readers. Sony has even set up a live webcam in the window with both interior and street views that is pretty entertaining.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Houston bookstore begins nationwide book drive following Hurricane Ike

Recently the Blue Willow Bookshop in West Houston began a nationwide book drive to replace the school library books that were lost as a result of Hurricane Ike. The drive focuses on three local schools which each lost more than 75% of their book collections. The bookstore hopes that with the help of booksellers, publishers and many others, they will be able to collect more than 1,000 books by December 1. For more information on the effort and to find out how you can contribute, please visit Blue Willow Bookshop.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

E-textbooks could help reduce back pain for college students

A recent study conducted by Boston University reveals that 85% of college students experience back pain from the weight of books in their backpacks. Dr. Karen Jacobs, one of the researchers of the study, recommends that a backpack weigh no more than 10-15% of a student’s body weight and that students carry only what they need. However, a few textbooks can easily add up to more than the recommended percentage never mind the additional weight of a laptop and notebooks. It is also not easy for students to only carry a minimal amount when they have tight schedules or live on large campuses and can not return to their rooms easily. One solution to this problem might be digitalization. In the future, students may find that e-textbooks help them reduce the amount of weight they are required to carry around in their backpack.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Flexplay brings convenience to consumers with “No-Return DVD Rentals”

If you have recently shopped at a Staples store or a Hudson Newsstand at the airport you may have seen Flexplay’s “No-Return DVD Rentals”. Recently, Flexplay Entertainment began offering time-limited DVDs in airports, convenience stores and travel plazas. Flexplay’s strategy focuses on convenience and targets consumers who rarely rent or purchase DVD’s by reaching those consumers in places they already shop. In a posting on Flexplay’s website, Joe Fuller, Executive Vice President of Marketing explains,

“Nearly everyone has experienced the frustration of renting a DVD and returning it unwatched, or paying fees for late or lost discs, or not having any new movies to watch because the old ones were not sent back. Our mission is to provide a more convenient and efficient DVD rental experience that gives the customer complete flexibility.”

Flexplay’s DVDs offer the equivalent of a two-day movie rental without the need to return the DVD after viewing because it simply stops working. The customer is in control of the rental because the DVD is activated by the customer when the sealed package is opened not when the DVD is received. The DVD stops working two days after it is opened due to an adhesive in the DVD that oxidizes when exposed to air making the disc unreadable by a DVD player. For added convenience, the DVD’s can be recycled when they become unplayable and unopened DVD’s are designed to work for one year.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Harvard Medical School uses the Kindle for medical education

A posting on the Geek Doctor blog reports that Harvard Medical School is the first medical school to implement Kindle support for 20,000 educational resources. By using the school’s Mycourses website, users can send any Word or PDF document to their Kindle for 10 cents per document or for free if they choose to download the documents to their PC and then transfer to the Kindle via USB cable. Some students will even receive a free Kindle during the pilot. The posting goes on to say that this green alternative could cut down on the thousands of dollars spent on paper for printing course documents at the University. We look forward to hearing the reviews from this initiative.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Results of CDW-G’s study - "The 21st-Century Campus: Are We There Yet?"

Last week, CDW-Government, Inc. announced the results of its recent study titled, "The 21st-Century Campus: Are We There Yet?". The study examined both the current and future role of technology in higher education and produced many interesting findings. One interesting portion of the news release reveals that regardless of major, students feel that campus technology is a key factor when selecting schools and believe it is critical for their chosen professions. Additionally, according to independent research conducted in a 2006 study, "Are they Really Ready to Work?”, employers agree that technology skills are increasingly more important and colleges should strive to develop those skills in their students. However, the study found that only 33% of faculty say that technology is fully integrated on their campuses, and that most students lack exposure to common workplace collaborative technologies such as video and web conferencing.

How do your schools compare? Are students exposed to workplace collaborative technologies on campus before entering the workforce? What might the college store’s role be in helping students and campuses with this technology/training challenge? Is there a potential product or service opportunity?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Follow up on e-books and law schools

In regards to an earlier posting, last week The Pendulum featured a follow-up article on the meeting of law schools, book publishers, Amazon and Sony that was held in Seattle on September 27. The meeting allowed for discussion on the future of learning and the use of electronic books for law schools. The article notes that Amazon did not attend as planned but Sony and Adobe did have several representatives present. The article goes on to say that before decisions can be made, educators will need to learn more about the effectiveness and the capabilities of e-reader technology to determine if it serves a desirable and educational purpose. Elon Law professor, Steve Friedland commented, “Are we going to achieve anything or are we just going to add bells and whistles?” The article did not mention if another meeting has been scheduled.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Gonzaga Bookstore uses Amazon to purchase textbooks

An article posted on the Gonzaga bulletin last week provides another example of how a bookstore is working to make textbooks more affordable for students. Last year, the bookstore implemented a new pricing model to reflect true market price and give students better book prices upfront as well as greater returns when the books are sold back. Recently, the bookstore has also begun buying books from Amazon to offer even lower prices to the students. Purchasing the books from Amazon allows the store to charge students less for the books because the actual textbook cost is less and the store can still make the same profit as before. Purchasing the books through Amazon can be challenging because as Gonzaga Bookstore Director, Scott Franz mentions,

"The book market is very competitive so we try to get online and acquire the lower priced books as early as possible. We want Gonzaga students to enjoy the lowest price advantage and do our best to beat students from other schools to the market."

Do any of your stores purchase textbooks from Amazon?

Friday, October 17, 2008

NACS Media Solutions seeks proposals for Print-on-Demand solution

Today NACS Media Solutions (NMS) sent out a RFP to vendors seeking proposals for both local/regional and in-store Print-on-Demand (POD) solutions. Print-on-Demand services are a critical component of the NMS digital distribution strategy, and are essential to meeting consumer choice for the print format. As a service aggregator, NMS desires to have one or more business partners that can help us achieve a strategic objective of offering Print-on-Demand functionality through our commerce hub, subsequently delivering print format content to consumers in 24 to 48 hours. The desired solution must be scalable, cost effective and easy for stores to implement. Any selected solution must also significantly enhance the customer service experience. If you are interested in finding out more about the RFP or have any questions, please e-mail Mark at mnelson@nacs.org

Thursday, October 16, 2008

TextbookTorrents.com shut down

Last week there was progress in the quest to end textbook piracy when the Textbook Torrents website was officially shut down in fear of a lawsuit. As noted in a previous posting, the website encouraged students to scan their textbooks into an electronic format so that other students could illegally download copies of the text. The welcome message on the website read,

“There are few scanned textbooks in circulation and that’s what we’re here to change. Chances are you have some textbooks sitting around, so pick up a scanner and start scanning it.”

According to a posting on TorrentFreak, a blog dedicated to news about BitTorrent, the admin of Textbook Torrents hopes that another replacement site will soon be available. When asked if he thought publishers had learned anything he stated,

“Intellectual property corporations are notorious for missing the point. Like I’ve said before, we were out to make a statement, to give out as much free stuff as possible, and I think we’ve made that statement - perhaps not as loudly as we could have given another few months and a little more perseverance - but certainly people have heard, and are talking. Piracy will never be sustainable for the textbook industry, but perhaps this is the first step towards a more sustainable model in the future.”

Surely the website has brought more attention to the issue of textbook piracy and many questions still remain on how to make content more affordable to students to prevent piracy in the future. Are you aware of any piracy prevention initiatives on your campus?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Could video game learning be the way of the future?

There was another interesting article published last week discussing the use of video games in the classroom and the associated learning benefits. While many teachers and experts remain skeptical if gaming should be considered a successful learning method, teachers in New York City have experienced proven results with a fast-paced video game that quizzes students on algebra topics. The teachers say that students enjoy the game so much they even come in early, stay after school and play at home. One topic that is not directly discussed in this article is the concept of winning and its affect on student interest. Not only do students enjoy playing the game for its entertainment benefits but they have the opportunity to be the best in the class if they can answer more questions correctly than their peers. This gives students the drive to learn and study more on their own. And really, what student doesn’t want to be the smartest in the class? Could video game learning be the way of the future?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Textbook experiment at Columbia Business School

A recent article provides an example of how faculty members are experimenting with new ways to help make textbooks more affordable for college students. This semester, a professor of marketing at Columbia Business School is offering free online access to his latest independently published textbook. However, the book is only free until the end of the semester when students will be asked to pay the amount they feel the book is worth. It will be interesting to see how students respond to this tactic and if they are willing to pay after the semester, when they have already begun thinking about their upcoming expenses for the holidays and approaching semester. Perhaps knowing that fifty percent of the payments will be donated to college scholarship funds will entice the students to pay more.

Do you know of any experiments around textbooks and pricing occurring on your campus? Can you suggest any experiments that could be conducted with faculty members?

Monday, October 13, 2008

IDPF August 2008 e-book sales stats

Ebook sales stats for August 2008 have been released by AAP via IDPF. The most recent data continues the upwards trend in trade e-book sales. Sales for August were US$4.3 million, up 82.9% over August 2007. IDPF reports YTD e-book revenues among participating publishers is up by 52%.

IDPF is presenting at the Frankfurt Bookfair in Germany this week on digital publishing and the e-pub standard. They will be joined by representatives from OverDrive, Random House Digital, and Sony Electronics. It should be a very interesting session. It sounds like an interesting session. If anyone has notes or insights to the Frankfurt Bookfair, and particularly the role or presence of digital there this year, please share!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Apple iPhone takes lead over Amazon Kindle

According to an article published in Forbes, the Apple iPhone is now more popular for reading books than Amazon’s Kindle. Apple may have even unintentionally taken the lead in the digital book market due to Stanza, the favorable book reading application offered for free along with its titles via Apple’s iPhone store. Not bad, considering that earlier this year, Steve Job’s declared,

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,”

Although as Chief Executive Hadrien Gardeur of Feedbooks, Stanza’s largest distributor of content, points out, the iPhone and Kindle may not be direct competitors,

“Kindle appeals to heavy readers who spend far more time reading than anyone who uses an iPhone. But I don’t think the mass market is ready to spend that kind of money. So they really don’t compete with one another at this point.”

Stanza is currently working on deals with several major publishers which may make the two direct competitors when it acquires the advantages of the Kindle including newer titles, and the ability to browse, purchase and download directly to the iPhone. Stanza will face new competition in the upcoming months if the E-Ink screen technology used by the Kindle progresses. However, it will be interesting to see if the heavy readers are willing to give up the screen technology in favor of an all in one device when Stanza announces their negotiated deals in the New Year.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Will pairing video games with books intrigue young readers?

There was an interesting piece in the New York Times earlier this week regarding the pairing of video games with books to intrigue young readers. The article mentions the various studies that have been conducted and the many opinions associated with each to prove and disprove the theory. One portion of the article that I found interesting discusses how teachers are embracing the fast paced, image laden world of games and exploring ways to incorporate video games into the classroom in hope that the children will be drawn to reading. In New York, there is even support for creating a public school based on video game concepts. It will be interesting to see if methods such as these really motivate children to pick up books or if they will skip the reading in favor of the game. Perhaps teachers will find that a proven learning game such as role playing which allows students to play an active role is more effective and does not require the digital dependence. If video gaming in the classroom is the way of the future and students become accustomed to this learning method, it is sure to have an affect on their ability to learn in conventional ways as they progress through higher education. This in turn will have implications on the learning materials offered at all levels.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Small stores and NMS pilots...

The question has been asked, "Why are there no small stores in the first set of pilots for NACS Media Solutions?" Considering all of the factors at play, the answer could be presented as quite complex, but here is the simple reasoning behind the decision:

1- We had to keep the initial pilot under 10 stores, and initially we planned on only five. To be able to evaluate some of the system capabilities, we needed to be able to maximize the total number of transactions that might occur during the initial pilot period. Good IT project management suggests that we control pilot diversity at first to allow for better consistency in the process of evaluating the technology capabilities.

2- For the initial pilots, we are working only with commercial movies and TV content, and we had the understanding that the studios wanted evidence that some well-known larger campuses would have interest in the initiative. This contributed to our ability to get more favorable pricing, which we will be able to pass on to stores of any size. Similar requirements associated with the content licenses restricted our ability to include any Canadian stores in the initial pilots as well. We hope to move beyond those restrictions soon.

3- Because the initial content consists of only commercial movies and TV, based on our financial analysis, stores would need to conduct a certain average number of transactions per day to make the initiative profitable. That threshold was greater than what most smaller stores are likely to experience in a day for movie content. However, as we add other forms of content, the value proposition will increase and the barriers to profitability will drop. At least one small store we reviewed the pilot criteria with agreed that it was better for a store of their size to wait to the next phase to participate.

4- In the first phase of pilots we are assessing the pure technology, and gathering initial information to assist stores in determining how to sell or market the content offerings. We need to ensure enough initial transactions to be able to evaluate the viability and appropriateness of the selected partners and the solution relative to the needs of the college store.

Our goal is to design a solution that is scalable for stores of all sizes to the best of our ability. Indeed, the primary mission of NACS Media Solutions is to enhance the capability and credibility of the college store industry as a whole in the delivery of digital content. To be successful in that mission, we recognize that any solution that does not work for small stores in addition to large stores, will not be effective. We plan and hope to have 15+ small stores participating by July 2009. Small stores will help us assess some of the scalability and feasibility dimensions so that we can continue to refine and scale the service for all NACS members. There are many decisions yet to be made and small stores should not fear that the pilot stores are going to make all of the decisions for the industry about what the final solution looks like. We recognize that the solution will need some modifications to work for all stores and that broad-based and diverse participation in the solution design will yeild a more robust end product that will provide greater satisfaction for a wider range of stores and their customers.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Next round of e-readers begin to launch

Following news last week of the new larger-size e-reader from iRex, Sony announced this week that it will launch the next generation of its Reader in November. The new reader (the 700BC) will add an interactive touch screen display and built-in light. It will allow annotations with a virtual keyboard and highlighting of content with a stylus pen. There will also be additional text search features. Other standard technology enhancements (faster processor, more memory) are also included. With this revision, the Sony Reader takes a step closer to the Kindle’s functionality. It also adds some functionality oriented toward working with documents – a capability likely to be common in the next generation of e-readers entering the market. Maintaining the smaller size is a bit surprising, but the additional functionality will be welcome all the same.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

E-textbook Trial at University of Texas at Austin

A few articles published recently discuss the e-textbook trial to be conducted at the University of Texas at Austin this spring. The Austin American-Statesman reported last week that during the trial initiative the university will cover the cost of electronic materials for 1000 students enrolled in courses such as accounting, marketing, chemistry and biochemistry. University officials hope that this experiment will relieve some of the financial burden associated with the cost of textbooks. Keven Hegarty, UT’s vice president and chief financial officer noted, “Because of the cost of books, 20 percent of students can’t or won’t buy the text.” Hegarty went on to say, “If we can improve this model and get enough professors and publishers interested, we can drive textbook costs down to half…what the average student spends on printed textbooks.” It is probably important to note that the e-books will only initially be free, and that this is an institutional licensing model, meaning that the institution is paying for the content via license. Eventually they will pass some or all of that cost back to students. As noted in the article:

Tentatively dubbed the e-book initiative, UT will pay for electronic copies of textbooks for students in certain classes, starting in the spring. The initiative treats the e-books, which students can download onto their computers, like software, for which UT pays a licensing fee. Initially, students in those classes will use the e-books for free. If the program, which campus and industry officials say has been tried at other schools, is successful, students would pay $25 to $40 a book in licensing fees.

Additionally, during the e-textbook trial, the campus store will print bound copies of the text on demand for those students who choose to opt out of the free e-textbook offer in favor of a printed copy. The cost for each printed copy is estimated to be between $20-40 as noted in an article posted by Inside Higher Ed.

Another article published by Ars Technica, also points out the substantial savings that students at the university could see with the use of e-textbooks. According to UT’s financial aid website, the students spend about $409 a semester for books therefore students could potentially save over 75% by going digital. This article also credits NACS digital distribution initiative however it incorrectly states that textbooks will only be delivered via kiosk and fails to mention the web-based component. A correction notice has been submitted to the article discussion site.

Monday, October 6, 2008

New digital content analyst at NACS

Today Liz Looney starts at NACS as digital content analyst. Liz is a graduate of RPI and has been a consultant for the past four years at Deloitte. She brings a number of useful skills and experiences to the position. She will be located here in Albany, NY with me and assisting me with education and environmental scanning work. One of her responsibilities will be to assist me with the daily postings to this blog -- so expect the regularity of postings to improve as she gets up to speed. We are looking to create a formal office here in Albany over the coming months -- to help both with NACS Media Solutions work and facilitate work between Liz and me.

Everyone, please join me in welcoming Liz to the NACS staff.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Communicating digital in the store...

Over the past few years, I and others have repeatedly advocated that stores must improve at "telling their story" and marketing what they do to their campus and community. NACS formed a Community Relations Committee that has been developing a living toolkit to help stores with this critically important process.

A couple days I received an e-mail from Lina Lipscombe, director of the bookstore, computer store, and digital store at Concordia University in Montreal. I have long respected what a number of the Canadians are doing, and Lina is no exception. I asked if I could share her message, as I think it is a great example of what stores can do if they embrace this concept of communicating and educating the campus community:


Last summer you shared with me the draft document re digital content. Included was the importance of communicating and educating the campus community. We signed with Jumpbooks this summer and started including e-books to our course list as an option for students. I took your advice and sought ways to communicate this to our community. Well one little article led to many other opportunities. Here are a few,

I contacted the editor of the Concordia faculty and staff paper and the following article appeared in the first week of classes


this article was then picked up by a student newspaper and they wrote the following


The Quill and Quire national publisher magazine also contacted me and asked questions about digital (have not seen article yet) and finally the local television news company came in a did a video (I am not exactly star quality, but I think the message got through)


Thought you might be interested how some schools are trying to bring attention to this new content delivery.

It started with a simple outreach to the campus faculty/staff newsletter, and resulted in national and local media coverage. The media is interested in what stores are doing digitally. It can be a great selling point on the value of the college store. Do others out there have stories about how they have communicated with their campus community around their use of digital? This is information and knowledge we should be sharing!

Friday, October 3, 2008

More lessons for stores from Caravan...

I attended an interesting meeting yesterday-- an update on the Caravan Project. There were several interesting takeaways, but one that struck me in particular was a comment by Steve Potash from OverDrive. Paraphrasing, he noted that digital content delivery is not a "build it and they will come endeavor," rather, it is an investment in the future. During other parts of the meeting we discussed how publishers have really begun to move forward, but that retailers have, by and large, not embraced digital content delivery. This, to some extent, has forced publishers to find solutions that bypass the store, and has given other potential players in the market, such as Amazon, a greater foothold on sales, which, in turn has allowed for greater strangleholds to be placed on publishers. Another good quote coming out of the meeting yesterday is that "if we don't solve our problems, someone else's solution will be forced on us." The "us" in this case was a different group than the retailers, but it applies equally to us as anyone else.

So, what are the key takeaways from stores from this meeting:

- You can't expect digital to take off overnight. If you are not already driving traffic to your site and do not have experience handling online transactions, adding digital will not change much.
- If stores continue to play a waiting game to enter the digital market, they may not be part of it. Stores must invest in their futures now, even if initially it is not profitable, so that they have a place and role as the technology and product takes off.

Finally, I heard discussion about the roles of large stores versus small stores, and what some of the different experts had to recommend. I know this has been a concern among the membership since the initial NMS pilots were announced, which includes no small stores among the initial seven. I am working on a posting for this coming week (likely Tuesday), to address this question more directly and that should raise some discussion points.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

iRex e-reader 1000 -- large size e-reader

Early last week iRex sent out a press release announcing a new e-reader device (shown below).

The reader is over 10 inches high and very thin. It has a notepad with stylus capability and is aimed at business documents and business users. Usability among e-readers continues to improve. E-readers become more like tablet PCs every day. A better e-reader for textbooks gets closer every day.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

DVDs in the age of digital

An article from earlier in the month discusses the growing distribution of DVD dispensers in a variety of outlets. Kiosk dispensers are appearing in a range of retail outlets, from McDonald's to grocery stores. The focus, of course, is on convenience for the customer. Personally, the advantage to such devices come when we can deliver content beyond movies, and when the kiosk becomes internet-integrated, and supports formats beyond just DVDs. Such concepts might seem outdated, but retailers must consider how they add value and convience for customers, giving customers another reason to visit the physical establishment -- or the store's online equivalent.

What is your clicks-and-mortar strategy for delivering content and convenience?