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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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Beyond Opportunities

In the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of EDUCAUSE Review,the article, “If Not Now, When?” predicts that the college bookstores will be “shattered” within five years along with textbooks, learning management systems, and schools. Author Adrian Sannier is the former CTO at Arizona State University who was responsible for the early Kindle pilots at that institution, and now works for Pearson Education.

Sannier argues that the convergence of trends such as wireless, smartphones, social networking, tablets, and data mining, and their convergence will lead to a digital shift in higher education that will change the education system forever. Sannier notes, “We are now poised to capture the value. The stage is set. The long-awaited digital shift in education can begin. Get ready for the Four Beyonds.” The Four Beyonds are- Beyond Textbooks, Beyond Bookstores, Beyond Learning Management Systems, and Beyond Schools.

This is an excerpt on “Beyond Bookstores:"
“The second sign that the digital shift is imminent is the stress that campus bookstores are under. Campus bookstores have been one of the core institutions of higher education, distributing learning materials to students for a century or more. Uniquely adapted to serve as the middleman between professors’ textbook choices and students’ needs to buy, return, and sell those texts, bookstores have filled a local niche, ensuring the necessary supply of eclectic materials that students would otherwise have to travel far and wide to obtain. As digital forms of these materials have been created, bookstores have turned them into physical products, in the form of access cards and the like, fitting them into the brick-and-mortar business model rather than adapting to the speed and flexibility of electronic retail.

But recent distribution innovations made possible by the Internet have inverted this dynamic, fitting physical texts into the high-speed, high-choice landscape of e-retail. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chegg, and a host of smaller e-retailers offer many of the staples of the campus bookstore at lower prices and even by rental—putting serious pressure on the retail margins of campus bookstores. And as more products move into digital format, the old business models that kept campus bookstores in the distribution game are being replaced by direct sales, which cut the store profit but provide a better price for students and greater convenience for professor and student alike.

The same forces that brought the once-mighty Borders to bankruptcy in 2011 are arrayed against the campus bookstore. In its place will be a direct distribution model for learning materials, one that streamlines the adoption and distribution of digital solutions. This will no doubt cause short-term disruption as the old model unravels, but the end result will be a much wider choice of learning materials and more fluid distribution.”
The author closes by saying:
“Beyond Textbooks, Beyond Bookstores, Beyond Learning Management Systems, Beyond School—the changes introduced by technology have already begun. The digital shift is upon us. If other industries and other fields are any guide, once the dominos begin to fall, progress will be swift and irreversible.”
In Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (1942), the Austrian economist, Joseph Schumpeter wrote:
The opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from the craft shop to such concerns as U.S. Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation—if I may use that biological term—that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism. (p. 83)
College stores that are willing to adapt and change will get through the transformation and find new opportunities that require new business models and practices. Call it Beyond the Possibilities, but the tools that are making this transformation happen will also be the tools that will propel the college store into the digital world and beyond. College stores can and are transforming themselves into e-retailers, and provide values beyond just the middleman aspects that Sannier describes. The college IT community is increasingly talking around the college store without understanding the business and some of the true value the college store provides. To be fair, college stores have, for the most part, been terrible at "telling their story" as to the full range of value they provide to many institutions.

In 2007 college stores, IT departments and librarians met for a summit on the future of information delivery in higher education.  There is value and some functional overlap between our areas, but at the same time we all have some unique strengths and value-adds.  Now that five years have passed and the landscape has shifted significantly perhaps it is time for these groups to engage in conversation again.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Belated Happy Birthday to Weber State University- 100th

A couple months back we wished University of Maine Bookstore its 100th Birthday.  We have one belated Happy 100th to go out to Weber State University bookstore.

This is a quote from the school paper. “In 1911, a small, one-room bookstore served the Weber Academy campus. Today, 100 years later, the bookstore’s three locations and online store serve 24,000+ Weber State University students, as well as faculty, staff, alumni, the community and a whole lot of impassioned Wildcat fans.”

Here is a link to the school’s video celebrating its centennial.   If stores are interested in how to get the fun back in the campus bookstore you have to check out Weber State University bookstore.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

University of Texas El Paso Selling Kindle and e-books

Here is an October 18 article on University of Texas El Paso bookstore selling Amazon Kindle family.   In partnership with a third party digital textbook provider they hope to see more students turning to digital for their coursework.   While the sales were not great within the first two weeks of launch, Yolanda Torres, textbook manager at the bookstore, remains hopeful that UTEP students will soon resort to e-readers to avoid textbook hassles, according to the story.  "As of right now, we haven't sold any. I suppose the kids either prefer physical texts or don't know about them," Torres said. "We do not sell them online and the only way we advertised is in-store and the sign outside the doors."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Digital Receipts: The Good and The Bad

Here’s a story that says more retailers are looking to provide digital receipts but some customers are a little weary of personal data.  Retailers already sending email receipts include companies like Gap, Kmart, Best Buy, Sears, and Apple.  Receipts can be received via email and can customers can access receipts on the Web or on their mobile phones, according to the article. 

Some of the benefits of digital receipts include the convenience for customers, who require receipts for such things as product warranties and tax records.  It also supports in helping to reduce fraudulent returns."It definitely will help cut down on fraud," said Joe Masar, marketing director for D&B Supply, an Idaho-based, farm-and-ranch store that is currently exploring digital receipt solutions. "You never want to treat your customer like a criminal, so we tend to trust them. Sometimes we're over-trusting." However, with a digital receipt, Masar said, "then there's no question."

The negative to emailed receipts is that it makes customers nervous about personal data being available to retailers.  Some people consider their spending habits to be personal and they feel personalized marketing to be invasive.

According to the article, Kmart spokesman Aiello recognizes that the corporation is incorporating this information for added personalized marketing such as offering coupons and promotions based on spending habits, but he sees it as benefit to consumers.

"This really starts to open up opportunities that a paper receipt just can't," he said. "If the customer has shown interest in certain things, [he or she will receive] recommendations as part of the digital receipt.”

Friday, November 25, 2011

Print disabled children get quicker access to traditional texts

This article highlights Bookshare, a nonprofit that provides free specialized electronic copies of books to students with certain print disabilities.  This story is an example of how e-book technology has great potential for students who previously relied on more burdensome and harder to obtain alternatives to the traditional book.
Bookshare makes books to be read aloud by computers, magnified, and spaced differently so that students with vision problems or learning disabilities can read them.  Bookshare’s agreement with 160 publishers allow them to make these special need e-books  available at the same time new releases reach bookstore shelves, unlike typical audiobooks. 
Bookshare memberships are for students who are blind, have low vision, have such learning disabilities as severe dyslexia, or have a disability such as cerebral palsy that could keep them from holding a book.  For these children, Bookshare is free, due to a $32 million grant by the U.S. Department of Education four years ago that’s led to 150,000 student Bookshare memberships across the nation.  And the department’s office of special education programs gave the organization another $3 million in mid-October to take its work even further during the next year. 
The article says barriers still remain.  For example, many books are filled with photographs, diagrams, charts, and drawings that may be supplemented by a single line or two of text.   Although e-books can read aloud that simple description, more elaborate details aren’t available in most cases.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Increase in College Costs Due to Non-tuition Expenses

The Center for College Affordability and Productivity November 2011 report says that approximately two-thirds of the increase in total college costs stems from non-tuition expenses. Non-tuition costs include books and (off-campus) room and board, according to the report.  The report recommends that more attention needs to focus on controlling these non-tuition expenses.  According the Center’s report, the average amount that students paid, after deducting scholarships and grants, increased by nearly $3,000, while net tuition prices grew by only about $1,000 during same period.  For two year colleges, the overall cost increased by $1,333, while net tuition prices fell to $849.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Demise of Borders Brings New Opportunities

“When there’s a massive transition in an industry, the strong players make it through to the other side,” explains David A. Schick, a retail analyst who covers booksellers for Stifel Nicolaus Equity Research. “What gets caught up in the change are the weaker players.”

This is a quote from Bloomberg Businessweek article from 11/10, “The End of Borders and the Future of Books.”  The story covers the demise of Borders and the rise of small independent bookstores.  These new community minded stores are filling the void left behind by Boders bankruptcy.

In November, 16, 20011 NY Times there is an article, “Novelist Fights the Tide by Opening a Bookstore” that gives several other examples of smaller sleek bookstores popping up in areas where Borders once existed.

Could this be an opportunity for campus stores as well?  Is there room for campus stores to provide unmet need in their communities?  Are stores thinking about whether there is a void left by the demise of Borders in their area and can they fill that void? 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A University in Mexico Offers Free Course Materials Online

The Chronicle reports that the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) will make virtually all of its publications, databases, and course materials freely available on the Internet over the next few years.

According to the article, UNAM, Mexico's largest university, said the program, known as All of UNAM Online, could double or triple the institution's 3.5 million publicly available Web pages, as the largest collection of its kind in Latin America.  It also says that it would include all magazines and periodicals published by UNAM, and, if negotiations with outside publishers went well, all research published by UNAM employees.  The university would provide online access to all theses and dissertations as well as materials for its approximately 300 undergraduate and graduate courses, according to the story.

"If UNAM can do everything it proposes, this will be a very big step," said Carolina Rossini, the coordinator of the Open Education Resource Project, a program supported by the Open Society Institute to promote open access and open-educational resources in Brazil. "It will fulfill part of the public university's mission to benefit society beyond those who are enrolled or affiliated with the university."

Monday, November 21, 2011

TIPS on Promoting Digital Course Materials

This article is very relevant for campus stores if they are thinking of how to improve digital course materials sales.  The story is about Indie bookstores but the lessons are apropos to college stores as well.

Basically, the article recommends a multifaceted approach when it comes to promoting digital.  You should feature them in general and targeted electronic and print newsletters, advertise online and in-store, train staff, and “just be relentless.”

Some propose having at least one dedicated e-book answer guru and distributing their e-mail contact information to customers.   Campus stores can also do this so that there is one digital content reference expert in your store.  This person can set up regularly scheduled “Digital Therapy” classes for faculty and students where people can share their experiences and ask questions and discuss digital delivery and e-readers.

If you are planning an out-right digital “Go Digital” marketing campaign, the article suggests utilizing website promotions, e-newsletters with a “download the e-book” button, social media, QR codes on shelf-talkers, special events, and in-store signage.   To get the conversation started, one bookstore has bookmarks with big letter: ‘WE SELL E-BOOKS.”
The message from your actions will lead to faculty and staff awareness that the campus store can meet their e-book and digital course material needs.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Coolest QR Codes

CNN Money has an interesting story this week on companies that have taken QR codes beyond black and white to full color and beyond.  The story provides a collection of 23 QR codes that reflect brand as much as provide a link to relevant content.  As QR codes gain traction faster than the latest smartphone, perhaps it is time for more retailers and organizations to "think outside the QR-code box" and design codes that extend product brand or image. 

Among some of the companies using creative QR codes in the CNN story:  Gillette, Red Cross, Ralph Lauren, Macy's, True Blood (HBO), Time, and the Salvation Army.  The gallery is also worth looking at to see how some of these organizations use QR codes (i.e., what they direct the user to as a destination).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Washington State Program Creates Free Course Materials

The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) recently announced the launch of the Open Course Library.   According to the press release, the Open Course Library is a compilation of educational course materials for 42 of the state’s highest-enrolled college courses. They hope to reach 81 classes by 2013.   Materials will cost $30 or less per student and are available free online for use by any of the 34 public community and technical colleges, four year institutions and anyone else worldwide.
For faculty, the use of the Open Course Library is optional and many are moving towards adoption according to the SBCTC. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Princeton University Press Enters Digital Market with Princeton Shorts

The Chronicle reports that Princeton University Press will test the digital market with its Princeton Shorts.  Using its back list it will take excerpts and package them as e-books.  Running from 20 to 100 pages in length it will have a price range between 99 cents to $4.99 and unlike Kindle Singles, Princeton Shorts will not introduce new content instead it will take selections and place new titles on them, according to the story.  Douglas Armato, director of the University of Minnesota Press, called it "good, savvy publishing on Princeton's part." In an e-mail, he said he was "interested to hear what happens—particularly if the market for the 'shorts' turns out to be more classroom than general trade."

Monday, November 14, 2011

E-Book Consumers Loyal to E-Books

Book Industry Study Group’s recent on-going survey on Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading indicates consumers are showing increase devotion and approval of digital books.  According to BISG’s press release, “The e-book market is developing very fast, with consumer attitudes and behaviors changing over the course of months, rather than years,” said Angela Bole, BISG's Deputy Executive Director.  The press release also quotes Kelly Gallagher, Vice President of Publishing Services at Bowker who says,  “As e-books become the primary reading format for many consumers in the coming months and years, it will be essential for the publishing community to understand consumers’ individual preferences and desires in order to connect with them."

The press release reports that almost “50% of print book consumer who have also acquired an e-book in the past 18 months would wait up to three months for the e-book version of a book from a favorite author, rather than immediately read it in print.  A year ago, only 38% said they would wait this long.”

Here are the results taken directly from the press release:
·         “Power Buyers are spending more.  More than 46% of those who say they acquire e-books at least weekly (considered “Power Buyers” in this survey) report that they have increased their dollars spent for books in all formats, compared with 30.4% of all survey respondents. This statistic is important because Power Buyers have proven to be a bellwether of overall consumer behavior by three to six months.”

·         “Amazon momentum continues. Amazon.com continues to be the preferred source for e-book acquisition (holding steady at 70%) and e-book information (44%). Barnes & Noble comes in second at 26%, with Apple in third.  One to watch: libraries, which are on the upswing as a preferred source for e-book acquisition.”
·         “Satisfaction with e-reading devices is high. Seventy-five percent (75%) of respondents reported they are satisfied with their e-reading device, including more than 38% of respondents who reported being “very satisfied.” Less than 5% said they felt their e-reading device was not a good value for the money.”

·         “Many barriers to e-book reading are falling. Survey results indicate that concerns about e-book availability are diminishing.  And although the cost of e-reading devices remains a reported concern, the single most popular answer to the question of what hinders respondents from reading more e-books was “nothing” at 33% (up from 17.6% a year ago).”

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Price Comparison on Mobile Expected to Increase for the Holidays

Mobile Commerce Daily reports on Deloitte’s new annual survey showing that 59% of smartphone owners plan on using their devices for price comparison shopping during the holiday season.  While 44% percent of consumers who own smartphones  plan on using social media connections to seek out advice, discounts, and reviews. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

CourseSmart Integrates with BlackBoard

The Wall Street Journal reports that CourseSmart has developed a new integration platform to work seamlessly with Blackboard.  The single sign-on function allows students and faculty access to CourseSmart's digital course catalog by logging into the Blackboard Learn platform without having to sign into CourseSmart.  This means that faculty who are using Blackboard do not have to leave the platform and instead link required reading assignment, homework problems or other activities that exist in their digital course materials and share that information with their students.

The Blackboard Building Block for CourseSmart is free to higher education institutions, according to the article. Matthew Small, chief business officer at Blackboard says,  "The pilots we are currently running with CourseSmart as part of our signature partnership will continue to fuel this experience as they provide our clients with anytime, anywhere access to their digital course materials from any Web-enabled device, including mobile devices running on the iOS and Android(TM) OS platforms."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The First "Smartbook"

There is news that Atria Books plans to insert RFID chip in 1000 copies of the book THE IMPULSE ECONOMY: Understanding Mobile Shoppers and What Makes Them Buy, making it the first “smart book.”   The consumer's can tap their NFC enabled phone to the RFID sticker and the phone will automatically open the phone's mobile web browser on specific book-related content.

"Proximity marketing solutions like NFC will allow for seamless and frictionless interactive experience whether this is for interactive content on your phone or mobile wallet commerce opportunities," says Gary Schwartz, the author of THE IMPULSE ECONOMY. "This new breed of consumer is using the mobile phone in the physical store to select products, research purchases, and act on content."

Atria Books is an imprint of Simon & Schuster, a part of CBS Corporation.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Study Shows Increase In Mobile for Banking and Credit Card Services

A recent study by comScore reveals a rise in mobile usage for banking, credit card, and auto and property insurance services.

The study shows that 12.7 million mobile users used mobile banking, an increase of 45% from 2010.  For mobile credit card services there was an increase of 23% at 18.4 million mobile users.  Use of mobile for auto and property insurance services saw an increase of 19% with 7.2 million mobile users.

“The investments in mobile made by financial services institutions, along with the continued growth in smartphone adoption, have had a truly positive effect on the use of mobile financial services,” said Sarah Lenart, comScore vice president for Marketing Solutions. “New apps and mobile-enhanced sites have made it easier for customers to seek out financial information using mobile devices. With tablets and other web-enabled connected devices gaining popularity in addition to smartphones, financial service institutions are poised for additional growth in mobile access.”

This is an important trend to keep an eye on since mobile will be an expected service in many industries especially for college bound students who as we know use mobile all the time.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Copyright Office's Priorities for 2011-2013

The United States Copyright Office released a report on the Office’s priorities and focus subject areas for the over next two years with respect to copyright policy and administrative practice and a series of new projects designed to improve the quality and efficiency of its services in the twenty-first century.   The Office’s policy priorities for the next 24 months are as follows, subject to new developments in the United States and abroad.  Some of the notable items, according to the Register, includes streamlining litigation, perhaps even a recommendation for a special venue for copyright litigation, Orphan Works, and Library exemptions.

Small claims solutions for copyright owners
Legal treatment of pre-1972 sound recordings
Mass book digitization

Rogue websites
Illegal streaming
Public performance right in sound recordings
Orphan works
Copyright exceptions for libraries
Market-based licensing for cable an d satellite retransmission

World intellectual property organization (wipo)
Trans-pacific partnership and other trade priorities

Priorities in Administrative law Practice
Prohibition on circumvention of measures controlling access to copyrighted works
Electronic system for the designation of agents under the dmca
Review of group registration options
Registration options for websites and other forms of digital authorship
Electronic administration of the statutory licenses
Recording notices of termination of copyright transfers

Special Projects
Study of fees and services
Revision of the compendium of copyright office practices
Technical upgrades to electronic registration
Dialogues and roundtables with copyright community
Research partnerships with academic community
Revision of copyright office website
Public outreach and copyright education
Business process reengineering of recordation division
Public access to historical records
Skills training for copyright office staff

Monday, November 7, 2011

Local libraries sell e-books too

A story from last month discussed a new offering that would allow local libraries around the world to provide eBook catalogs to their patrons.  The new functionality would provide library visitors the ability to reference, browse, sample, and buy eBooks that are not available through the library system by linking them to national and local booksellers.

"Public libraries offer for lending a small fraction of publishers' ebook or audiobook catalogs," said Erica Lazzaro, OverDrive Director of Publisher Relations. This initiative "will take hundreds of thousands of early, midlist, and backlist eBook titles that are virtually invisible to library customers and present them for discovery. [It] will also enable for patrons who do not want to wait for popular titles to become available the option to immediately shop for it from a list of booksellers that support their local library."
With local libraries entering the retail ebook business, local booksellers will find themselves with even more competition.  The emphasis here is on future market share, to be sure, but it is a great example of the potential of emerging technologies can reshape entire industries.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

E-readers Get Heavier With More E-books- It's true

The Science section of the NY Times has a story that claims the more e-books you load on your Kindle the heavier it gets. Really, it’s true.   John Kubiatowicz, a computer scientist faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, explained that a Kindle with thousands of e-books weighs a billionth of a billionth of a gram more than a factory fresh Kindle.

Friday, November 4, 2011

New CDF digital format on the rise

From my archives of items to post:
According to  an article in the Library Journal earlier this year, there is a new digital format that will challenge the PDF. The CDF, or Computable Document Format, is a new standard that was released on July 21st by Wolfram Research, and it enables users to “interact with online documents, input their own data, and generate results, live.”

Comparatively, CDF allows interactivity and motion in a document, whereas in PDF, documents are static and unchangeable. CDF files behave more like apps than documents, and they allow users to make their own “knowledge apps”, of which more than 7,000 have already been created by researchers, educators, and students using an early version of CDF. CDF documents can currently be created using Mathematica 8 and distributed for free using the Wolfram CDF Player, which is required to view the CDF document. Currently, there is a beta CDF in an e-textbook currently on the market: Briggs/Cochran Calculus, and many other publishers are showing great interest in the technology. The CDF technology is on its way to changing the way that online documents and e-textbooks allow users to access, and interact with, information.

It will be interesting to see if this format can stand up to other developments, such as those around Epub3.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Follett Sees Growth in Both Rental and Digital

PR Newswire reports that Follett saved students close to $90 million in three months mainly due to their Rent-A-Text program.  According to the article, Follett textbook rentals doubled in 2011 compared to 2010 and expects to see saving of up to $200 million for the 2011-2012 academic calendar.  Follett also saw digital textbook sales double in 2011 compared to 2010.

We have heard other anecdotal information that digital sales, where the inventory option exists, doubled in sell-though this fall, growing from 2-3% up to 5-6%.  This data has not yet been verified or examined across a larger pool of stores. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Google eBooks come to College Stores

The Canadian Campus Retail Associates (CCRA) and Independent College Bookseller's Association (ICBA) announced this week that they have completed an agreement and integration with Google eBooks to distribute ebooks through college stores in Canada and shortly in the U.S.  This is similar the arrangement that the American Bookseller's Association (ABA) has with Google to distribute ebooks via Indie Commerce. This brings yet another option for college stores to provide customers with opportunities to discover, read and buy digital books on a range of devices and at competitive prices.   
Chris Tabor from the CCRA noted that "This is our first step with the potential of the Google ecosystems. Google is an incredible company to work with.  We learned a lot and are looking forward to more."

18 Canadian stores are participating in the initial launch, and other stores will begin to have access within the next 60 days.  Roughly 200 college stores are expected to be live with Google ebooks soon, as this service is offered to all CCRA and ICBA members, as well as stores currently participating in the Digital Content Platform initiative which is also co-sponsored by the two organizations.
Disclaimer:  Some folks who read this blog may know that NACS Media Solutions (NMS) did work with CCRA and ICBA on the digital content platform initiative and related pilots.  While we were aware of this pending development in advance from our prior participation, at this time NMS has no direct financial stake or active engagement in this initiative other than a sincere desire to see this initiative and others like it be successful within the college store industry.  Any questions about the current and upcoming offering should be directed to either CCRA or ICBA. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Blackboard Allows Sharing of Content

The Chronicle reports that Blackboard will add a “Share” button that will allow faculty to share course materials free and open to nonregistered students.  This is a big win for the Open Education Movement and for schools since they will  not be charged extra for additional viewing.  Blackboard’s “Share” initiative is partnering with Creative Commons where faculty will have the option to attach a Creative Commons license to the content.  Cable Green, director of global learning for Creative Commons, says his “goal is to have this kind of option in every commercial learning-management system and also open-source ones,” according to the article.