A few months ago, NMS announced an agreement with Canadian Campus Retail Associates (CCRA) for co-development and deployment of a common digital content platform (DCP) that is designed with student-friendly terms and reflects the academic nature of our marketplace. The platform was successfully tested in the Canadian market during the fall term 2009 and this semester the U.S. pilot was initiated. The current pilot spans close to 60 stores in the U.S. and Canada. Feedback to date has been quite positive.
Recently we realized that there may be some confusion regarding what the pilot is and is not, so we wanted to take this opportunity to clarify. The current pilot is only testing one piece of a larger solution. The pilot gives stores the ability to integrate the DCP into their own website so that students can access free e-books via a link on the website. Currently the platform offers 200 free Digital Study Versions which are enhanced digital versions of course material content that can be downloaded an unlimited number of times. The titles are either available in the public domain or are royalty free versions of materials authored by Instructors. Elements such as custom content and Print-on-Demand (POD) capabilities were not incorporated into this phase of the pilot.
As an evolving pilot project, the goal is to learn. This should not be viewed as a complete solution at this time, although it does include some core elements of a final solution. Based upon the feedback from the initial pilot, NMS will work in collaboration with CCRA on further enhancements to the system, acquisition of additional content, incorporation of POD capabilities, and a plan for continued expansion for store participation. The stores participating in the current pilot were selected in partnership with the Independent College Bookstore Association (ICBA) and represent a broad range of geographic, demographic, and scalability criteria. One of the key things we wanted to learn was if we could design a solution that was scalable to stores of diverse size and technical expertise. We really appreciate the additional number of stores that have shown interest in the DCP capabilities and we look forward to offering the service to all stores in the coming months, hopefully with expanded content and capabilities included.
For individuals attending CAMEX in a few weeks, we will have a session on Friday, March 13th where CCRA, ICBA, and NMS will talk about the partnership between these organizations, the importance of this initiative, and additional pilot program details.