Monday, February 28, 2011

Libraries face new e-book business models

Business models for digital content and e-books are still evolving. It was interesting to see in last week's NYTimes a piece about how even libraries are still seeing the business models change. Interesting, because libraries, at least within the educational space, have been working with e-journals, e-books, and digital models for quite some time, relatively speaking. However, it seems that as e-books gain popularity and adoption, libraries are learning that the licensing of e-books for distribution is once again not the same as acquiring the physical copy.

The NYTimes piece describes a new business model that affects libraries that effectively "lend" ebooks to patrons. Under the new model, libraries will be limited on the total number of times an ebook can be lent, at which point the library must renew the licenses to permit further patron access. So much for e-books being cheaper or building a permanent digital collection the way a physical book collection might have been cultivated in the past.

The restrictions on library lending demonstrates some of the deeper implications that might play out in the future world of digital content. We (whether consumers or even libraries) may never "own" our content again. Instead each acquisition of content will be governed by a complex subscription model that may cause our book to 'go away' when certain conditions are reached. It reminds me of an incident a year or so ago when a company with an e-reader device withdrew access to content individuals had "purchased" when the licensing rights changed. What does the change in ownership models mean for how we view knowledge -- and for how eventually governments or other entitites could control what content we can see or access? Suddenly Fareinheit 451 seems a little less like science fiction.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

CAMEX 2011 continues...

For the past few days, I have been at CAMEX. Yesterday wrapped up the educational sessions -- there were some great sessions and speakers. The next few days of CAMEX will be focused more on the trade show. Among the educational sessions there were a number related to digital this year -- sending many of the same messages we are hearing in the publishing conferences. Digital is coming (if not already here) and stores must work together as a channel. More of the sessions provided stores with specific action items to think about -- with developing strategy (and some suggestions on how to do so) a core underlying theme.

In the next few weeks I will have some follow-up postings from CAMEX -- talking about certain sessions, for example. In addition, in my session this year, one of the things I did was ask participants to write down questions they had which they would like answered. Over the next few weeks, I will have several postings that respond to some of these questions from bookstores about digital, so please look forward to those. The first one will likly appear in the middle to end of the upcoming week.

To the readers of this blog, if you have questions you would like me to address, please submit them along or drop me a note and I will include those in the list for response. Thank you again for your continued attention to the CITE.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

BookRenter Becoming Bigger Player in Textbook Rentals

Textbook rentals are big business on campus and BookRenter is upping the ante. TechCrunch reports that the Sunnyvale, CA, firm has raised $40 million in investment capital to help it add resources and products.

BookRenter’s strategy is to partner with college bookstores and provide an automatic platform for content distribution. To date, the firm is the official rental platform for 560 college stores in the U.S. and is expected to report revenues of $20 million-$50 million in 2010. But it still trails, which projects revenues of $130 million for 2010, by a substantial margin.

The infusion of new capital should help BookRenter give the bigger firm a run for its money.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Survey Says Students Would Like More Digital Tools

A recent national survey has concluded students are looking for more classroom technology to help them deal with the many demands on their time. The study, Instructors and Students Technology Use, Engagement and Learning Outcomes, found that more than 70% of students would like to see more technology-related options at their disposal.

The survey, conducted last December by higher education research firm Eduventures and Cengage Learning, reports that 71% of students employed full-time and 77% of students working part-time would like more technology-based tools available to them help them manage their studies. In contrast, only 58% of participating instructors said they preferred teaching courses that used more technology.

Ken Baldauf, director of interdisciplinary computing at Florida State University, sees this as an opportunity for instructors to take advantage of all the resources available online. Baldauf adds that using online platforms or learning management systems will be key in meeting the technology preferences of students.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Kno for Sale?

It appears that Kno, which last year unveiled eponymous single- and dual-screen tablets designed specifically for the education market, is exploring selling off the hardware side of its business. According to this All Things Digital post, the abruptly crowded tablet market—with more than 80 such devices released or announced at CES 2011 in January—convinced Kno execs to tilt all the company’s focus toward its software and services rather than actual devices.

Kno is said to have two consumer electronics manufacturers interested in its hardware business. Although the Kno touchscreen tablets were slated for release toward the end of 2010, only a few hundred preorders were actually filled before Kno recently ceased shipping. The company [ web site states, “You now need an invitation to get a Kno. There aren’t enough to go around.”

The devices’ price tag of $599 for the single-screen and $999 for the dual-screen had raised some doubts about their viability for the higher ed market, so it will be interesting to see what a buyer does with the hardware.

Once any sale is complete, Kno would reportedly use its software, which includes annotation and highlighting capabilities, to serve students via the iPad and tablets employing the Android mobile OS. The company has a “wide range” of existing textbook distribution partnerships with colleges and universities upon which to build, and one of its founders Osman Rashid, co-founder of the textbook-rental company Chegg.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Forum Sees Open Textbooks on a Roll

“Open textbooks are really becoming an imperative. There’s no stopping this momentum.” That was the assessment of Gary Malkin, dean of continuing education, distance learning, and summer session, University of California Irvine, and host of UCI’s Open Textbook Forum on Jan. 26.

The 90-minute forum, captured on video, gave an overview of open course materials to an informal group of educators and administrators. According to Malkin, UCI began building its open courseware site in 2002 and now its academic senate actively encourages faculty to use open materials as much as possible. Some 50 faculty members have contributed so far.

Among the more interesting presentations came from one of those professors. Michael Dennin, who teaches physics, noted that the existence of an alternative to traditionally published textbooks has made faculty more sensitive to what students have to pay for books. And they’re also considering how students will actually use the assigned texts. “Are you going to charge $200 for basically a set of homework problems?” he asked.

In Dennin’s view, open courseware also forces “us to rethink our role as educators” and find ways to bring more value to the course. At the same time, there are considerable challenges—especially the time to assemble materials. Dennin noted he was supposed to turn in a book manuscript for a graduate-level physics book four years ago, and he’s still not done. He and a group of colleagues loved the idea of collaborating on a wiki book, but realized they simply wouldn’t have time.

On the other hand, a presentation by Stephen Carter from MIT’s famed open courseware program, emphasized the benefits to students go beyond reducing costs. Carter said the program has enabled MIT, which has no branch or satellite campuses, to engage with people around the world. Some 93% of MIT’s undergraduates and 85% of graduate students use the open materials.

Carter said it’s also been a great recruiting tool for MIT, (although presumably that advantage will wane as more universities build their own open-source libraries).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

E-Books and DRM

Electronic books are easy to use and to buy, but problems arise from incompatible formats in digital rights management technologies and the difficulty in organizing purchased titles. Converting titles to PDF files are often clumsy and the popular ePub format really doesn’t yet allow for seemless cross-platform support to go from one manufacturer’s electronic reader to another. Many devices have versions of ePub files "optimized" for their device. Furthermore, the challenges of understanding the varying forms of DRM is a current weakness of much of the digital course materials market, and further complicates the purchase process for students.

A new study from ABI Research points out that being able to buy content from any source, regardless of the device being used, will drive the digital publishing industry. It could become a concern for the college store trying to provide its customers with a variety of devices for sale. Even the apps created to allow readers to buy on different devices require the appropriate software to read the what they bought.

The ABI Research study suggests consumers need the flexibility to shop at different e-bookstores, just like they do at any other retailer. It also points to the need for consumers to be able to see the titles they’ve purchased in unified fashion on a phone, tablet, a laptop, or PC.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

e-books turn 40!

The saying that "Sometimes it takes a long time for change to happen quickly" might best be characterized by the ebook, which turns 40 this year. A great example of how sometimes an innovation is not a bad idea, it just takes a while for the right set of enabling factors to be in place for the technology to gain acceptance or adoption in the marketplace.

Anyway, for an interesting read on the history of the ebook, check out the history page on ebookweek. Note that the next national "Read and ebook week" is coming up on March 6-12, 2011.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Young Readers Starting to Become E-Readers

There have been a number of studies showing that college students continue to prefer using printed books when taking a class, including one from OnCampus Research. However, the OnCampus Research study also added it was a trend that may not last long as younger readers begin to get more familiar with using electronic readers.

Now, the New York Times is reporting that publishers are seeing increases in sales of children’s and young adult e-titles. The article provides details from both HarperCollins and St. Martin’s Press that show jumps in digital sales of young-adults e-books in just the first month of 2011.

One possible explanation for the increase is that price drops in the electronic devices made them attractive for younger readers last Christmas. The Times also suggests K-12 teachers may be getting reports that some K-12 teachers are beginning to allow leisure reading on the devices during homeroom or in English classes.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mobile Devices Top Trend in Higher Ed Again

Maybe prognosticators figure if they say mobile devices will transform education enough times, it will be so. Or perhaps the 2011 Horizon Report lists it as a game-changer for education for the third straight year because the change will come as users continue to find more ways to utilize their smartphones and now tablets.

The report, from the New Media Consortium and Educause, does note that higher education continues to drag its feet in using mobile technology. It also suggests that use of electronic books will be the trend most likely to affect higher education in the coming year because the issues surrounding academic titles—availability, restrictive publishing models, and rights issues—are being resolved.

The new trends ready to become part of the conversation in the next five years are game-based learning and learning analytics, according to the report. Game-playing offers ways to develop decision-making and problem-solving, as well as using embedded educational content to enhance learning, while learning analytics will allow instructors to tailor courses for each student’s needs and gauge how well students are learning.

The New Media Consortium also designed a social media site to access the materials experts looked at in preparing the report.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Future of e-books or e-textbooks on college campuses

Recently there was a posting on the NACAS listserv that essentially asked the following:

I have been reading and seeing a lot of articles lately regarding the perceived or not, influx of e-books and how they may or may not change the way we handle our textbook business on campus. We are looking at a 5 year plan for our bookstore, and the shift to e-books and increasing textbook rentals seems to be a reoccurring theme.
I am curious how other campuses are looking at e-books and what effect they may have on your bookstore and your students over the next 2, 5, 8, 10 years. If anyone has any thoughts or a crystal ball that might help us shed some light on this vague but fast changing trend, I would appreciate hearing them.
I have some of my thoughts on the topic, but Jeff Nelson from BGSU posted a great response to the inquiry. I have included most of that here with Jeff's permission. Jeff has been very active as a channel steward for the industry, helping other constituencies better understand the realities around textbooks and the college store. This is another example of his thoughtful approach to the topic. Thanks, Jeff!

BTW -- I inserted some of my comments inline to Jeff's [MN:] in a few points.

A crystal ball would be nice, but I can at least offer some insight since I can't predict the future, at least not with any precision. One of the first observations I can make is that there is more hype over ebooks than there is actual impact, at least for today.

It is important to understand that eTextbooks can be very different than the type of eBook you might download to a Kindle. The availability of eTextbooks is still relatively limited, whereas most novels or other contemporary "pleasure reading" books are now automatically made available in electronic form. For example, at BGSU we provide eTextbooks as an alternative to the printed book whenever they are available and that represented only 11% of the book list for the spring semester.

[MN: I agree with this public misperception. Average we see is about 10%, with ranges from 5% to 17% depending on the type of school and particular faculty content choices. Inventory availability is still a barrier, even though that is changing. While most of the largest textbook adoptions nationally might be available in digital formats, most adoptions in general are not. In other words, for most college campuses, on average about 90% of the titles selected by faculty do not have a digital option available yet.]

Another misperception is that not all eTextbooks are created equal for many reasons. Most consumers don't realize that a textbook can have many copyright holders and not all of those copyrights permit electronic distribution. So every chart, graph or photograph can be a different copyright holder and if permission to distribute electronically is not granted, that ebook may have a "placeholder" that states the illustration isn't available. And many of the eTextbook titles are simply a PDF-type version of the printed book and have limited functionality which depends upon the eBook reader software, as opposed to being "digital native" where you can have more robust content and interaction.

The hardware options can also have an effect upon the adoption. Because there is not a well-defined eTextbook device yet (like a Kindle), the students will typically use a laptop or desktop to either download the book to the computer or access it via the internet which requires network connectivity. Our CIO expects "tablets" (think iPad) to have a 40% penetration this fall and that could have a big effect on eTextbooks.

[MN: Wow. 40%? That would be a scary adoption rate. Nationally we saw 8% this past fall, and anticipate maybe 15% this spring (currently collecting data). 40% by fall seems agressive to me, but possible (and scary). Laptops are still the predominant tool students use to download digital course materials.

Another challenge though is availability of content per device. Consider this: ebooks are currently available in the following formats (at a minimum): .Lit, .mobi, AZW, PDB, FB2, PDF, RTF, BBeB, EPUB, HTML, RB, CHM, and OEB. DRM standards include: MS Reader, Adobe Adept, eReader, Mobi, Apple FairPlay, DNL, and several others. The buying decision for students to know what they are getting when they buy a particular digital book requires more education than buying a print book. Not all digital files are created equal.]

Finally, there is the price and this area is the subject of many debates. We all know the traditional printed new textbooks can be very expensive. If the average savings for an electronic version of that same book is 50%, it may sound like a good deal. However, we consider what I call the "net cost of ownership" which factors in the upfront cost and the resale value.

Let me give an example of how the pricing works. If a new textbook is $100 and it is reordered for the following term, the student can usually sell it back at the end of the term for $50 (or more online) and that brings the net cost down to $50, about the same as an eBook. Not only can eTextbooks not be sold back, many have a license that expires after one or two semesters, unlike the book you buy for your Kindle which is yours for life.

So, how does this compare to other alternatives? If the same student above bought the printed book as a used book, they would probably pay $75 (maybe less on the internet) and could get the same amount at the end of the term, bringing their net cost down to just $25. If they rented that book, they would have received the savings up front and paid a net cost of about $40, but still need to turn it in at the end.

So, that is the current landscape, but let me give you some hard numbers. Although 11% of the BGSU book list is available in electronic form, ebooks represented just 0.1% for this past fiscal year and we have been selling ebooks since 2005. That quadrupled for the spring semester to 0.4%, but a fourfold increase of a very small number is still a very small number. Contrast that with rental textbooks which represented just 0.3% of sales for last year, but increased to 7.4% of sales for the spring semester. The rental results may not be typical because we took a very aggressive position for the spring because of increasing competition.

I"m not sure anyone really knows when eTextbooks will take off, but it is safe to say that they will at some point in the future. It isn't unusual for technology trends to double, then double again and continue until there is a wide adoption which means it could happen very fast. For this reason, it is very important for college stores to be "in the game" and selling ebooks. Even if the penetration is not there today, it will be in the future once the stars align and so we need to be ready.

[MRN: Also, the titles where adoption is likely to happen the fastest are in the large-adoption areas, creating a disproportionate effect. This is one reason the rental number shift had such a big impact in a short time as that model matured quickly.]

We are also watching related technology trends closely and have expanded our technology presence significantly in terms of selling the devices that may empower students to more readily adopt ebooks. All it takes is one game changing move like Apple expanding the iBookstore to include eTextbooks and the landscape can change amazingly fast. Right now the rage is rental textbooks, but that can change.

The final comment I will make is that the suggestion made by another member to conduct some research is a solid idea and if it can be expanded to include rental textbooks, that would be even better. Because I am passionate about the topic of "textbook affordability" I follow these topics closely, but I have more questions than I do answers.

I know this is a lot to think about, but I hope the readers of this thread will find it useful information. As I said, it represents the experience we have had at our institution, but that is not necessarily indicative of the entire collegiate retail industry.
Lots to think about -- but a good perspective in the store voice.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Interesting new video

Here is an interesting video from MBS Direct / Xplana that is worth viewing. It reminds me of some of the Michael Wesch videos in some ways. Great piece on students, social networking, and technology. I would like to know the source of some of the stats, unfortunately, none of the stats in the video are cited that I saw. Good video though -- definitely worth a watch. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Kindle Adding Page Numbers, Note-Sharing

Kindles may soon be sporting some new features that address short-comings raised by the higher education market. According to Amazon's recent posting on the Kindle Daily Post blog, software updates for the Kindle and Kindle 3G will enable e-books to display page numbers that correspond to the same pages in the print edition of the book.

That may seem like a relatively minor improvement to some, but higher-ed researchers need to be able to provide publication pages when they cite sources for a paper or book. Right now they can’t do that with an e-book.

Even more importantly, the page numbering feature may make the Kindle more attractive for classroom use. Some college bookstores have reported their professors asked them not to make e-books available for their textbook adoptions because the lack of page numbers creates problems in making sure the class is literally on the same page. With the updated Kindle, students could use either print or e-book versions and remain in sync, page-wise.

As another new feature, the Kindle upgrade will also allow users to share their book annotations and highlights with other Kindle users.


Additional commentary:

I once read that page numbers did not emerge as a concept in printed books until about 40 years after the printing press had become commercially viable. At the time, it was the scholarly community who identified the need. While Amazon's page numbering development has already been accomplished by others in the space, the development does signal two things. First, that we will continue to adapt current and new technologies to past ways of doing things. Perhaps there is a better way to cite a reference than the print-page equivalent. Second, it seems that Amazon is working to address short-comings in the Kindle identified by the higher ed market, and so they may still have plans in the work for a new reader or other technology that will support textbook users in the future.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

E-tailers Ready to Increase Tech Budgets

Online retailers are making plans to increase their technology budgets this year, according to Forrester Research’s 2011 Online Retail Technology Investment Outlook, which polled 63 U.S. e-tailers about their technology investment priorities for the year.

Integration with back-end systems for order management and accounting systems was the leading priority, up to 63.5% from 31.6% a year ago. More than half of the respondents are considering investment in mobile commerce, while another 24% plan to upgrade their e-commerce platforms in the next 18 months.

Site usability and design are another area of importance, with 70% of the e-tailers responding saying it will be an area of concern for 2011.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Apple Keeps Grip on App Store Purchases

The New York Times’ report that Apple declined to approve the Sony Reader e-book app because in-app sales wouldn’t go through Apple sparked much hand-wringing in tech circles. Many felt Apple’s move would encompass not only the Sony Reader app, but also Kindle and Nook apps for the iPad, iPhone, and the iPod touch.

Then, blogger John Paczkowski of the Wall Street Journal reported an official statement from Apple claiming no change has been made to its guidelines for developers, but that it will now require apps to offer customers the ability to purchase items both outside the app and within the app.

The change is already in place for customers who buy through iTunes, allowing Apple to earn a cut for facilitating the purchase without forcing all content to be bought through iTunes. This means Amazon, for instance, can still sell content through its web site or Kindle device, but iOS Kindle app users will have to sync purchases to their iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad and Apple will get a cut of the proceeds.

The question now is how will Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Sony respond? It’d be hard for a company such as Amazon to back away from the iOS platform now, particularly with its “Buy Once, Read Everywhere” promotional campaign. It would also be difficult to build a new sales site that allows customers to buy both from Apple and Amazon, or from Apple alone.

Sony posted a note on its web site saying it’s trying to find other ways to work with Apple, including avoiding the App Store commission altogether.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Initial College Evaluation of iPad Favorable

Reed College, Portland, OR, was among seven institutions nationwide to participate in the Amazon Kindle DX pilot program in 2009 that found the device didn’t meet “the needs of higher education in terms of being an alternative to paper.” Martin Ringle, the school’s chief technology officer, then put the Apple iPad through the same paces and found quite a difference, as noted in this Campus Technology piece.

Ringle and his team at Reed College are preparing a white paper detailing their results, including a test to measure the level of distraction from the iPad compared to a laptop or desktop computer. Since the 1960s, Reed has had a strong reputation for adopting technology after careful analysis, so its findings carry some weight around the nation.

The college isn’t yet ready to make every student come to class with an iPad, but is working on getting more input from faculty and students. After that, it plans to look into cloud computing using the same step-by-step approach.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Whither Print Communication?

The following article appeared in the January 2011 MACS Newsletter -- page 10. It is short and worth sharing. Reprinted here with permission from the newsletter and author. Also, Peter suggested that as a postscript, I note the recent news published in many locations that ebook sales have now surpassed paperback book sales. Amazon sold 115 ebooks last year for every 100 paperback books, and 3 times as many ebooks as hardbacks. That is total for the year, not just Q4.


By Dr. Peter Mires
Manager, Delaware Tech, Georgetown Campus

We‘ve been hearing for some time now about the decline and demise of the printed word. Newspaper circulations are dropping to unsustainable levels, e-book sales at Amazon have eclipsed their hardcover list, and even some school libraries, such as Cushing Academy, a private prep school in the Boston area, have gone digital.

Digital delivery makes sense for many reasons, not the least of which is cost. After all, who buys print reference ma-terials such as encyclopedias, atlases, and almanacs anymore? This information is available online. Aside from arguments that Internet sites have issues of ques-tionable authenticity and ―inappropriate‖ sites abound, educators know that excel-lent databases (e.g., Tennessee Elec-tronic Library, EBSCOhost) are out there.

Those of us in the college store industry are aware of this trend. You‘ve proba-bly seen scenarios like online access codes, which used to be considered an-cillary, replace textbooks, or instructors put more material on e-learning plat-forms like Blackboard. Doubtless these and other changes have you wondering about the future of your store and how to adapt.

Allow me to relate a personal experi-ence. I recently published a print-on-demand book (entitled Bayou Built: The Legacy of Louisiana’s Historic Architecture), which is available in both print and digi-tal formats. The digital version is 37 percent less expensive and my royalty is 40 percent greater. The reason is sim-ple: there are no associated printing, shipping, and handling costs.

I confess that I don‘t own an e-reader, like Amazon‘s Kindle or Barnes & No-ble‘s Nook, preferring instead to hold an actual book. Call me old school, Lud-dite, or what have you, but I‘m able to separate trend from tradition. Like it or not, the printed page is for the most part obsolete; it will eventually go the way of my Olympia manual typewriter. I have fond memories of pulling ―all-nighters‖ in college hammering out papers on that durable device, but the writing, so to speak, was on the wall in the early 1980s when personal computers became widely available.

Textbooks, the traditional bread-and-butter of the college bookstore, are go-ing digital. Everyone seems to agree that our bi-annual book rushes will no longer be synonymous with trucks ap-pearing at our loading docks with pallets of boxes. The college bookstore of the foreseeable future is increasingly partici-patory in e-commerce.

It is not without a tinge of sadness or nostalgia that I witness this transition. But, who among us would type when the rest of the world is keyboarding?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Store Options with a changing distribution chain

There was a good piece in the MACS 2011 newsletter on the "truth about course materials" and how stores can remain a part of the distribution chain written by Allyson Manet from Cengage. As stores see shifts away from traditional media and channels to new products and approaches, Allyson suggests some strategies to move stores towards competing better with online competition.

While she does not say it directly, part of the implied message is that booksellers must look above the day-to-day activities of store operations to think strategically about their present and their future. I once heard this referred to as the "tyranny of the tactical," but thinking strategically is critically important for the survival of an organization in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Among Allyson's more direct suggestions to stores are:

1. Be comprehensive -- serving as a reliable aggregator of course materials information is one of the core advantages for most stores. If students require something to be successful in the classroom, you should be able to provide it.

2. Be Reliable -- ensure that what students get from your store is what they really need to be successful in the classroom. Allyson points to a recent NACS study that shows confidence that they are buying the right product ranks almost as high to students as price as they decide where to buy their course materials. Reliability is also a traditioanl core strength of campus stores.

3. Be Flexible -- students will search. You capture more sales when you make more options available. Rental and e-books are no longer an option. At the same time, using price comparison is essential, because students will do that anyway and lack of transparency on the part of the store both erodes trust and pushes customers to look elsewhere before they make their buying decision. At that point you must work to get them back. Flexibility is a core strength that stores need to embed within their DNA.

4. Be Noticeable -- many students are not aware of the options stores provide. One NACS study found that nearly half of students did not know if the campus store provided e-books or not. Stores cannot assume awareness on the part of students or faculty in terms of the services they provide or the benefits they return to the student and institutional community. Stores must be increasingly proactive in their marketing communications and conduct awareness campaigns.

Monday, February 7, 2011

POD v offset and the relation to inventory

E-read had a good piece recently asking the question, are PODs ebooks? With more stores and libraries engaging in print-on-demand (POD) activity, there may be some interest in the perspective and few data points presented.

The piece has a good contrast and comparison between offset printing (characterized as an approach of the past) and POD (characterized as an approach for the future). And it includes links to a two part discussion on "a future without inventory" that is also worth reading. (See Part 1 and Part 2).

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Book recommendation

As I have done occasionally in the past, in the year ahead I will try to include some book recommendations for those of us in the book business. I will admit in advance that many of these are going to deal with innovation or competing changing markets.

My first book recommendation is Practically Radical by William C. Taylor, co-founder of Fast Company magazine. The book is about fixing what is wrong with our organizations -- and if you are in an established, mature business where you are still doing things the way you have always done them -- odds are pretty good that there are few things ripe for fixing. There is an old Japanese saying I always liked that goes something like, "There is nothing so good that it can't be improved." The book is about thinking ahead, renewal, and inspiring creativity. In an article about his book Taylor writes about 10 questions every game changer must answer. (And who in our business cannot afford to be a game changer at some level these days?) I will list the 10 questions here, as I think they are good ones to think about, and will encourage you to read the article to learn more. I have created some additions/edits to the questions in brackets.

1. Do you see opportunities the competition doesn't see? [And what opportunities does your competition see that you don't?]

2. Do you have new ideas about where to look for new ideas?

3. Are you the most of anything? [Sort of the "Good-to-Great question -- have you settled for mediocrity or do you strive for excellence?]

4. If your company went out of business tomorrow, who would miss you and why?

5. Have you figured out how your organization's history can help to shape its future? [Reminds me of the question -- do you know what business you are really in? Hint: It is not selling books.]

6. Do you have customers who can't live without you? [He notes: if they can, they probably will.]

7. Do your people care more than the competition?

8. Are you getting the best contributions from the most people?

9. Are you consistent in your commitment to change?

10. Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

PDF security weakness noted

Given that many e-textbooks are still distributed in a .pdf format, or given that according to a recent BISG study as many as 40% of students pirate their textbooks (or have friends that do), the following recent news piece should give some pause to students acquiring textbooks in .pdf formats, and the publishers who produce them.

A MSNBC story reports that PDFs are now the number one vehicle for for web-based attacks. The story notes that currently e-readers are safe but that could change as more content moves to those devices and the devices take on more processing and multi-function capability (like the iPad and other tablets). Students should watch to make sure that textbooks they acquire in pdf format come from trusted sources, as the article notes that "spear-phishing" (targeted and personal attacks to a user from a known source) are a common method used in some of the .pdf-related malicious attacks.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Google and the e-book/e-reader market

Expectations that Google will soon enter the tablet and e-reader space continue. The company's recent acquisition of EBook Technologies fuels this speculation, as noted in one article that details the acquisition. Google's ebookstore, their recent partnership with the ABA, and other initiatives to help make local book retailers more visible in searches, suggest that Google could be a friend to book retailers in a way other large online sources for books are not. There is an opportunity here for retailers to capitalize on what Google could do for them to both retain and regain market share.

The question will be, perhaps, whether booksellers enamored of older print technologies will be nimble and open enough to take advantage of some of the opportunities presented by new technologies -- or if they will buy into the conventional wisdom that the local bookseller will go the way of the local music store. As one of my colleagues in the bookstore industry is fond of saying, "Some folks will drown because when you throw them a life preserver they want one that is square or blue, rather than the one that you are throwing them that happens to be round or yellow."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Students prefer print to digital

Yet another study found that roughly 75% of students prefer print to digital. The recent BISG study, Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education, mirrors similar earlier findings by both the Student PIRGs and NACS. The NACS data went beyond this particular finding to ask if student preference for print over digital was their primary reason not to buy digital. The NACS data saw a significant shift in recent years away from this preference being the primary reason not to buy -- with the availability of digital inventory and faculty preference and usage of print over digital quickly growing among the top reasons why students choose to buy print over digital.

Among other interesting stats from the BISG study 60% of students say they place a high value on their textbooks, and roughly 65% of those are still buying their textbooks from the college store. While promising, this does suggest significant loss of market share among college stores over the past decade. In fact the BISG study found that 20% of students are buying their textbooks from, and more than 40% said they bought a textbook from a pirate site or know others who have. Price and convenience are key drivers in this shift -- similar to the factors that initially stimulated piracy in the music industry.

Regardless, these data points should be leading collegiate retailers to ask some tough questions about their product mix, the return of revenues, market share retention, and how they compete online.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ebooks by the numbers...

Some of the interesting stats in this month's Book Business Magazine:

  • A study by Bain & Co. study concluded that the publishing industry will make a smoother transition to digital than the music industry did. It found that most digital readers are willing to pay for their digital content, perhaps discounting fears around content piracy. The study predicted that approximately 15-25 percent of book sales would be in digital formats by 2014, which is consistent with other projections in narrower college store market as well.
  • Roughly 64% of publishers are now offering content in e-book or other digital formats, up 11% from the prior year according to a study by Aptara. However, nearly two thirds of those publishers do not know how to calculate the ROI of their e-book initiatives. E-reader/content compatibility is ranked as the top challenge for publishers.
  • Finally, mobile advertising is expected to grow past US$2B this year, with Google currently controlling roughly 59% of that space.

The question for retailers regarding whether or not digital matters seems to be less of the question these days. Just as sales are now moving beyond just being online, to being online and mobile. This, of course, has implications for institutions, students, and others as content begins to not only shift to digital, but also shift to increasingly mobile platforms.

Update on Kno and Other Tablets

The School Library Journal had a recap and video clip from CES this year focused on the Kno. The Kno was unveiled last year as a tablet designed specifically for education. Initially something of a disappointment, the company has come a long way. Kno is a spin-out of Chegg, the textbook rental company. While textbook rentals have existed on a number of college campuses for more than 40 years, it is really Chegg's entry to the market less than 3 years ago which has led to the dramatic adoption of rental as a standard business model across the U.S. textbook market. With preliminary content from some of the largest textbook publishers, it will be interesting to watch where Kno goes in the coming year and how the company will chose to work with educational institutions and the college store community. The School Library Journal provides some additional updates on the device.

The journal also has another story on tablets and CES this month. The piece covers a range of the devices and discusses their implications for education and text.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

January EBook Recap

Teleread's list of "what has happened in ebooks" this month has some interesting links, stats and topics. It is a great, short list with a range of interesting links and updates.

Publishers optimistic about year ahead

According to this month's edition of Book Business Magazine publishers expect the online retail channel for books to continue to expand this year for both print and digital. Brick-and-morter booksellers are perceived to be at something of a disadvantage as we pass the point where over half of all books are now sold online. At least one of the publishers within the educational space reported that as much as 45-56 percent of their revenue now comes from digital products (including journals and other products beyond textbooks, but even the latter has seen growth). There seems to be a consistent view forward that sales will be increasingly on mobile devices, and that digital content sales will grow rapidly, and will see the introduction of a number of new formats and variations, including more custom possibilities, over the next few years.

See the current issue for a range of other interesting stories.