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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Sunday, May 29, 2011

New Readers Target the Ed Market

According to this press release, “the first-ever e-book readers for the educational market” have now arrived. The "first ever" claim is a bit of a stretch given other devices released in the past two years, such as the Entourage Edge as one example.

Apparently for the U.S. market alone (for now at least), the jetBook K-12 features “speaking dictionaries” in English and Spanish—with promise of 38 more languages to come—as well as an electronic SAT-prep course, speed-reading courses, a text-translation system, calculators, preloaded reference books in a variety of academic subjects, an audiobook player, and more.

For the world market, the jetBook Color boasts a 9.8-in. color E Ink screen, all the features of the jetBook K-12 plus “extra components based on each region’s educational system.” This seems to refer to the release’s claim that the jetBook Color will be “implemented in schools across the U.S., China, and Eastern Europe,” although no specifics are provided about any actual adoption agreements or timelines.

The devices are the result of collaboration between Ectaco Inc., a New York-based producer of handheld electronic dictionaries and translators, along with the existing jetBook line of e-readers, and China’s Hanvon Technology Co., which specializes in pattern-recognition technologies and products and also manufactures the WISEreader e-reader.

It will be interesting to see what sort of reviews post after readers get hands-on experience with these devices.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Students Show a Tablet/Textbook Disconnect

A recent Pearson Foundation survey of college students and college-bound high school seniors contained good news for tablet-makers. Even though only about 7% of college students queried own a tablet, 60% of them envision owning one in the future (15% within the next year), and nearly 70% said they believe the devices will transform higher education.

The survey results were less rosy for e-textbook publishers. According to this Inside Higher Ed article, students’ belief that tablets such as the Apple iPad and Barnes & Noble Nook will revolutionize learning isn’t matched by any enthusiasm for digital textbooks. While almost 70% of those who said they wanted a tablet claimed they would read e-textbooks on it, only 39% of students who own a tablet actually use it to access such content.

That statistic, coupled with the mixed results from tablet pilot projects on various campuses, suggests that firsthand experience with the current crop of tablets may curb students’ enthusiasm for leaving print textbooks behind.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Textbook Future: Cheap with Lifetime Updates?

As detailed on CrunchGear, a $49 biology e-textbook is the latest product unveiled by the new Nature Education division of Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd. Slated to go on sale Sept. 1, the college-level Principles of Biology is actually a web page rather than an app or “traditional” e-book, and features continual content updates with no additional charge to the original purchaser.

“Lifetime access is difficult to picture for many kinds of app-based books, because of how rapidly the underlying technologies and devices will evolve,” said Nature Publishing Group executive Vikram Savkar, “whereas a browser-based solution has a good likelihood, in our opinion, of being accessible decades from now.”

Having the content—which includes quizzes, assessments, and an online gradebook—stored in the cloud means access is available on any device the owner uses, from a tablet to a flip-phone, without any additional setup, as long as they employ the same username and password.

To maximize the usability of the gradebook component, Savkar added that Nature Education plans to integrate its text with most major course management platforms by the end of this year.

Principles of Biology has already been adopted for introductory biology courses at California State University’s Chico, Los Angeles, and Northridge campuses.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Square Turns iPad into Cash Register

It seems there’s a new report every day detailing what the Apple iPad can and will do for education and students. Now, the device appears to be ready to serve the college store as a new type of cash register.

According to reports, including this one from Information Week, the mobile payment startup firm Square has developed a free application that allows merchants to use an iPad to accept payments and receive sales analytics. The Square Register app works with Card Case, a consumer app available to both iPhone and Android users.

“Every single merchant that uses the Square Register has Google-style analytics for everything they do,” said Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square and cofounder of Twitter. “They can easily answer the question: ‘How many cappuccinos did I sell today?”

The potential fly in the ointment is that both merchant and consumer must have the right software installed to operate properly, according to IDC analyst Aaron McPherson, who also suggested Square should integrate its system with a PC-based point-of-sale system.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Adapting to new business reality

I am at the SIIA Educational Technology conference this week. The opening keynote was great. Maybe more of the same messaging I have heard elsewhere (and am often sending myself), but I liked the presenter's approach to conveying the information.

The presenter was Genevieve Shore, worldwide CIO and Director for Digital Strategy for Pearson. Okay -- she is a CIO and leads digital strategy, like me, so admiting biases, that won points in my book up front. Anyway, her presentation was "how do we adapt to new business reality" and she offered five points of advice:

1- Be disruptive.
We must challenge our companies, customers, employees, etc. How do we change everything while holding on to our traditions? She commented, "This is the moment of our lives when we will see the most changes to [learning]. The next 5 years will be mind-blowing." going on to talk about the disruptive trends that would fuel this radical change to learning in the next five years: gaming, tablets, continuous assessment coupled with artificial intelligence, and location.

2- Be global.
As we transition to a more global community, we must do truly global thinking. She then provided interesting data points or perspectives on India, China, Africa and elsewhere.

3- Be social.
Through several examples and discussions of different technologies she boiled down to a couple questions: How can we be social? How can we make many-to-many work, yet at the same time, how do we make and keep it increasingly personal?

4- Be Valuable.
She commented that, "The world has changed. The most important word on the internet is no longer 'search' but 'share'." In discussing business models she noted that you "need multiple business models today to have a business," which suggests to me the need to think openly and broadly about what we do and how we do it -- and recognizing that we might have "multiple business models co-existing at once" and that there may not be any "one" business model for the future. Her point being that things will be more complex in the future, and that looking for the "one" model is probably a fruitless effort. If anything, the one model is a combination that provides several other models simultaneously.

Her other point in here, which I particularly appreciated was "sometimes you have to be wrong to eventually be right." I would have put this observation under "Be Disruptive," but the lesson to be open to failing and failing fast was well made. She noted that we are just starting to see the first ebooks for education -- and that it is a new product that is not really an ebook. Much as I have tried to talk about "digital course materials" as a more accurate term than "ebook." She also suggested that we find time to talk about metadata -- that it is critical to make it easy for students to search and share. She asked the group to think about working toward global, open metadata standards for the benefit of all.

5. Be Trustable.
Her last set of comments reminded me of comments Chris Tabor at Queen's University often makes about trust. She talked about how we must be careful in how we manage the ownership of data about customers, and the importance of trust in our relationships with students.

Overall, a great session. In the panel I chaired today I pulled out several other comments of interesting, but one particularly stuck with me in the context of the points Genevieve made. Matt McInnis from Inkling had a captivating image of a coming "renaissance of learning materials," that he sees as just beginning. I agree, and that is yet another concept I have been promoting for a while.

It is always reassuring to hear, once in a while, that other thought leaders think things are going in the same direction. The future is not yet determined -- but it is taking shape. I will bang my head on that wall one more time and suggest that stores that stores and the store channel have an opportunity to act, and waiting until 2015 to begin adapting to what will clearly be a new business reality for our channel is not a particularly good strategy for making it to 2016, 2020, or beyond.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My Modern Tech

An interesting message went out to a range of different institutions this week. We have not found or received additional information on this new company yet. The concept is "Microbooks" by a company called My Modern Tech. From the description, the technology does not seem that different from other entrants in this space -- like CafeScribe, NookStudy, or VitalSource. What is interesting is some insight into where Amazon is headed next with textbooks.

Do you like seeing your students in the history books? How about putting your campus there? We're inviting your campus to be one of the first. Partner with us and industry giant Amazon Inc. to be one of the first campuses in the country to start offering microbooks, the newest online tool in student learning. This is not only going to change your campus, but change education around the entire country. Partner with us and Amazon Inc.to put your college in the history books.

Microbooks are the same textbooks you currently use, only made available online for the ease of use of students to access them via their smart phones through android, iPhone, and iPad apps or even via a computer. The power comes in the convenience, but also the state of the art features such as the ability for teachers to make notes, highlight text, and have everything reflected to students books, as well as give quizzes, and even see the last time their students read their books. The main point behind this project is that since it's made available in an electronic format the cost of the books are up to 50% cheaper for students than the same physical textbooks. By utilizing these state of the art books you make the books more accessible to all your students including low income students. With the backing of Amazon Inc. we're getting ready to push this new program to colleges and universities across the country and we're exclusively inviting your campus to be one of the first to start using it.

Give your campus and your students the opportunity to make history and be one of the few exclusively invited campuses to change the world of education across the country.

Thank You and we look forward to your acceptance of our invitation and to discuss with us any questions that you may have."

We do not yet know how many campuses received this invitation, or the diversity of the campuses invited. We are interested in learning more if anyone has more information to share.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

More tablets on tap

More tablet devices are on the way, with familiar names behind them. With the languishing position of its e-reader device in the single-purpose device niche, SONY recently announced two new tablets, focusing on their strength: media. B&N is rumored to be making a big announcement this coming Tuesday at BEA. That announcement is expected to relate to a new Nook, that will likely be an Android-based tablet. Amazon is also rumored to be releasing a new tablet soon (date unknown).

Why more tablets? With all of the hype you would think that everyone in the world already owns an iPad. Nielsen reported this week that less than 5% of the US population own iPads. It is estimated that penetration is even lower in other countries. While Apple may own 80% of that market, it means that there is still room for other competitors to enter the space and gain market share.

There may be some question yet as to the ultimate niche and place of the tablet in history. We are still at the very early stages of a new technology. Expect more innovations, variations, and ultimately applications of this technology in the year ahead.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Looks Like Tablets Are Ready for School

The Apple iPad pilot programs on college campuses have been completed and Vineet Madan, vice president, McGraw-Hill Higher Education eLabs, says the device passed the test. In fact, he offers six reasons why tablet computing is ready to take the classroom by storm.

Versatility is the first reason Madan cites, noting that enhanced e-books provide text, video, and audio, making for a more integrated learning experience that is more engaging for students. In addition, the iPad allows students to highlight and jot notes in the margin, just like in a printed book.

Students’ growing familiarity with touchscreen technology is another reason to think tablets are ready for the classroom, according to Madan. The tablet also appeals to students because it is thin, lightweight, and turns over much quicker than a laptop with much longer battery life, while innovative software is being developed specifically for tablets to render them compatible with online teaching and learning platforms.

Tablets also align with cloud-based computing solutions, which are becoming more popular on campuses because of their portability and constant connection to the Internet. Finally, Madan reminds readers that tablets are much easier to acquire now and increased competition from Android OS devices will only drive prices down on all tablet models.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Video: Next generation book

There is a new 6-minute video from TED of interest. It is Mike Matas from Push Pop Press introduces their first full-length interactive book for the iPad. The talk is entitled, "A Next Generation Digital Book." There are some interesting features and capabilities, that could have great implications for textbooks in the future.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rentals Keep Print the Top Choice on Campus

A survey from Student Monitor found that devices such as the Apple iPad are making gains on campus, but the printed textbook remains alive and well thanks to rental options. The study, detailed on Inside Higher Ed, found that 24% of the surveyed 1,200 full-time students at four-year institutions rented course materials, up from 12% the year before.

Those who rented saved an average of $127. The rental trend should continue to rise, since 36% of underclassmen said they are likely or very likely to rent a textbook next year. Campus bookstores remain the most popular source for rentals, thanks to their efforts to get out in front of the trend. Yet students said they were most satisfied with their experience using the textbook rental site Chegg.com because of price, punctual delivery, and ease of use.

On the electronic side, just 5% of those surveyed said they purchased access to an e-textbook during the spring, and only 2% bought e-texts for more than one class.

However, that may be about to change. The survey found that while just 8% of the students owned an iPad, nearly half expressed interest in buying the device. Students also placed the iPad alongside coffee—but behind beer—when asked to rate media and “lifestyle” choices.

In fact, “drinking beer” was the only nontech pastime students listed in the top five, alongside Facebook, iPhones, texting, and laptop computers. More than half (54%) of those surveyed own smartphones, up from 41% from a year ago, reinforcing the notion that print rentals may be a short-term solution.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Learn from Wiley’s Legacy and Leadership

Guest Blog: Veronica Gancov, Digital Media Specialist, NACS-MS

The transition from print to digital for many publishers can be a difficult one, but for Wiley, a company that has been in business for more than 200 years, persistence has been key to their online success. Their transition from print to digital is examined in the Book Business webinar "Learn From Wiley’s Legacy and Leadership." Wiley began its digital transition more than 10 years ago, and it has honed its online presence into that of a leader in the field of academic and scientific publishing.

Since 1995, Wiley has explored all avenues of online and ebook formats, beginning with “Journal of Interactive Surgery.” In 2010, Wiley launched the “Wiley Online Library,” which is the second most-visited academic publisher web site according to Alexa Web traffic metrics. They have amassed more than 9,000 books, and hundreds of multi-volume reference works, laboratory protocols, and databases.

Under Wiley’s outgoing CEO and President of 23 years, William J. Pesce, Wiley consistently gained market share and profitability, and executed three of the largest and most successful acquisitions in the company’s history. Pesce says that the development work in going digital is incremental, layering on technology along with print.

Wiley has looked for multiple formats and multiple modes of delivery on its path to becoming a digital leader, and has designed and redesigned many workflows to find the optimal one. Wiley also acquired different partnerships with other companies, as well as acquiring other companies outright, and recruited talent from outside the publishing business in order to have greater control over their digital formats.

Stephen Smith, Wiley’s incoming President & CEO, who has been with the company since 1992, commented on the way that Wiley has prioritized what they wanted handled in-house as opposed to outsourcing the digital process. According to Smith, Wiley has always wanted to add value to the customer. He emphasizes that digital strategy is a huge consideration for any publishing business, and that the more flexible the content formats are that are offered, the more value is added to the customer.

When Wiley InterScience was launched, the company knew they needed a partner for the technical project of putting the journal online and developing access controls and search functions. Since Wiley did not have the capabilities in house, they brought them in house and found ways to work with them.

In December, Wiley Blackwell, the STMS and scholarly business publishing division of Wiley, announced the launch of mobile apps for select science journals. Smith sees this as a stand alone revenue opportunity, and he sees mobile as part of the overall mix, with advertising opportunities that will be interesting as well. Smith also states that although they are exploring these new avenues, they have not abandoned print altogether, but utilize POD to handle the lesser print load.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Publishers Try to Come to Grips with Digital Challenge

Publishing executives painted a rather gloomy picture of their world at the first World E-Reading Congress recently in London. According to this article in paidContent UK, the printed book is in trouble and publishers just aren’t yet sure what to do with its digital counterpart.

“The entire publishing industry is going down the drain,” an executive from Siemens told the publishers in a sponsored address about a tablet publishing software service. While most attendees probably don’t actually believe that, they are trying to tell their stories in new ways through technology such as iPhone apps.

They want to learn from the painful lessons of the music industry, but also fear competition that ranges from self-publishing authors to e-tail giants such as Amazon, which recently launched its own publishing imprint for romance novels.

“We need to anticipate and create new business models that give consumers access when they want it,” said Victoria Barnsley, international CEO at HarperCollins.

Friday, May 13, 2011

CAMEX questions answered: marketing

This week's question provides a good example from a store of "why digital," the importance of relationships, market share orientation, and other topics:

Q. We have had good relationships with our publishers and faculty in crossing the digital divide hand in hand. We have come to find that the MyLab products and other digital content have helped secure market share and lower prices at the same time. We even have created displays to highlight those ebook products to our students. [Example provided with data on sell-through, savings for students, and percent of market share captured]. Has NACS looked at in-store merchandising, loss prevention, and in-store promotion material for publisher's ebook options?

Thanks for your question. It sounds like you have started off in the right direction -- building positive relationships, paying attention to market share in addition to margins, and thinking about how to merchandise digital products as something different from traditional products.

To answer your direct question, yes, we have thought about some of these questions. In particular the in-store merchandising and in-store promotion materials. In fact, we convened a short-term task force who helped us develop a first phase marketing toolkit for stores. That toolkit was about 85-90% complete, but then stalled with the departure of the key staff person who managed the project. It is our intention to resurrect that project later this year as the task force did some excellent work and we do not want that information to be lost or go unshared with stores.

We have observed that the stores who report higher sell-through on digital content are typically the ones who provide more transactional education to students about what they are buying when they buy the digital option. Students know what they are getting when they get the physical printed textbook. The same is often not the case with digital. Different DRM, different licensing terms, different user experience, and other differences between products in the same category make it a more complex (and potentially less satisfying) purchasing decision.

I saw a statistic earlier this week that reported consumers weigh trust as nearly 10x more important than price when making an online purchasing decision. The same is true, in a sense, with digital. Students are not as sure of what they are buying (they trust the product less) and so are more reticent to purchase. Stores that have recognized this challenge and provided educational information have seen sell-through on digital sometimes up to double the typical average. This educational information can be displayed in a number of ways -- whether comparison details on an in-store sign or terminal, explanatory information provided along with the student course list, or creating a "demo-bar" concept to let students "see what they are buying."

Because of differences among products, the transaction cost of selling digital is higher for retailers because it requires more education of the consumer. Focus your in-store marketing efforts in that direction and you should see some success. Beyond that, our marketing toolkit initiative looked at a variety of methods to promote digital options in-store, and again, we hope to get those resources out to stores later this year.

A final quick note -- the question also asked about loss prevention. This is not an area we have looked at closely as it relates to digital options. Perhaps some of the other readers on this list have some suggestions to share -- either marketing ideas or ideas for loss prevention.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Open Road Making Backlist Authors Accessible

A new digital publishing venture, Open Road Media, is dealing directly with authors or their estates to publish and aggressively market well-known backlist titles as e-books. National Public Radio highlights the firm’s efforts on a new electronic version of James Jones’s From Here to Eternity, which restores passages from the original text that were deemed inappropriate when the book was first released in the 1950s, and also includes videos to enhance the project.

The strategy of targeting backlist authors from traditional publishing companies has caught the attention of those venerable firms. “The question is: In what direction will they evolve?” asked publishing consultant Lorraine Shanley. “We’re all watching with eager anticipation.”

Open Road is headed down other paths as well, publishing its own titles that appear first in digital form, called “e-riginals.” And it’s formed partnerships with smaller publishers that can make use of its digital and marketing expertise.

Open Road Media hasn’t turned its attention to the textbook market—at least not yet—but is providing one more convenient avenue for readers to become comfortable with digital text.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

McGraw-Hill Digital Resource Platform

University Business has a new On-Demand web seminar (free if you sign up) on McGraw-Hill's new digital resource platform. According to the seminar, via the platform McGraw-Hill will give all professors full access to all curricular resources and tools, whether or not they use a McGraw-Hill textbook.

For professors, getting access to relevant and trusted online instructional resources and tools has been an ad-hoc, hit-or-miss process. This web seminar will demonstrate McGraw-Hill Campus, a new service that provides all faculty members across campus with one-click, unlimited access to McGraw-Hill's entire library of academic e-content and associated tools - directly from within the course management system. There is no fee for the platform, and instructors can use it regardless of whether or not they use a McGraw-Hill textbook.
This is the same platform which BlackBoard and McGraw-Hill have been piloting on different campuses this year. The McGraw-Hill tools include "an application to help faculty create digital course content and assignments and do automatic grading" and another which "lets faculty compile textbooks that use their own materials as well as content from the company's publishing portfolio." The integration of the tools with BlackBoard can allow students to buy the textbooks via a link on the course site.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Students Slowly Accepting Tablet Computing

Apple’s introduction if its iPad a year ago appears to have upended the personal computing world according to this article in the Los Angeles Times. Among the repercussions, Microsoft stock recently experienced its largest single-day drop in two years on declining software sales.

Experts expect 50 million tablets to be sold this year, up from 19 million in 2010, with more than 100 million in 2012. While laptop sales will continue to be strong worldwide, manufacturers say they believe tablet sales will eclipse laptop sales in the United States next year.

Yet questions remain on college campuses. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that students at the Stanford School of Medicine stopped using iPads given to them a few weeks into the first term of use, preferring printed course materials instead. In addition, rebuilding wireless infrastructure on campus to support mobile devices can be expensive while getting students, faculty, and staff working together on the educational possibilities of the gadget often works better in some fields than other.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

E-Readers Aren’t Ready for School Yet

College students will likely continue to watch the development of e-readers from the sidelines because the devices simply aren’t yet suited for use on campus. That’s the conclusion of a blogger for the Seattle Times, who looks at the findings from a pilot study using Amazon’s Kindle DX at the University of Washington.

After seven months of use, fewer than 40% of the computer sciences and engineering graduate students taking part in the study used the device for homework. They found the Kindle DX to be poor for note-taking, and said skimming text and looking up references were difficult.

While those are all problems that could be fixed with future upgrades, the study also suggests the digital text disrupts a learning technique called cognitive mapping, which allows readers to use physical cues, such as the location of words on the page, to help retain and recall information.

A possible solution may be found in tablet computers such as the iPad, because the Apple device is able to bolster conventional text and images with interactive and multimedia content, according to Fast Company.

Friday, May 6, 2011

CAMEX questions answered: DCP

This week's question from CAMEX relates to our digital content platform or DCP project within NACS Media Solutions. Many aspects of the project have been led by Chris Tabor at Queens University and the Canadian Campus Retail Associates (CCRA). I asked Chris to help me respond to this week's question.

Q. When will the DCP platform be available in the US, including textbook access codes for content? What else will be part of this platform?

Its a good two part question and perhaps worthy of a longer article on the complexities and broader implications of the platform. This project has been evolving over the past 12-18 months. Currently we have about 115 schools participating, with roughly 75 of those being in the US and the rest in Canada. New elements are typically rolled out and tested in Canada first, and then subsequently rolled down to the states. The participating US stores are currently live with a selction of free, public domain content.

In lieu of a longer article on the platform, for now the short answer to Part A is that the next phase of the system will begin to be deployed over the the next several weeks at select schools with select publishers. The goal is to have a solution ready for a large number of US schools in time for fall 2011.

Part B, As you may be aware the Canadian version of the platform system has commercially distributed mainstream publisher access codes for two academic terms. More recently faculty authored content and ebooks were added for commercial distribution at two universities. The platform also distributes classroom management applications or licences.

To date the system distributes only those codes and materials required by the instructor, which accounts for the near 100 percent sell through . However in the US version optional codes and materials will be available as will many trade titles. Of particular interest to developers is the capability of the platform to distribute software applications or licenses.

Think of it this way: generally the system distributes access to two kinds of materials. The first is static content such as pdfs and epubs or etextbooks. The second is dynamic content (think web site) and the system sells access to the web site in the form of licences or access codes.

The shorter answer to Part B: The platform can and will accommodate most forms of digital course materials and, more importantly, most digital course material distribution models.

We are planning increased communication to current participating stores, and then to our broader membership over the summer months of 2011. Some additional information can be located at http://campusebookstore.com/

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Educational Publishing at Work

Today's post is a guest-posting by Veronica Gancov. Veronica is the new Digital Media Specialist within NACS Media Solutions. She joined us in February and is leading some of our work in the regional print-on-demand area. Veronica will likely become a regular guest blogger to the CITE. While this first posting is publisher-focused, I think many stores will see the parallels in, and implications for, educational retail.


I recently attended BISG's “Educational Publishing at Work” webinar. The panelists included Charlene Gaynor, CEO, The Association of Educational Publishers; Michael Ross, SVP, Encyclopaedia Britannica; and Christian Schamberger, VP of Operations, Mercury Book Printing. The webinar raised many interesting points, the first being that since students today are “natives” of digital technology, such as the internet, video games and mobile technology, teachers need to adapt and become more tech savvy in their teaching methods in order to reach these students. Likewise, as teachers must, Publishers today must adapt to digital technology in order to maintain their business standing and reach those students as well. New business models must be written, and new delivery systems must be explored in order to stay current and relevant in the wake of the digital age.

Gaynor's main point was that moving products from print to digital will be one of the top five strategies for impacting the bottom line of any publishing company. She also believes that “free is your friend,” and that supplying some free content is also good for your bottom line, as sales have been proven to increase when some content is given out for free. Gaynor also recommends hiring for a digital future, in other words, choosing people who are technology minded and can see the benefits of digital progress.

Encyclopaedia Britannica has been around since 1768. Ross commented on how change is a must in order to stay relevant. In addition to pursuing digital formats such as online databases, print sets, ebooks, and e-learning solutions for all age groups and readers, Encyclopaedia Britannica strives to provide specific curriculum products for everyone from Pre-K to college and university students. Ross stresses that pricing must be kept low and attainable for everyone, and that subscription models, in particular automatic renewals, work for his company. He stresses that Publishers interested in switching to a digital format must establish a 5 year strategy, and that they need to hire people who will move their digital strategy forward.

Schamberger said that “times can look bleak for printers who do not adapt to the current economy and technology.” Mercury is no stranger to change, and has grown from a printing press in someone’s basement, to a successful printer with three print divisions: Offset, Book, and Fulfillment. Mercury is adapting to the economy and new technologies by continuing to invest in new digital printing technologies, such as inkjet printers that are faster, increase automation, incur cheaper costs, and enable enormous volume capability. He also sees Print on Demand as a great way for printers to fulfill a need in the market. He says that publishers need the flexibility to offer both an electronic format of a product as well as a printed product, and says that they must embrace new technologies and partner with printers who have, as well as challenging traditional thinking and norms.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Correction on projections on etextbook sales

Okay. A couple months ago there was the piece in Campus Technology entitled Can Tech Transcend the Textbook. A good article but it contains a line which has been quoted in a number of places, most recently in the technology section (page 8) of the May issue of the CACS newsletter. Here is the quote:

According to the National Association of College Stores (NACS), digital books currently account for less than 3 percent of textbook sales. NACS expects that percentage to reach 10 to 15 percent by 2012.
Here is the problem: statistics that are quoted out of context or incompletely -- which then tell a very different story. The odd one here is that as the lead digital content person for NACS, I am certain I was not interviewed or addressed as part of the original story, or for any of the many follow-ups. Thus a set of statistics have been attributed to me or us and I have yet to find the source. Here is probably the more accurate interpretation or reporting of these statistics...

Stat1: digital books currently account for less than 3 percent of textbook sales. This is true. What it should say though is:

In cases where digital is an option, typical sell-through (i.e., the percentage of students purchasing the digital option as compared to number of students in a class), is typically around 3%.
We do have some institutions where this number goes as high as 7% as an average. And there are a growing number of cases where adoption in a particular class goes much higher (even over 90%), but those larger percentages are still more the exception. However, from the institutions we have sampled, typically over 80% of the titles adopted are not available in a digital format. We expect this number to change, and quickly, but inventory access is still a challenge -- and why few schools could go "all digital" in the next two years.

Stat2: NACS expects that percentage to reach 10 to 15% by 2012. This is possible, and one scenario we have evaluated. I think the challenge here is the use of the word "expects." It would be more accurate to say that we anticipate that it COULD reach as much as 10-15% IN 2012. I think that it is unlikely that we will hit that level by the end of the year (i.e., by 2012) -- it is possible, but not probable.

Actual expectations are harder to pinpoint. It does seem realistic to expect that we will hit 20-25% penetration of digital in 2015, at which point the early majority is moving toward adoption and penetration rate will likely begin to climb very quickly. We saw this with online sale of books and now digital trade books. With the right set of factors in place, this COULD happen sooner. It is possible that by fall of 2012 we could start seeing average digital sell through nearing 10% or more.

Whether we are talking 2012, 2015, or some point later -- I think the point of interest is that the shift is coming. Retailers, publishers, and institutions that choose not to prepare or keep abreast of the changes and technologies will be at risk. I think the last paragraph of Kirk Jarvis's piece in the previously referenced CACS piece sums things up well:

The textbook industry is definitely at a crossroads. Where will it end up? Only time will tell. What I think will keep our industry from going completely digital right now is simply the confusion factor. There are just too many digital platforms and e-readers out there. We, as industry peers, must remain informed of new technologies and changes in the market.

Finally, kudos to CACS for creating an ad-hoc technology committee focused on investigating and reporting back on new textbook technologies that may affect our business. The more we as an industry engage in experimentation and widespread environmental scanning -- and share what we learn -- the better positioned the channel will be to evolve with the world around us.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Inventing the college store of the future

Campus Technology has an article this week about what happens to college stores if "dead tree tech" gets edged out by digital textbook alternatives. It is an interesting piece which echoes some recommendations we have made in the past -- and re-emphasizes that a shift to digital does not need to mean the end for physical stores. One of the early quotes in the piece -- from Isabella Hinds at Follett, captures this idea well. She notes:

The advent of this technology isn't going to eliminate the need for college bookstores. It's disruptive--or it will be, eventually--but the role of the bookstore is already evolving. The college bookstore of the future is likely to be a very different environment. The digital textbook is going to be one of a range of course-material offerings...delivered on a variety of devices. As these options proliferate, the expertise of the bookstore personnel will be much more important. They will become trusted advisers who can talk knowledgeably about the strengths and weaknesses of increasingly sophisticated and complex products.

Hinds' comments reflect similar recommendations and reactions here at the National Association of College Stores (NACS), and can be found in our report, Defining the College Store of 2015, which is available to members.

It is about creating value and relevance for students and faculty in new ways. Two additional quotes from the article:

"The stores that are becoming the resident experts on these educational technologies are gaining tremendous favor points with professors, administration, and students," Gallagher notes. "It's about maintaining a relationship with the customer and adding value in the form of expertise." -- K Gallagher, Bowker

"College stores must earn students' 'love' by being relevant to their specific, evolving needs and expectations. Growing share of campus life must be a top priority for campus stores--followed by communicating this valuable role to key stakeholders." -- NACS

Indeed, we are already seeing a number of stores create "genius bar"-like concepts designed to help faculty and students understand their digital options and how to access them. Have a problem accessing a digital textbook, or don't understand how to access one publisher's content versus another (or why they are different)? Well, that is a role that the store will be able to help answer.

Given the early stages of many of these technologies, another challenge for students and faculty is matching content to devices. Stores will ultimately be the device and format agnostic providers, and will help students make sure the content they are buying is not only the right content for the course, but the right content for their device(s). It also means that stores must explore multiple approaches to delivering content -- print or digital. Yet another quote from the piece highlights this point:

"There's absolutely no doubt that the long-term survival of the college bookstore will require some strategic adaptations," he says. "And you really just have to embrace the technology. We decided our best bet would be to invest in multiple approaches, to jump right into the deep end with both feet.

"My words of wisdom to my colleagues are pretty simple. You can't do all this in a tepid fashion--you have to commit all the way. You have to invest in multiple approaches to hedge your bets on the shifting winds of the technology. And monitor your results. The evolution of this thing we call a bookstore isn't over." -Jeff Levin, Varney's Bookstore

The article contains a number of interesting points and quotes -- from discussing the lingering preponderance of print, to print-on-demand (POD), to talking "tech rather than textbooks," building relationships with students, textbook rentals, open source textbooks, and redefining retail. In the end it is really all about adding value and reconsidering the retail role of the college store:

"If textbooks do go mostly digital, then the campus bookstore simply has to become more of a retail center. [The college bookstore is no longer the place] where you have to go to get everything. Students have more choices now. There's local competition, as well as the internet. But we're convinced that there's still a lot of value to the college bookstore. Students aren't paying for shipping charges, returns are easier, and they get help to make sure they're buying the correct book. In the end, it's about adding value." -- Sue Riedman, NBC

All-in-all, a great piece that covers a lot of textbook and college store ground in a short space. It is great to see a positive and opportunity-focused piece on the college store industry. However, the piece does make one thing clear -- the business is ours to lose. College stores are uniquely well positioned to make it through a transition to new business models. However, success in doing so requires intention and willingness to experiment and move toward an as yet somewhat unclear future vision.