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.

The site uses Google's cookies to provide services and analyze traffic. Your IP address and user agent are shared with Google, along with performance and security statistics to ensure service quality, generate usage statistics, detect abuse and take action.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

800 institutions to use Flat World Knowledge textbooks this fall

Flat World Knowledge continues to pick up textbook adoptions across the U.S. According to a recent press release, more than 1,300 educators at 800 colleges and universities will use Flat World’s open textbooks this fall. This is up from 400 institutions in the fall of 2009 and 30 institutions during the spring of 2009. To date, Flat World Knowledge has published 24 titles and an additional 50 titles are in the works.

Flat World reports that it is “on track to save 150,000 students $12 million or more in textbook expenses for the 2010/2011 academic year.”

Monday, August 30, 2010

Echo Smartpen from Livescribe

In a previous posting, we discussed Livescribe’s Pulse Smartpen. The smartpen looks like an ordinary pen but also includes memory storage, OLED display, speaker, microphone, camera, and a USB connector. When the pen is used with special paper, the camera tracks the movement of anything that is written or drawn while recording audio.

According to a posting on Engadget, this fall Livescribe will release a new pen called Echo. The Echo will include additional storage as well as software to allow users to export their notes to a computer. Users can then share their notes via social networks, email, etc. In addition, when the pen is connected to a computer via a USB cable, anything that is drawn on the paper will be streamed to the computer in real time. These additional features could make the pens very useful for both students and instructors.

The Livescribe website features more information and a video demo.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The environmental impact of e-reader devices

A few months ago, the New York Times published an interesting piece about the environmental impact of e-reader devices. While some details about the way the devices are manufactured are not available, the article provides an estimate of the environmental impact of the devices compared to paper books.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Personal digitization of books in Japan

The personal digitization of books is a quickly growing trend in Japan. It is referred to as “jisui” and it allows people to convert a title to a digital format by scanning each page individually. Users find that doing this makes books easier to keep over time, as having their library consolidated in a single place is much more convenient than managing a collection of physical books.

Many companies in Japan now offer book-cutting and scanning services, which has raised concerns about copyright violations, as this process of digitization is permitted under Japanese copyright law provided that individuals do the reproduction themselves and for personal use.

Tetsuya Imamura, an associate professor in intellectual property law at Meiji University, says that the law is lagging behind the latest developments. "Legally speaking, it is a violation of reproduction rights, but with respect to the handling of digital data, the copyright law is out of step with current times," Imamura says.

For more information on this topic, a Mainichi Daily News article about this trend can be found here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Digital Happenings

  • According to a recent press release, three universities and the Virginia Department of Education have announced pilot programs with Inkling. The universities include: Abilene Christian University, Seton Hill University, and the University of Alabama. Inkling is a new start-up company that is working with publishers to rethink electronic textbooks. You can read more about Inkling in one of our previous posts. The Bits Blog also has a recent post.
  • An article from Forbes features a Q&A with Tom Christopher, the president of Follett’s Higher Ed division, about the future of the college store.
  • Is Apple working on a touch-screen desktop iPad?
  • Reuters has an interesting article about a new social networking technology called Scoop. According to the developers, Scoop is intended to help connect college students with their campuses and social communities.
  • Fast Company tells you why you should not underestimate the B&N Nook.
  • An article from San Francisco Chronicle says that mobile payment technologies are gaining momentum and companies like Apple, AT&T, and Verizon Wireless may soon offer this type of feature.
  • According to Information Week, Amazon says that its latest Kindle model has sold more in its first four weeks than any of its previous Kindle devices. For this version, Amazon has reduced the size, weight, and price of the device.
  • In regards to e-book sales, Amazon recently said that they continue to sell more Kindle books than hardcover books. “Over the past three months, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 143 Kindle books.”

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Forrester predicts tablets will be fastest growing category of PC’s

Earlier this summer, Forrester Research released a report with predictions for the US consumer PC market. Forrester predicted that tablets would be the fastest growing category of computers and would grow from 3.5 million units in 2010, to 8.4 million in 2011, to 59 million units in 2015. Forrester now says that based on new data and the success of the Apple iPad, their estimate was conservative and an update to the report will be published later this year.

In a blog post, Sarah Rotman Epps, author of the report explained, “One of the assumptions we made in our initial forecast was that the iPad would behave like other similar consumer devices in its first year of adoption: When it went on sale in April, we assumed that sales would be strong based on pent-up demand for a hyped product; we then assumed that sales would slow in a summer slump, as is common with consumer technology purchases; and that sales would spike again in the holiday season. But the iPad isn’t behaving like other consumer devices: It has a steamroller of momentum behind it that indicates incredibly strong demand for this entirely new form factor.”

According to an article from Campus Technology, in the report, Epps says that consumers were not looking for an iPad type device before it was introduced because the top features that they look for in a PC are not included in an iPad. However, Apple has done a great job of advertising the product, educating consumers, and making consumers realize just how much they need one.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Virginia State University to provide free e-textbooks to business students

According to a recent press release, this fall the business school at Virginia State University will give e-textbooks to the students enrolled in eight core courses. The university is working with Flat World Knowledge and has purchased a digital site license for the e-textbooks. This means that the university will pay for the e-textbooks via an institutional fee based on the number of students, which is similar to how institutions pay for campus-wide software.

The license allows students free access to the web, PDF, audio, and e-reader versions of the textbooks for the iPad, Kindle, and other e-readers. In addition, students with print disabilities will have access to textbooks in DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) and BRF (Braille Ready Format) formats. Students can also choose to purchase the print version of the textbooks if they prefer.

The initiative is part of the business school’s “revolution of excellence” which aims to increase retention and graduation rates through technology-based solutions. The intention of this pilot is to help remove textbook costs as one of the barriers. If the experiment goes well, it will expand next semester to include more courses. However, the university will be exploring options to transfer associated licensing costs to the students.

Flat World has done a terrific job of getting media coverage and the concept of institutional licensing of textbook content is also gaining coverage. This may be a signal that course material publishers have driven textbook prices as far as they can go. If more schools or institutions are able to get faculty to shift in numbers both how and what they teach, which is part of what textbook selection represents, in order to manage course materials prices then something is broken in the system. There is also a risk if the cost is ultimately built into tuition. Textbook prices are an easy target. The tuition problem is not. One thing is sure – more experiments and more conversions to different business models will continue to proliferate.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Inkling – Adding value to digital textbooks

Digital textbooks have lagged behind the booming sales of electronic books, and many publishers and companies are attempting to make them more appealing, primarily by better utilizing the benefits of the digital format. One such company, Inkling, is working with publishers to rethink the electronic textbooks, and it is initially introducing four McGraw-Hill interactive college textbooks designed for the iPad.

The Inkling-based books make good use of the iPad and provide features that many students expect from digital but thus far have not quite received. Figures and diagrams can be freely rotated and resized, embedded videos and case studies are included in most chapters, keywords can be tapped to display their definition, and there are interactive quizzes for each section. One of the most interesting features that Inkling provides is its note sharing functionality, whereby students can take notes and then share them with peers and instructors in real-time in order to ask questions or share ideas. Publishers and companies like Inkling are beginning to take advantage of the digital format and add value to digital textbooks, which will likely have a large impact on student adoption and sales over the next several years.

“In 2009, digital textbooks generated about $40 million in sales, estimates Rob Reynolds, director of product design and research for Xplana, a social learning company owned by MBS Service Co. But he expects that to double to $80 million this year, or roughly 1% of the total higher education textbook market. By 2015 the market will exceed $2 billion in sales, or more than 20% of the total market, he says.”

For more information on Inkling, a recent Wall Street Journal article discusses the company and digital textbooks. Inkling also has many interesting videos on their site.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Donate a Kindle 2

Here’s a great idea. If you are thinking about upgrading to the Kindle 3 but can’t figure out what to do with your Kindle 2, you could donate it to the soldiers deployed overseas. A new program called Kindle 2 for Troops (K24T) is accepting donations of pre-owned Kindle 2 e-readers through Thanksgiving Day. Visit the E-Books for Troops website for more information.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Video from SDSU

The San Diego State University Bookstore website has a great video message from the president of SDSU about the store’s new textbook rental program. The video is a great example of a way to show students how the college store and institution are working to save them money.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Results from the Consumer Attitudes Toward E-book Reading study

Each week, O’Reilly Tools of Change (TOC) hosts a conversation on Twitter that focuses on topics of interest in the book and reading community. One of the recent conversations featured some of the latest results from the ongoing Consumer Attitudes Toward E-book Reading study by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG). The study includes hundreds of e-book consumers and aims to understand their purchasing and reading habits.

Some interesting results from the study include:
- Half of all e-books acquired today are free e-books.
- The cost of entry is still the top reason people give for not switching to an e-reader device.
- The Kindle has surpassed the PC as the most frequently used device for reading digital books.

To read more of the results, visit the TOC website.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

June 2010 e-book sales statistics

E-book sales statistics for June 2010 have been released by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) via IDPF. Trade e-book sales were $29.8 million for June 2010, a 118.9% increase over June 2009. IDPF reports calendar year to date revenue is up 204.2%. IDPF also reports that the sales for Q1 and Q2 of 2010 ($179.7 million) have surpassed the sales for all of 2009 ($169.5 million). Note: These figures represent the 12 to 15 trade book publishers who have been willing to supply their data to IDPF.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Learning with Digital

An interesting article from USA Today discusses how well students can learn with digital technologies. The article points out that while there are many benefits to digital learning, there are also some challenges to keep in mind.

One of the challenges is learning how to make sense out of an increased amount of information. Richard Mayer, psychology professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara noted, “The challenge for working in the electronic age is that we have so much access to information but we still have the same brain we always had. The problem is not access to information. It is integrating that information and making sense out of it."

Another challenge is student study habits. Research from the Journal of Educational Psychology indicates that when students have poor study habits on paper the same habits transfer to digital learning. In a second article from Science Daily, one of the authors of the report, Ken Kiewra, noted that teachers will need to help students learn new strategies to study more effectively with digital technologies.

A third challenge is the distraction that technology can cause. Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions analyzed student study habits and found that some students put away their laptops, cell phones, or other devices when it was time to study because distractions were just a click away.

While digital learning presents some challenges it also creates opportunities. As Jeff Olson, vice president of research for Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, points out, advances in technology “represent very real potential to remake education for the better. The potential for the textbook to come alive with interactivity ... will make the next several years of e-book innovation fascinating to watch."

Monday, August 16, 2010

iPad programs

A recent article from Ars Technica includes an overview of some of the iPad programs occurring at institutions this fall. Oklahoma State University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Seton Hill University, George Fox University, Reed College, North Carolina State University Libraries, Duke University's Global Health Institute, and the University of Maryland are some of the institutions that have implemented programs. The programs differ among the schools but aim to answer similar questions such as:
- Does the iPad enhance learning?
- Does the device provide a cost savings to students?
- Is the iPad worth investing in for future students?
- How can the iPad and its apps be integrated into curriculums?
- How can mobile devices be integrated into the workplace?

For Reed College, it will be their second experiment with e-reader devices. Last fall, the college participated in the Kindle DX pilot and found that the technology was still limited and required improvement for educational use. This fall, Reed will repeat the experiment with iPads.

Martin Ringle, chief technology officer at Reed College, commented on the experiment. "If I were to predict, I would say that the results are going to be dramatically different and much better and they're going to point the way to what role this technology is going to play in higher education."

We look forward to hearing the results from the programs in the coming months.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Data shows mobile devices are overtaking PC’s

An interesting article on Fortune.com discusses the recent stats that show mobile devices are overtaking PC’s. “In a nutshell, what we are seeing in smartphones is bigger than anything that has come before it. Much bigger than the PC. And it is coming so fast that we don't realize what's happening.”

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Should e-readers be allowed in coffee shops?

The NY Times Bits blog has an interesting posting about whether or not e-readers should be allowed in the coffee shops that do not allow computers. Are e-readers equivalent to computers or paper books? What do you think?

Friday, August 13, 2010

e-reader accessibility

Recently Ars Technica compared the Kindle, the iPad, the Sony Reader, and the Nook to find out which device had the best accessibility features. Their research showed that the iPad and the Kindle are farthest ahead but there is still room for improvement. While all of the e-readers allow users to increase the font size, only the iPad and the Kindle include text-to-speech functionality. In addition, only the iPad and the latest version of the Kindle, the Kindle 3, include audible menus.

In a recent press release, the National Federation of the Blind praised Amazon for making the Kindle 3 accessible.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "We commend Amazon on the unveiling of a new Kindle that blind and print-disabled people can use. In order to compete in today's digital society, blind and print-disabled people must be able to access the same reading technologies as the sighted. The National Federation of the Blind has long been urging Amazon to make its reading device accessible, and we are pleased that our efforts have come to fruition."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

University libraries prepare for the digital future

An interesting article from The Chronicle discusses university libraries that are moving completely online or remaking their physical spaces for the digital future. The libraries at Stanford University, Cornell University, and Johns Hopkins University are all making changes toward a “bookless library.”

According to the article, Stanford University recently opened a new engineering library that is significantly smaller and includes far fewer books. Only 15,000 of the library’s 96,000 books will be on display in the new library and the rest will be moved to off-site storage. Librarians will no longer staff the desk but will be available to students through e-mail, Facebook, online chatting, or phone. In addition, the library will have 15 e-book readers available. An article on Stanford’s website includes more information and a video about the new library.

Cornell University’s engineering library is also moving most of its print books to storage and then dividing the remainder among other libraries on campus. In addition, Johns Hopkins University has decided it will no longer have a physical location for its medical library. The library staff will now work within the academic departments.

The article notes that many of the libraries that are moving towards digital are those in the science and technology fields because they contain journals that are already available online. Libraries for other disciplines are not as likely to move in the short term. However, things could change in the long term. Recent data from The Association of Research Libraries shows that libraries are now spending less money on books and more on electronic resources.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Digital Happenings

While the blog highlights many of the digital happenings affecting our industry, there is often more going on than we have a chance to cover. Here are some links to related stories that might be of interest.

  • Campus Technology has an interesting article about the colleges that are remaking their campuses and designing learning spaces to accommodate student interaction and technology.
  • CNET recently featured an interview with Ian Freed, Vice President of Amazon Kindle. Freed says that Amazon believes it has 70-80 percent of the e-book market.
  • An article from eSchool News discusses the new copyright law that lets students and faculty in film or media studies courses legally “rip” movie excerpts to make commentaries, compilations, and other works.
  • An article from Campus Technology discusses the news that Ohio’s Board of Regents will be working with Blackboard to create a statewide online learning clearinghouse.
  • A recent article from NYU Press says that fifty-five university presses have expressed interest in participating in a University Press EBook Consortium to sell collections of e-books to academic libraries. The consortium will launch in fall 2011.
  • A press release from the University of Scranton features praise from recent graduates for the university’s successful online learning program.
  • A recent article from The NY Times compares the iPad (a multitasker device) to the Amazon Kindle (a specialist device) and says that early evidence suggests that some Kindle owners are also purchasing iPads and moving some of their e-book purchases to the Apple iBookstore.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dual-screen e-readers on campuses this fall

According to a recent article from Wired Campus, this fall 50 college bookstores will carry the Entourage Edge e-reader and about 100 students at three campuses will test the Kno e-reader.

As mentioned in previous postings, both the Edge and the Kno were designed for education. The Edge is a hybrid e-reader with a 9.7 inch, black and white, E Ink screen for reading and taking notes, and a 10.1 inch color LCD screen for viewing images, videos, and the internet. Publishers such as McGraw-Hill, Cengage Learning, and Elsevier have made digital content available on the device through the Entourage e-book store.

In comparison, the Kno is a foldable dual-screen e-reader/notebook that includes two 14-inch LCD screens and the ability to highlight and annotate. Cengage Learning, McGraw Hill, Pearson, and Wiley will provide select digital resources for the pilot this fall. The Kno is expected to go on sale in October and ship in time for the holidays.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Enrollment in e-school learning on the rise

An article from Dayton Daily News says that e-school enrollment in the state of Ohio is on the rise. For the 2009-2010 school year, 29,269 K-12 students attended school online. This is up from 2,191 students in 2000-2001. According to the article, Ohio ranks third in the nation for the number of enrolled e-school students.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Analyst reactions to the news that B&N may be for sale

Shelf Awareness has an interesting article that includes a round-up of analyst reactions to the announcement that B&N may be for sale.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Curriki – a community for free educational material

Amongst other topics related to textbook sales, a recent NY Times article discusses Curriki, a nonprofit organization established to support the development and distribution of free educational materials. Founded in 2004 by Sun Microsystems and originally called the Global Education and Learning Community (GELC), Curriki is spearheaded by Scott McNealy, former CEO of Sun. Like many others, McNealy is seeking to find a solution to the rising cost of textbooks; Curriki’s answer is open-source.

“We are spending $8 billion to $15 billion per year on textbooks” in the United States, Mr. McNealy says. “It seems to me we could put that all online for free.”

Curriki’s website is an online environment composed of educators and educational experts where members may share and publish resources, communicate with peers, and build, add-to, and comment on curricula and materials from the Curriki repository. Anyone can contribute to and use the material found on Curriki. According to their website, the community is currently composed of over 132,000 members and contains almost 38,000 resources, which include lesson plans, textbooks, videos, units, simulations, and other community-driven resources.

According to the NY Times article, “Curriki has made only modest strides, but Mr. McNealy has pledged to inject new life.” Mr. McNealy would like to create an organized framework for collecting education informational and build systems to evaluate materials and monitor student performance.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

New research finds consumers favor digital but do not always trust the internet

An interesting report by the Center for the Digital Future at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California analyzes current trends and finds that people are quickly moving away from print in favor of digital. The report, released late last month, includes many interesting statistics about the practices and preferences of internet users. According to the study, internet reliance is reaching a new peak; the internet is now used by 82 percent of Americans.

Amongst the findings are statistics that illustrate the continuing decline of newspapers: "Eighteen percent of Internet users said they stopped a subscription to a newspaper or magazine because they now get the same or related content online, and twenty-two percent of users who read newspapers said they would not miss the print edition.”

However, while most people rely on the web as an important source for information, a much smaller percentage feel that the information is reliable. According to the report, “In the year 2000, 55 percent of users said that most or all of online information is reliable; in the current study, 39 percent had the same response – a new low level for the Digital Future Project.”

The report also covers many other topics including: internet users’ perception of website advertisements, social networking, and online shopping.

A full overview of the report can be found here. In addition, a recent New York Times Bits blog article discusses the report.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A view from college stores...

The California Association of College Stores (CACS) newsletter always has some interesting pieces in it. In this month’s newsletter there are a couple of interesting pieces.

Tony Sanjume, the incoming president of CACS talks about “living in interesting times” and the truth behind this proverb, and other misperceptions we may have about things. He makes a great plea on behalf of the college stores – emphasizing one point that differentiates college stores from many of their competitors: that the college store is part of the academic mission of the institution and works hard to obtain lower prices for students. He writes:

I doubt that there is another business that struggles with this issue more than the College Bookstore. We are perceived by some to be price gougers, profiteers, and opportunists of the worst sort; you would think we were selling water to earthquake victims at $10 a half liter. When in reality, most of the people in the store side of the business spend most of their time trying to provide lowest cost alternatives.

So what is the truth?

The truth is that textbook people are out hustling for next semester adoptions early, as soon as the dust settles from the start of the current semester. Why? Well, to find used books, to build a buyback list to pay out top dollar to our students at the end of the semester.

The truth is that general merchandise people are always looking for bargains in the supply area, they are looking for the $9.99 t-shirt, the bargain general reading books because they know that students are on very limited budgets.

The truth is I have yet to meet a college bookstore employee who didn’t have the best interests of the student in mind.

The truth is that textbooks are expensive.

The truth is that college is expensive.

The truth is that publishing is a business and the major academic publishers are public companies that are responsible for providing a bottom line on a corporate statement.

The truth is that faculty demand the most up to date information provided in an attractive package that comes with test banks and additional multimedia course management systems.

If I can be so bold as to paraphrase (and Tony correct me if I am off too far), despite best efforts to reduce costs, students still believe the store is out there to rip them off.

One “truth” I think Tony forgot to add is that most college stores are non-profit organizations. What profit they do generate typically goes back to the institution to support financial aid, student activities, or capital budgets – so that students can afford the rising tuition to attend academic institutions, or that they have the activities on their campus that interest them and make it a great living environment.

Are textbooks crazy expensive – I do not think anyone would argue against that. But the next time you are buying your textbook from someplace else to save money, ask yourself what that place is giving back to your institution to help with financial aid or campus life. There are several other arguments that could be made here – but I will attempt to avoid standing on that soap box too long.

Another interesting point that Tony made in his article referred to the initiative at Daytona State College designed to move course materials completely to digital. In my opinion this move is premature compared to the state of technology, preferences of students, and for other reasons – but hey, a school has to market itself, right? Tony raised a great set of questions that reflect some of the value the college store brings to the table and some of the questions that academic institutions must think about in considering options like these. For example:

1. Who will monitor the aggregation of course materials from faculty to ensure timely submission?
2. Who will ensure that digital delivery of course materials to students occurs in a smooth fashion?
3. Who will create and maintain the server that will interface between the publisher and the college?
4. Who will build the program that will know that a student’s fees have been paid so that it will notify the student and enable the download of their appropriate course materials?
5. Who has heard of FERPA?
6. Who will match the authorized course materials to the appropriate class?
7. Who will decipher what the faculty really meant to order?
8. Who will tell the faculty that they are only able to use course materials from these approved sources?
9. Who will tell that faculty member that the guy in Berkeley who hand prints his book in his garage on hemp paper is not an approved vendor?
10. Who will tell students that they can only have their course materials for 180 or 360 days because of DRM requirements? And then they need to buy them again if they’d like to use them for future reference.
11. Who will ensure that every student has a digital book reader, i.e. computer?
12. Who will tell foreign publishers that they need to create digital course materials?
13. What will you do when the digital cost of course materials begins to approach the cost of printed course materials after print product no longer subsidizes the artificially low cost of digital materials?
14. What happens when new editions keep coming every 2-3 years even when used books are eliminated?
15. Who has a higher average salary, an IT professional or a bookstore professional?

Suzanne Donnelly’s piece on the “buffet model” in the college store in this month’s newsletter is also good. She talks about change – here and coming – and how the role of textbook managers is undergoing a fundamental transformation on college campuses. I like the upbeat and opportunity-oriented perspective her piece provides, and so recommend that article to college store readers of this blog as well.

Barnes & Noble considering sale of company

Barnes & Noble announced that its board is evaluating strategic alternatives to improve shareholder value, including the possible sale of the company.

According to reports, like other booksellers, B&N struggles with the changing publishing industry and retail environment. In recent years, books sales have moved to other big-box retailers and to online competitors such as Amazon. In addition, reading habits are changing as e-books and e-readers become more popular. B&N made efforts to adapt to the changing environment with its large online store and electronic reading options however, sales at the brick and mortar stores are still a significant part of the business.

David Schick, managing director at Stifel Nicolaus commented, “There’s been a long series of pressures. The market has not been kind to bookstores, and it’s for new reasons like competition with Apple and Amazon, and it’s for old reasons, like what we believe has been a decline in reading for the last 20 years. Americans have devoted less of what we call media time to books.”

An article from Reuters says that Leonard Riggo, founder of B&N, may be a possible buyer along with a larger investor group. The article notes that going private could help the company realign its business and invest more in digital options.

For college stores the future of B&N has interesting implications. As one of the largest contract management companies serving the college store industry, the fate of the company could ultimately affect hundreds of college campuses. Textbook publishers likely also feel concern as the number of large channel-aggregating players diminishes – leaving them to negotiate with a few players, such as Amazon and Apple, over future pricing models for their products. As the future of B&N and B&N College awaits determination, college stores might take the opportunity to ask themselves what they are doing to remain viable and relevant into the future, and how we improve the value we provide to our “shareholders” – students, faculty, and institutions.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Kindle 3 / Kindle Wi-Fi released

Last week Amazon announced the release of the third generation Kindle, which implements many expected features and updates, is 21% smaller, 15% lighter, and provides 4GB of storage space. This third generation Kindle comes with a 6” version of the high-contrast, next generation E Ink screen found on the Kindle DX Graphite, and it features 20% faster page turning speeds. In response to the accessibility issues for the visually impaired, which we discussed in a previous posting, Amazon implemented Text-to-Speech enabled menus—a much-needed and long-promised feature that allows visually impaired users to navigate through the Kindle.

As expected, Amazon also added built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and launched a less expensive, Wi-Fi only version of the device, coined the Kindle Wi-Fi. Due to demand, the Kindle 3/Kindle WiFi are temporarily sold out, and the next shipment is expected to be around September 4th.

More information and a review of the Kindle 3 can be found here.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Cathy’s Book – Ebook Enhancements

E-book enhancements, such as audio, video, animation, etc. are becoming increasingly popular. A great example of this is Cathy’s Book, a popular teen novel that makes great use of these features to immerse the reader in an interactive experience.

Here is a demo of the Cathy’s Book app.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The value of editors

A recent article discusses the implications of yet another move by Amazon that angered the publishing industry when Wylie Agency signed a deal to sell digital versions of some of its best sellers exclusively to Amazon, a topic on which we touched in a post earlier this week. The article raises an important question:

If a literary agency can become a publisher, then what's to stop Amazon or Apple or Google, or any other "digital behemoth" from doing the same thing?

The answer to this is very little. Amazon is clearly moving toward a model in which they could oust publishers from the process; however, the impact to the industry would be enormous. Although the rise of the e-book has progressively made it easier for authors to self-publish or otherwise rely less upon publishers—and it is probable that Amazon and others will attempt to step into this domain in their stead—this can easily be argued as a detriment to the industry as a whole. What these “digital behemoths” do not and likely would not provide, at least to the same extent, is the collaborative, editorial process through which publishers nurture promising writers over time. Without this editorial process, the quality of both writers and consequently their works would decrease drastically over time—a fact that publishers often fail to elucidate. As most authors who have gone through this rigorous and collaborative process would attest, it has an enormous impact on the final work; without it, titles revered as ‘great’ or ‘timeless’ would be only ‘good’ or ‘alright’. Due to its strong position and the threat that Amazon poses to publishers, it seems important to analyze the value of this editorial process. The question becomes, how do we measure the value of an editor?

Earlier this month, IBM attempted to answer this. Although IBM conducted its study using marketing web-pages, the principal idea is certainly applicable. IBM ran an A/B test, where they presented unedited pages to some users and edited pages to the rest and tracked the clicks to desired links on the page over the course of a month. According to IBM:

“The mean difference in engagement was 30 percent across the set of pages. We got a 30 percent improvement on the desired call to action for the pages across the board.”

Although it is much more difficult to quantitatively analyze the value of the editorial process in the book industry, publishers should be contemplating how to do so, and they should contemplate how to present the pivotal part they play in the industry more prominently.
More information on IBM’s attempt to measure the value of editors can be found in a DigitalBook World article here.