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, September 30, 2011

Harris Poll on E-reader's habits

Here’s yet another survey suggesting e-readers are here to stay and growing.  Here are some of the highlights of the poll:

  • One in six Americans (15%) uses an e-Reader device up from less than one in ten (8%) a year ago.
  • Those who do not have an e-Reader, one in six (15%) say they are likely to get an e-Reader device in the next six months.
  • Overall, 16% of Americans read between 11 and 20 books a year with one in five reading 21 or more books in a year (20%).  Those who have an e-Reader, one-third read 11-20 books a year (32%) and over one-quarter read 21 or more books in an average year (27%).
  • One-third of Americans (32%) say they have not purchased any books in the past year compared to only 6% of e-Reader users who say the same.
  • One in ten Americans purchased between 11 and 20 books (10%) or 21 or more books (9%) in the past year.   Those who use e-readers, 17% purchased between 11 and 20 and 17% purchased 21 or more books in the past year.
  • Half of both e-Reader users (50% and non-users (51%) say they read the same amount as they did six months ago.
  • 24%  of non e-Reader users say they are reading less than they did before (compared to just 8% of e-Reader users), over one-third of e-Reader users (36%) say they are reading more compared to just 16% of non-users.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Google Wallet's impact on retail

Mobile Commerce Daily reports that it does not believe Google Wallet app will have much impact on short term retail sales but there are long-term benefits such as loyalty conversion rates and increased qualified sales. 

“The enrollment rate for loyalty programs could reach up to 70 percent thanks to NFC-enabled mobile wallets such as Google Wallet.  If you are paying with your phone, you already have the phone out so the barrier to converting someone is radically lower.” per Matt Wise, CEO of ePrize

“We see the launch of Google Wallet as a significant step forward in the hugely expanding North American and global mcommerce marketplace,” says Gary Schwartz, MEF North America chair and CEO of Impact Mobile, Toronto, Canada. “Google’s product brings awareness to the viability of mobile payments across a wide audience of consumers and merchants.”

Mobile commerce is expected to grow significantly in North America this year, having lagged behind many other countries.  Students are often early adopters of new technologies, so stores should expect that shopping-saavy students will soon be looking at more mobile payments.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Amazon Tablet Announced

In the most recent iteration of the device wars, today Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced the release of Amazon Kindle Fire.  The Android-based tablet weighs 14.6 ounces and features a 7-inch screen and will retail for $199.  The new Kindle Fire will be ready to ship on November 15.

Kindle Fire uses Amazon’s proprietary cloud-based and syncing technologies that would allow all content to be backed up on Amazon’s cloud storage.  Additionally, Kindle Fire uses Whipersync technology that allows for automatic, wireless syncing that does not require any plug-ins to computers.  Mobile browsing is capable using Amazon’s own Silk browser that will allow for faster page loading and supports Adobe® Flash® Player.  Perhaps the only surprise is that Amazon moved off at least one proprietary element by using the Android operating system.

In at least some of the early press, the Amazon Tablet was viewed as "No iPad Killer."  Instead some industry analysts believe it is going to be a “poor” technology and will only be a "stopgap" in order to get a tablet out the door for the 2011 holiday season.  The opinion is attributed to the fact that the tablet uses a slower processor and using a failed Playbook hardware platform.

Regardless, it will be interesting to see what features Amazon builds into the tablet, particularly given the comnpany's conitinuing interest in the digital textbook market. 

Must Read for Marketing on Facebook

A recent white paper by BulbStorm discusses 10 myths and misconceptions about marketing on Facebook.   Matt Simpson, developer of Facebook apps suggests asking the following questions before launching your Facebook marketing campaign. 
  • Am I seeking virality? If the premise of your promotion is to go viral, it’s a huge red flag. That’s not to say that a creative concept and well-built technology won’t drive organic growth. But don’t expect to spam the news feed and get away with it.
  • Am I using Facebook functionality? Be careful here! Do not ask fans to post, like or comment on content on your wall or photo albums. Do not use “like” buttons as a voting mechanism. You must run your promotion through a third-party application.
  • Am I collecting contact information? At the end of your campaign, you’ll have to contact your winners to distribute prizes. Remember to collect their contact info in your promotion app, because you cannot contact them through Facebook.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lowes Employees Armed and Ready for Tech Savvy Do-It-Yourselfers

Retail Systems Research has another interesting piece of news this week.  Lowes is arming their employees with 42,000 I-phones in order to engage better with the highly knowledgeable weekend warriors-men and women. This is after Home Depot announced its 10,000 Motorola initiative for their employees. The big box chains obviously are getting that "an uninformed, uneducated employee on the selling floor was more damaging than having no employees on the selling floor at all." The i-Phone will feature several functions - inventory checking, showing how-to videos and use lowes.com in store aisles.
The lesson in this article is an age old lesson in retail- engage with your customers and offer the buying experience that they expect.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cengage and Verba Join to Offer Students More Pricing Options

Cengage Learning, and Verba announced they are working together to offer college students a variety of online pricing and format options for textbooks.

CengageBrain.com is Cengage's online course materials site where students have the choice to rent or purchase from the company's learning products. From the site, students can rent textbooks or purchase print textbooks, eTextbooks, individual eChapters and audio books. Verba's web comparison tool (Compare) is integrated into the college store website so that students do not need to navigate through multiple sites to see a wide range of pricing and format options.

"Students want options. Providing access to CengageBrain.com pricing within Verba's online comparison shopping tools will help students be aware of more format and price options," said Stephen Hochheiser, Vice President, College Store & Public Affairs for Cengage Learning.   The article goes on to note that by enabling the CengageBrain links, college store customers will benefit from existing affiliate programs and stores can also increase market share by satisfying more of their students through the stores' websites.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Money for New TextBook Authors

While we have not reported on the open source movement much lately, developments continue.  Recently, the Saylor Foundation, a non-profit organization, announced that it would pay new textbook authors up to $20,000 to put their textbooks under a Creative Commons license allowing free use to anyone while keeping copyright protection for the author. Of course, books submitted must meet the Foundation’s set criteria. The foundation currently has more than 200 college textbooks in the collection free to anyone in the globe as part of the Foundation’s mission to drive down cost of education to zero.

Recent Poll Suggests Consumers are Getting Daily Deals Fatigue

Once thought of as a novelty in E-Commerce, there appears to be a trend suggesting that fatigue is settling in on daily deals. Consumers were asked whether they are tuning out of daily deal sites and 36% said yes, to a large degree, 43% said yes, to a moderate degree, and only 4% said no.

Here are some quotes from the study report:
“Consumers may love those deep discounts but they'll never respect the retailers in the morning. There are a lot of ways to build loyalty but buying it isn't one of them.”
Ryan Mathews, Founder, ceo, Black Monk Consulting

“Value is a shopper concept that extends far beyond the price. “
Anne Howe, Founder, Anne Howe Associates

“It's time for retailers to think of something other than price (quality? design?) to differentiate because, ok, we get it, you're cheap! What else makes you better?”
Lee Peterson, EVP Creative Services, WD Partners
At the end of the proverbial day, customers want to buy what they want to buy (more or less), not what companies are trying to sell them. This model might work better if there was more discretionary spending. (Then again if there was more discretionary spending, people wouldn't flock to deal sites in the first place.) All in all, the electronic deal business may turn out to be largely a flash in the pan.”

Fabien Tiburce, President, Compliantia, Retail Audits & Task Management

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tips for Developing a Mobile Game Plan

Book Business's feature article this month is on “21 Tips for Developing Your Mobile Game Plan.” Book Business asked several industry executives who have navigated the mobile waters to share their insights on how to develop a successful mobile strategy. While geared toward publishers, there are a number of items on the list relevant to booksellers too.  Here is the list, with details available in the article.

1. Focus initially on iOS and Android platform and get revenue flowing.
2. Determine the level of interactivity for your app. Avoid “feature creep.”
3. Develop enough apps and to learn what your ROI is for the specific app.

4. Get one product to be successful even on a small scale. Learn from it and then follow up with updates and feature enhancements as appropriate
5. Get a few apps on the market that are well-targeted and bug-free create your core base of loyal buyers. Marketing will be key. Develop relationship with Apple and Google.
6. Make sure to nurture good relationship with the big e-book vendors.

7. Publishing e-books is more work. More formats = more work.
8. You will need to transform your traditional workflow to manage digital content.
9. Digital publishing is still manually intensive.

10. Develop for more than just the desktop.
11. There is no best way, only good ways. Remember there are a lot of ways consumers access content.
12. Rethink what your product is.

13. Be bold with Mobile App as we were with Web 10 years ago.
14. More than one way to go mobile- mobile app or mobile web.
15. Accept Apps will cannibalize your other platform but you will keep customers

16. Learn how to work with Apple
17. Build as installed base of users of free apps and then make use of in-app purchasing to sell paid apps to that installed base.
18. Take the plunge.

19. Mobile Search strategy is different from Web search .
20. Mobile strategy should be focus on “action-oriented activities.”
21. A mobile search has to yield a result with eBooks that are interesting to read, priced competitively, and available to buy [immediately] on mobile or in-store.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

iPads for less than $5 a day on Campus

An article in Campus Technology recently noted that with a grant from the Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education, several schools in California began a digital device rental program allowing students to rent devices ranging from iPads to digital cameras. Student at California State University Bay can now rent iPads for $25 a week, $120 for a semester, and a loaded Macbook for $150. The rental program is modeled after the library system and charges apply for late returns.

Pay for eBooks via Phone Bill

Readers around the world will have option to easily pay for eBooks thought their phone bill. Bango, mobile analytics and payment company,announed that it provides Mobcast, the digital book software platform, with operator billing for its mobile digital bookshop GoSpoken.com. Bango allows customers to place a charge on their phone bill for purchases made directly from the mobile version of GoSpoken’s digital bookstore. According to the article, this click-to-pay consumer experience is seamless and secure, maximizing conversion rates for purchases from connected phones and tablets across multiple platforms and networks including Wi-Fi. “By using Bango to deliver a consistent operator payment experience to all our customers we have seen a marked increase in sales. Conversion rates using operator billing are much higher than using other methods, and easier for our consumers”, said Stephen Crawford, Operations Director, Mobcast.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Students Give Up Sex for Digital Textbooks

A recent survey found that one in four students say they would abstain from sex for a month if they could have all their textbooks in digital format. Here are some other interesting Infographic stats posted by Economy Watch:
By 2014, nearly 19% of US Textbook Market will be Digital.

There was a 400% increase in digital textbook sales between 2008-2009

42% of students either bought or at least seen a digital textbook in 2010. That is a 24% increase from 2007.

South Korea is investing $2Billion to make sure all textbooks are digital by 2015. An equivalent investment for US would be $10Billion.

Almost three-fourths of the $7.5 Billion in textbook sales are brand new textbooks.

Digital textbooks are, on average, 53% cheaper than new print books.
Check out the infographic for some other interesting stats. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

NetFlix provides lessons for stores...

There has been a lot of flack  surrounding movie rental company NetFlix lately.  First they changed their pricing plans.  Now they are separating the physical DVD business from the streaming business -- requiring customers to have two accounts.  Amidst all of this is was a breakdown in communications between the company and its customers as the company tries to transition from a world of more physical media to one of more digital delivery.

There are several lessons book stores could learn from NetFlix's recent foibles:  Perils of rental models; transitioning from physical to digital; or communication.   However, one quote from CEO Reed Hastings in his apology blog post captures one of the key messages I think stores should hear. 
For the past five years, my greatest fear at Netflix has been that we wouldn't make the leap from success in DVDs to success in streaming. Most companies that are great at something--like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores--do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us) because they are afraid to hurt their initial business. Eventually these companies realize their error of not focusing enough on the new thing, and then the company fights desperately and hopelessly to recover. Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly.
And there it is.  So whether we are talking about mobile commerce, digital course materials, rental, data analytics, price comparison, or any of a number of other technologies and developments in the retail book space -- we can not be afraid as a channel to venture boldly into a new future if we hope to have one.  This may mean trying new models that at first seem less profitable or sacrificing margins for market share. 

I hear many arguments that say "digital course materials is moving slowly, so I do not need to worry about it."  I believe this strategy is flawed.  Frankly, I do not care so much whether digital course materials take off this year, or in 5 years, or in 10.  We can all debate the rate at which digital takes hold, but that debate is hardly productive.  The truth is that the transition has begun.  Our window of opportunity to drive developments in favor of stores is now.  We must as a channel place "enough focus on the new thing" that when the time comes to move quickly we are not caught in a position of desperation or unviability.  That is key aspect of channel and business stewardship, and it is a critical strategic activity for all levels of management.  With the emerging technologies ahead of us, we are more likely to fail for having taken no action, than we are for having acted and making some mistakes along the way. 

Ok.  Back off of my soap-box. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pew Research studies on digital.

The Pew Research Center recently released results from a pair of survey studies.  In one study with the Chronicle of Higher Education, two-thirds of 1055 college presidents predicted that in 10 years more than half of all textbooks used in undergraduate programs will be in digital format.  In the other study, which focused on college graduates, 23% had taken a class online, with that number growing to 46% among students graduating in the last decade.  Online classes are where the larger percentage of digital adoptions currently appear to be.  Thus it is interesting that college presidents are nearly twice as likely than graduates to indicate that current online class offerings are equal to the in-class experience. 

College presidents increasingly recognize the importance digital textbooks will have on the future of higher education.  Proactive stores will be prepared to offer visions what college stores will look like in the future, particularly related to digital course materials.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Forming mobile commerce strategy

Here’s an article on m-commerce strategy for those of you who are contemplating going mobile. In summary, if you intend on setting up a mobile app for your store make sure you have a clear “m-strategy” that defines what you are trying to accomplish by going mobile.  Always focus on customer needs and not what your business partner wants you to have. One of the implications of this for stores is the need to monitor your customer’s mobile experience. Stores must continually improve their capabilities to make data-driven decisions.  Plan on having a process to collect, analyze, and learn from the data you collect.  Mobile commerce is still relatively new, and there is much to learn yet.  However, the future of retail will be more heavily dependent on mobile and related technologies.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Soundtracks for EBooks?

Yes, that is correct. Just as sound and music enhances the emotional impact of movies and television shows, New York City-based startup Booktrack is trying to do the same for ebooks. With an iOS app already in the market and an Adroid app on the way, Booktrack allows ebook readers to listen to ambient background noise relevant to the book's current setting, specific sound effects synchronized to the text as it is read. 

Will this new twist on audiobooks entice people to read more in digital formats?   Probably unlikely.  However, it is another step in the slow transition or evolution of digital reading materials, and the technology is likely to find a usage.  More power to it if it does. On a side note Peter Thiel, co-founder of Paypal, is the lead investor of Booktrack.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Largest Postsecondary iPad-based eTextbook Initiative

In a recent press release the Eminata Group, one of Canada's larger independent post-secondary institutions, and Pearson are partnering to deliver all of Eminat’s campus’ course content via Apple iPad. This is the largest such initiative in North America.  It currently being piloted in a few programs in four campuses but over the next three years the partnership hopes to bring all programs under a digital delivery system.    The pilot covers hundreds of Pearson texts, and will allow students access to content via iPads or back on Macs/PCs.

The number of pilots continues to increase, and it is important that we keep a broader eye to track experiments or developments that might otherwise fly under the radar.  The for-profit and professional schools appear to be moving toward digital more quickly.  This is likely because of the greater control over curriculum, and student populations that consist more of adult learners and workforce-based learners who tend to find digital course materials more convenient.  Even so, these experiments are worth watching as some lessons learned here will flow into the more traditional higher education market.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Indiana University Adopts eText Option for Campus

In a recent press release Indiana University (IU) signs with publishers John Wiley & Sons Inc., Bedford, Freeman  & Worth Publishing Group, W.W. Norton, and Flat World Knowledge to provide students the ability to access digital or printed hard copies, and uninterrupted access to all of their eTexts while attending IU.

Similar to IU’s model agreements with Adobe and Microsoft, the terms with the publishers will provide a substantial discount and reduced eText restrictions in exchange for a much lower, guaranteed eText fee from each student who is enrolled in a course section that adopts a particular eText.

According to IU, the agreements are intended to give students the choice between a digital or print version of their course materials. Students can choose to access their eTexts in digital and/or print formats, and there will be a print-on-demand option for students who prefer a hardcopy of an eText to keep after graduation.

Indiana-based company Courseload was selected to provide the software for students to read and annotate their eTexts. Courseload’s software integrates directly with IU's Oncourse system and enables students to tag, search, collaborate as a study group or view multimedia on any computer or mobile device. Courseload has worked very closely with IU's Adaptive Technology and Accessibility Center to ensure that the software is accessible for students with disabilities.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Crowdsourced Book

Hacking the Academy that represents current practice in developing and testing ideas about new publishing models. It was made possible through an innovative partnership between the University of Michigan Library and the University of Michigan Press with the intent of modeling library-press collaboration at U-M.

Hacking the Academy is a book compiled from a single week of blog posts and tweets soliciting ideas for how the higher education could encourage positive change using digital media and technology. The project was headed by Dan Cohen and Tom Scheiunfeldt, of George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media, as research designed to question the conventional university-press system. Within a span one of week they received 329 submissions from 177 authors with almost a hundred submissions written during the one week span. Subjects covered in the book include educational technology, tenure, lecture, curriculum, and libraries.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Renting and buying used textbooks cheaper than e-books

There is a perception that digital textbooks should be cheaper than printed ones.  From what I have seen and understand, not only is this not the case, but there is typically good reason.  For one, the print and distribution costs are not 50-75% of the cost of creating a book, despite expectations or perceptions.  Not that there is not room for further supply chain or production efficiencies, but frankly, just because it is electronic does not mean it will cost less.

To back up this observation, a recent study by CampusBooks.com reports that renting or buying a used textbook was cheapest for 91.6% of the top 1000 textbooks for back-to-school. The other 8.4% of the time, e-books were less expensive -- somtimes significantly so.

On a separate note, while something of a press release, the story does point out (once again) the importance of stores being a part of price comparison.  We know students engage in price comparison, and that the trend to do so is increasing.  If stores do not participate in such comparisons they are out of the equation from the perspective of purchasing decision.  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ebooks' Real Impact on the Book Publishing Market: 2009 – 2011

The Aptara studies on ebooks in the past couple years have been interesting.  On Sept 20th the company will offer a free webinar that covers results, trends, and best practices of ebook publishers as uncovered over the past two years in a multi-survey series.  Survey findings will be presented.

While oriented toward publishers, this session should be of interest to stores as well.  It should reveal some of the challenges facing our supply chain partners (i.e., publishers) relative to digital, and give some insight into where they are and where they are headed.  This session will also include experts from both the US and Europe, which I think will add an interesting dimension to the discussion. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Among affluent Americans, print media is tops

Traditional outlets for accessing media still reign supreme with the affluent, a study conducted by Advertising Age  reveals. Using the Mendelsohn Affluent Barometer, which surveys the affluent on various topics, Ad Age gauged new and traditional media usage by this group. The results showed that traditional media won out, with 93% of all affluents reading hard copy magazines, and 86% reading hard copy newspapers. Only 27% viewed magazines by computer, and only 39% accessed their newspaper that way.

The numbers varied with the 18-34 age group, with 88% reading hard copy of magazines, and 70% reading hard copy newspapers. As an alternate viewing method, 35% view magazines on computer, while 54% view their newspapers online as well. This survey shows that although the affluent have more access to alternate technology with which to view traditional media, as well as the the savviness to use them, traditional methods seem to win out in the end -- at least for now.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

E-textbooks: Current Shortcomings

A colleague sent me this audio session on E-books on Campus.  Speakers were Jeff Young Senior Writer, Chronicle of Higher Education, Eric Frank ,President and Co-Founder, Flat World Knowledge, Inc., and Matt MacInnis, Founder and CEO, Inkling. They talked about the affect of E-books in campus curricula and why the adoption rate for E-books has not been as high as expected.

Here are some of the reasons the speakers gave as to why they believe adoption of digital course materials have been slower than anticipated:
1. Pricing Model Out of Sync
2. Digital Divide
3. Industry is very confusing and in a flux
4. Hard to read large amounts on E-books
5. Battery Life
6. Good for Liberal Arts but not so good for Social Sciences
7. Distractions on the Screen
Other reasons we have found in studies did not appear on their list, which was interesting.  The hour-long audio session is interesting, however, and worth a listen over lunch.

Monday, September 5, 2011

An Inkling of textbook innovation

Many of us are probably aware of tech start-up Inkling.  If not here is a great collection of videos on the company.  They now have interactive versions of dozens of textbooks, geared toward tablet devices, developed with cooperation from leading textbook publishers -- and representing some of the largest textbook adoptions.  The videos are something all stores should watch -- partly to understand how these technologies are marketed to students, and also to help stores gain a quick glimpse into the beginning of the future for the digital textbook:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Copyright licensing on campus

Here is an interesting project going on at Stanford University. It is called the Stanford IP Exchange (SIPX) and the system is intended to provide tailored copyright licenses on campus. The project includes both print on demand (POD) and publishing on demand technologies, and addresses a problem we have heard from faculty at various institutions.  The custom coursepack business is, of course, a solid percentage of the textbook market, and is likely to increase in the future with many comparable initiatives underway.  This project has some interesting elements to it, however, and is another worth watching.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

More than 2/3 of mobile device owners participated in M-Commerce

A recent study reports that 2/3rds of mobile device owners also participate in mobile commerce.  Out of 1600 surveyed, 39 percent of smartphone owners make purchases with their handheld devices once a month. Additionally, 60 percent of mobile owners use their smartphones to help them shop every month. According to the study, more than two-thirds of active mobile consumers are 16 to 24 years old.  That is the prime customer age group for college stores.  Additionally, 31 percent of active mobile consumers are Baby Boomers and are aged 45 to 64 years old.

The study also points to the rise of social media as a factor in driving mobile purchases. According to the study “mobile shoppers were more likely to be influenced by recommendations from friends, family and customer reviews than traditional promotion channels, including store displays and store associates. Social networks allow mobile shopper to know what their peers and friends reviews want, which in turn impacts them.

We would like to hear what different stores are doing to engage in m-commerce or social media.  Any great success stories to share?  Or failures we can learn from?  Or ideas we might try?

Friday, September 2, 2011

M-Commerce Increases foot traffic

Another article reminding us M-Commerce (Mobile Commerce) is a must for retailers. M-commerce is enabling consumers to research, price compare, and be informed and is becoming more than just an impulse buying tool. “Consumer mindsets and expectations are that they should now be able to purchase anything on a mobile device that they can on the computer or in a store.” According to the article, “for every one mobile transaction, the store locator is used 63 times, showcasing that mobile can have a significant influence on driving customers to the retailer’s store so they can touch and see the product in person before they buy."  This presents opportunities for retailers to both drive foot-traffic and capture sales.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Price Comparison- Be in it to win it!

Recently Amazon announced the release of an iPhone App, Amazon Student. The app is essentially a price comparison tool aimed at college students. Other features of the app allow the user to buy and sell books as well.

Here is another reason why college stores need to be cognizant of the value of offering price comparison, with tools like Verba. As mobile apps for price comparison becomes a common tool for customers, stores need to be aware that if they are not part of the price comparison the fail to become an option for the consumer. Price comparison is as much about consumer trust and relationships as it is about transparency.  If your store is not listed in the comparison you simply do not exist for the consumer. It’s simple, you got to be in the game to at least have a chance to win it.  Providing price comparison information is an easy way to help retain market share.

Disclosure:  NACS Media Solutions does have a partnership arrangement with Verba.  We believe strongly that this type of technology should be widely adopted by the college store community.  The move of Amazon into this space further demonstrates that this technology makes sense -- and college stores were there first!  Amazon followed our industry's example almost 18 months later!