Saturday, April 30, 2011

Everything Marketers Should Know About QR Codes

QR codes are all the rage in marketing these days. The two-dimensional bar codes store tons of marketing information, can be printed on nearly any kind of surface (think cake frosting and temporary tattoos), and, best of all, the tools needed to create and read them are free.

This article from lists 14 tools, tactics, and best practices marketers should know about QR codes to get started. The article has plenty of basic information about QR codes, along with links to the free code generators and readers.

Along with the helpful tools and information, the author provides a QR codes checklist and worksheet to help plan a QR marketing campaign.

Friday, April 29, 2011

CAMEX questions answered: DRM

Sorry for no posting of store questions last week, it has been a bit hectic here lately. Some exciting announcements are coming though!

This week's question from CAMEX relates to DRM or digital rights management.

Q. When is the contention about DRM going to be over, so more publishers will allow educational books in more digital devices, not just proprietary or computers?

Some publishers are already DRM friendly -- meaning they have done away with DRM. Look at the open source community, or O'Reilly Publishers as two great examples. This move among traditional publishers to "DRM free" is likely to be quite slow.

Some the constraints are not on the publisher side, but the device side, with proprietary content formats -- or expecting content to be optimized for the particular device. Such formats require publishers to put out content in "yet another format" which becomes increasingly difficult to manage, and has a number of costs. The move to common standards, like .epub3, will help with this problem.

Another approach we are seeing is a shift to more interactive content where "screen-scraping" and other approaches to lifting content result in content which is meaningless from the original. Such approaches changes the need for DRM. I have read or seen content and interesting approaches to this type of content distribution going on in Africa and other locations outside the US, so it is only a matter of time we see it here too.

DRM, however, is likely to be part of the landscape for a while. I would not expect the contention to die down much in the next few years. Maybe one day publishers will offer their textbooks for free, and generate revenue from all the value-added components and ancillaries that help with self-assessment, tutoring, or make the content come alive.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Video: IPads for Textbooks in Singapore

An interesting video detailing the adoption of iPads to replace textbooks at a school in Singapore:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Last Typewriter Manufacturer Closes

In yet another signal of change, on Monday The Atlantic reported on the last typewriter factory in the world closing its doors earlier this week. Many in the States might have thought that typewriters disappeared years ago -- not long after 8-track tapes. While still a booming business overseas up to a few years ago, in the past two decades the typewriter business has declined beyond the point of sustainability as computing -- and particularly mobile computing has spread rapidly around the globe.

The final manufacturer, Godrej and Boyce, has about 200 new units left in stock. Hurry now for this rapidly disappearing collector's item!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Textbook Costs Gone Wild

Sometimes, you just can’t make this stuff up...

College students always complain about the cost of textbooks, but imagine the howls if they had to shell out the eight-figure price for a single title that Michael Eisen wrote about in a recent blog post. The evolutionary biologist from the University of California, Berkleley, was searching for The Making of a Fly by Peter Lawrence when he found 17 used editions priced for less than $36 apeice—and two, unused copies of the out-of-print book listed at just over $1.7 million, and nearly $2.2 million, respecctively (not including shipping).

Thinking it had to be a computer glitch, he reloaded the page. When he did, the price had increased to nearly $2.8 million. He kept tabs on the title and saw it ended the day priced at more than $3.5 million.

Theorizing he was watching pricing algorithms gone wild, Eisen monitored the prices for more than a week, with the cheaper edition reaching $5.6 million and the more expensive title upward of $7.2 million. “Clearly at least one of the sellers was setting their price algorithmically in response to changes in the other’s price,” he observed.

Eisen concluded that pricing algorithms provide endless possibilities for mischief if no one is paying attention. In the case of The Making of a Fly, finally did catch the error and dropped the price to $106.23 and $134.97 respectively, spoiling all the fun.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The future of mobile technology

Great video news story on the BBC last week. BBC news unfortunately does not provide links for embedded video, and you will have to sit through a 15 second advert, but the 7 1/2 minute video is worth the wait.

The story focuses on Microsoft and Intel vs. mobile technology. There is an interesting technology concept twoard the end of the clip about the Motorola Atrix -- the concept being that in the future your full computing power could be in your smartphone, which can be plugged into a desktop/laptop-type docking station. There would be dual operating systems on the device to allow operation of either device platform, but all of your documents, content, books, work, etc., goes with you wherever you go. That presents some interesting implications and opportunities, and gives new meaning to the BYOC (bring your own computer) concept for both employees and students.

My favorite quote from the video appears early on, but is true for many retailers and probably much of higher education today:

History tells us that no matter who rules the world, if they fail to adapt they die out. If the environment changes, it is a case of evolve or be replaced by newer, more nimble creatures that are more suited to the changing conditions.

The story is referring to Microsoft and Intel, but if those companies are at risk in this technology revolution, what does that mean for small retailers and educational institutions that struggle to understand technology or decide when or if they should jump in?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The CITE added to Best Textbook Blogs

Thanks to for adding The CITE at the #5 spot on their list of 50 Noteworthy Textbook Blogs. The listing has a number of other great blogs on there -- some which we have featured here, and some which are new to me. It is a useful resource to check out (and I would say that even if we had not made the list).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

BGSU Open Source Textbook Webinar

Bowling Green State University (BGSU) hosted Eric Frank from Flat World for a presentation on textbook affordability and the open source textbook model. Here is the session description:

How can new open textbook models reduce costs by an average of 80% or more, keeping education accessible and affordable at a critical time in Ohio? Join us for this workshop, featuring Eric Frank, President and Co-Founder of Flat World Knowledge, as we discuss:

  • How we've reached the era of the $200 textbook: a look at the root causes

  • The impact of high prices on students including data on course completion rates

  • A survey of emerging solutions with a focus on open textbooks and case study of Flat World Knowledge

  • An overview of the partnership and pilot between the Ohio Board of Regents and Flat World Knowledge, including information for faculty interested in participating in the program.
WBGU recorded the broadcast “Textbook Affordability & Open Source Textbooks” event that was held yesterday and that archive video is available to the public for anyone who wasn’t able to participate directly.

Easiest access is via the BGSU Textbook Affordability web site and appears below.

Monday, April 18, 2011

iPads Making a Splash On Campus

The Apple iPad is making quite a splash on college campuses across the nation. Buena Vista University, Storm Lake, IA, plans to provide the tablet computer, along with a laptop computer, this fall, according to an article in Campus Technology.

“These are all important to effective learning, which is really the most important thing,” said Jamii Claiborne, assistant professor of media studies. “For students and faculty in media, the iPad means we can gather, create, edit, publish, promote, and then consume what we make—all from one small, mobile device. That’s exciting. Students and I have all been searching for relevant apps and telling each other about them. Together, as partners, we're figuring out how to use this new technology effectively.”

Then there’s experience at George Fox University, Newberg OR. The school, one of the first to provide students with laptop computers, jumped on the iPad bandwagon when the device hit the market last year. Now administrators there are ready to pull the plug on the program according to another Campus Technology article.

Students already show up on campus with smartphones in their hands and have begun to have table computers in their backpacks. So administrators at George Fox are looking at ending the giveaway program in favor of beefing up the school’s wireless network and to better accommodate the printing needs of the campus.

“Right now, we’re throwing tremendous amounts of resources into this whole idea of video management with the ultimate goal of developing more collaborative classrooms that are enabled with state-of-the-art technology,” said Greg Smith, chief information officer at the school.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Where ebook buyers live (in the US)

I have a fairly deep backlog (50+ items) to blog about, so today's post will come from that archive of interesting tidbits. A couple weeks ago there was an interesting posting on TeleRead on where e-book buyers live in the US. I thought this would make a nice light topic for a weekend post.

While the article points out the limitations to its method, as a baseline set of numbers it is somewhat interesting. Not surprisingly, the states with larger populations account for the largest number of ebook sales, with five states accounting for nearly a third of all ebook sales.

Top five states by percentage of total ebook sales: 1. TX 8.57%, 2. CA 7.99%, 3. NY 5.99%, 4. FL 5.93%, 5. PA 4.13%.

Bottom five states by percentage of total ebook sales: 46. ME 0.32%, 47. SD 0.29%, 48. DE 0.29%, 49. WY 0.26%, 50. VT 0.20%.

The District of Columbia ranked last at: 0.09%.

What is interesting is what happens to the rankings when the numbers are adjusted to a per-capita basis. The ratio tells us the propensity to buy e-books in those states. A ratio of 1.00 would be average. A person living in Alaska, with a ratio of 2.92, is nearly three times more likely to buy an ebook than a person in an average state. In contrast, someone in California (which has the second largest percentage of ebook sales) is about two-thirds as likely to buy an ebook as someone in an average state, and has the lowest e-reader rate per captia of any state.

Top five states by e-book per capita ratio: 1. AK 2.92, 2. ND 2.29, 3. UT 1.58, 4. WY 1.44, 5. VA 1.41.

Bottom five states by e-book per capita ratio: 46. HI 0.77, 47. WV 0.76, 48. ME 0.75, 49. MS 0.75, 50. CA 0.66.

Interestingly, as with ebook sales, DC falls well below the average with a per capita ratio of 0.46.

So what is happening in the U.S. Capitol? Would the stats look similar among other US cities? One theory why Alaska and North Dakota top the list might be the distance between cities or access to local bookstores. Anyway, it is some interesting analysis and as the original article suggests, it might be worth applying the original data set against other factors to see if there are other meaningful conclusions to draw. Perhaps that is a post for another weekend. :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Here is a new blog that recently came across my radar: Jeff Cohen has created an interesting blog that contains links to a range of articles relevant to the course materials industry. His weekly round-up of articles of relevance to the industry provides a great sorting and scan of industry developments -- definitely a must read. The textbookguru will join my blogroll here as a blog to follow.

Friday, April 15, 2011

CAMEX questions answered: ebook sales

Week 5 post-CAMEX, and there are still a number of questions to answer on different topics. This week I thought I would address a couple of questions related to selling e-books. Upcoming topics in the next few weeks include questions related to m-commerce, the digital content platform project, publisher relations, campus relations, and getting staff ready for change.

Q1. I have no POS, can I sell e-books?

No POS? That will limit your options, but not cut you out of the game. The real question is probably, do you have ecommerce capability? Even that might not be a show stopper. There are options for stores that will allow you to sell ebooks online, where there is no need to integrate to an in-store POS or an existing ecommerce system. For example, you could work with the ABA's Indie Commerce solution or NACSCORP's My Books & More program with Baker & Taylor. These solutions are really tailored for smaller stores without an extensive ecommerce or POS capability. B&N, Follett, MBS, and others all have virtual bookstore options that can sell e-books online as well.

Q2. What percent of a title is usually sold as an e-book?

That can vary greatly, depending on a variety of factors, such as: (a) the title; (b) the faculty member; (c) how the store educates the student about the purchase decision; (d) the price; (e) availability of other options (e.g., number of used books, rental option, etc.); (f) demographic profile of your students; (g) DRM applied to the text; and the list goes on.

All of that being said, average sell-though right now looks like about 2-3%. We have seen a number of examples well over 30%, and even a few over 90%, but those are still more of the exception. E-book title availability is mostly within the large adoptions, and we did hear from a few schools this semester where the faculty member switched to an open source textbook for a large adoption, thus having big pick-up in digital adoption and subsequent impact on sales. This dynamic should be considered in your contingency planning processes and is likely to increase in the coming years with the current emphasis and funding for open source textbooks.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Readum links Google Books and Facebook

"Why should we divide our friends and fellow readers up by the devices they use?” the founder asked in this article in Publishers Weekly. The Readum platform builds a connection betweeen Google Books and Facebook. Readum allows readers to make comments on specific paragraphs in their Google Books. Those comments are then posted to Facebook groups or their Facebook wall. The app also creates an individual page for the comments and pulls any book listed into their Facebook profile.

While not yet as far along as other social media experiments for books environments (like Copia) the tool has the same idea at its base -- enabling communities of conversation around digital books. One aspect of the Readum approach that I like is that they are actively working to demonstrate the "proof of concept" by utilizing existing social networks rather than trying to build their own. That enables a more coherent strategy and focused development around competencies. It will be interesting to watch where this project goes.

A short video on Readum appears below:

Readum from Travis Alber on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bleak Findings for Web Security in Symantec Report

The notion of web security is looking more like a contradiction in terms, according to the annual threat security report issued April 5 by Symantec. The report says daily web-based attacks increased 93% from 2009 to 2010 and that social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are particularly vulnerable.

Attackers use the popular social media sites to distribute malware because users trust messages they think are coming from friends. The Symantec report estimates that nearly 17% of all links posted to Facebook actually connect to malicious software. In addition, 65% of links that have used URL-shorteners were malicious—and 75% of those bad links were clicked on at least 11 times.

Mobile devices are not yet being targeted as often, but that could change soon as smartphones turn into electronic wallets with the use of near-field communications. This could prove a particularly troubling trend on college campuses as schools look for ways to make payment methods easier for students.

“The biggest issue right now is the false sentiment of security people have when using social networks or when installing smartphone apps,” says Catalin Cosoi, head of BitDefender’s Online Threat Labs, in an article for TechNewsWorld. “Since these services or devices are represented by known international institutions, they believe that they are safe.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Readum App Links Google E-Books to Facebook founder Travis Albers felt Google e-book readers needed to connect with their Facebook friends, so she’s providing a solution with the release of the new Readum social media application. The Readum app lets users of different e-reading platforms and devices add comments and notes to books in their Google e-book library and then post them to Facebook.

“Why should we divide our friends and fellow readers up by the devices they use?” the founder asked in this article in Publishers Weekly.

Readum allows readers to make comments on specific paragraphs in their books. Those comments are then posted to Facebook groups or their Facebook wall. The app also creates an individual page for the comments and pulls any book listed into their Facebook profile.

The app is limited to Facebook users at the moment, but Twitter support is planned, according to Aaron Miller of ReadSocial. Miller went on to say that by using ReadSocial API, developed by, developers and content providers will ultimately be able to tie any e-book to any social network or community.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Library study on student e-reader perceptions

A new preprint article is available from the Journal of Information Technology and Libraries. The article reports on a study by a librarian at Queens College (CUNY) on student usage of e-readers at the institution.

Not surprisingly, student uptake of devices is still low. This mirrors our data at NACS. As with other studies, the researcher found that students use the devices mostly for leisure reading, and prefer print for much of their reading. Price was noted as a primary barrier to getting an ereader device. Interestingly, students expressed little interest in borrowing e-reader compatible ebooks from the library.

The article has an interesting bibliographic review, and the discussion of the data and results is also quite interesting. The article also has a few interesting tables and data points. Among these:

  • 23.4% of responding students read ebooks. Of those, 15.8% read on a dedicated ereader device. Roughly 4% of the total set of responding students owned a dedicated device.

  • Students with dedicated e-readers were more than twice as likely to do 2/3rds to all of their reading on the device.

  • Owners of ereaders were most likely to be reading recreational content on their ereaders, which is unsurprising given that most of these devices are oriented toward trade book reading. Owners of ereaders were more than twice as likely to read an ebook for recreational purposes than for class.

  • Interestingly, those students without ebook readers were more likely to indicate that they read ebooks for class purposes. This group read ebooks for recreational content about the same amount as for class.

  • Students who own an ereader overwhelmingly were most likely to purchase their ebooks from the "official" store associated with the device. Open access repositories and public libraries came in at a distant second and third place respectively, followed closely by online independent retailers.

The study contains some additional observations and data points of interest.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chegg expands its engagement with students

In case you missed it. A couple weeks ago Chegg announced it was moving beyond books and launching a new site that also helps students to select courses and to receive homework help. The new ventures use technology that Chegg acquired last year when it purchased start-ups CourseRank and Cramster.

Many readers of this blog are probably familiar with Chegg for their book rental business which became a signficant driver for change in the business models in the higher education textbook market in recent years. The company also spun off Kno, which has been working on digital textbooks and a digital reader device.

Chegg's vision is to reach college students every day of the year. An ambitious challenge, but something stores ought to keep in mind in terms of managing their student relationships. As Chegg continues to branch out, stores should watch and learn. The company has some interesting ideas about engagement from which the industry could learn.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Secret to Effective QR Codes

QR codes, those two-dimensional bar codes resembling tiny crossword puzzles, are popping up in a lot of places, including product tags and labels, ads, articles, posters, books, tickets, receipts, and more. QR stands for "quick response." It’s a relatively easy way for retailers, manufacturers, organizations, and others to connect their customers and members to additional information or resources online through their smartphones.

But, in order to be effective, the QR code must link to content that’s viewable on a smartphone and matters to the user. This article, reprinted on, a site for communications professionals, offers several practical considerations for setting up a QR code the right way.

QR codes initiated in manufacturing as a way of tracking parts making their way into various businesses. Today they have a far greater range of uses. In fact, I was at a conference this past week where QR codes were integrated into several aspects of the event. Here is a pair of short videos that helps explain QR codes and some of the business implications:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pace for Mobile Apps on Campus Quickens

College students are going mobile, according to the Student Monitor 2010 spring survey of full-time undergraduate students at four-year colleges, which reports 98% of students have cellphones and nearly half of those phones are smartphones. Campuses are still in the catch-up mode with mobile applications, but the strides are getting quicker.

The 2010 Campus Computing Survey shows that an eighth of the campuses participating in the report have already launched a mobile learning management system (LMS) application. Another 10% are scheduled to have one before the end of the current academic year and nearly 25% of the institutions are starting to think about offering mobile apps.

“The campus interest in and movement to mobile apps reflects trends in the consumer market,” Kenneth C. Green, founding director of The Campus Computing Project, said in the report. “Students expect their institutions to provide the kinds of resources and services they experience and enjoy as consumers. Mobile apps provide online access to instructional resources and campus services from the buttons on your smartphone.”

The Campus Computing Survey also reveals that IT officers on campus are coming around to accepting e-books as the wave of the future. Over four-fifths of respondents (86.5%) agree or strongly agree that “e-book content will be an important source for instructional resources in five years.” In addition, 78.6% agree that e-book readers will become important in classrooms for instructional content in five years.

E-textbook continues to lag behind used textbook titles because of development and pricing strategies for most students. But as the pace of mobile apps development accelerates, more and more students become accustomed to using them and provides a very promising future for the technology, according to Green.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The CITE's 1000th blog posting!

Welcome to the 1000th blog posting on The CITE and Thank You for coming!

This posting marks the 1000th blog entry on The CITE. The first posting, back on September 5, 2007, noted that this would be an experiment – posting occasional news stories, analysis, commentary, responses to questions, etc. The blog started out with a posting every 1-2 weeks. Somewhere around April 17, 2008 we decided that the blog had merit, and folks out there had interest and so the decision was made to commit. At that point we began to track traffic volume to the blog and thus I tend to look at April 17th as the blog’s birthday.

When we began tracking the volume of traffic to the blog, we had a few visitors a week. Today we have thousands -- more than 58,000 readers have visited the blog from 170 countries around the world. Thank you for coming, and coming back.

One of the very first postings on the blog announced the new Sony Reader. Not long after that, the Amazon Kindle was announced and that story too was covered here. EReaders have been a common theme on the blog ever since – and quite a few have come and gone over the past few years. In the last few years we have seen the devices come to some early maturity, at least on the trade book side, if not quite as much in textbooks. We have moved away from wide-scale experimentation to some dominant designs, and standards. The device wars have somewhat ended, with the platform wars just heating up. The iPad’s introduction last year represents the next generation of devices. Not quite an ereader, not quite a laptop. Some early projections suggested that the device would flop – being neither quite one nor the other, did it have a place? Apparently history will prove that it did.

Birthed with the first commercially viable ereaders, this blog too has grown over the past few years. With some occasional breaks, we try to get a posting up daily. Occasionally we have a couple spurts with two postings a day. I have a backlog of items to blog about that is well over 50 items deep. For a while Liz Hains helped convert many of these to blog hosting, for which I am appreciative. Since the start of the year, the NACS Publications team – including Cindy Ruckman, Michael von Glahn, Dan Angelo, and Dan Pender – have been very helpful and supportive by providing me with a couple postings each week. While comments on the blog have been few, I have received numerous emails over time, including a variety of suggestions and articles of interest.

I hope this blog has provided some insight (and occasionally useful advice) to those out there involved with course materials or print -- whether retailers, publishers, authors, educators, administrators, or students. The world is changing. Sometimes it seems that change is faster or slower than others. Change is coming, though, and hopefully this blog is serving to both signal and record some of that change, and generating some thought about what future roles and opportunities exist in the digital space. The revolution in ereaders, ebooks, digital content, and digital course materials has just begun. We will try to make the next 1000 posts informative, broad-based, and occasionally fun. Let’s see what the next three years brings!

Thanks for your time and interest.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mobile learning and questioning the book metaphor

The current issue of EDUCAUSE Quarterly has an article of interest. The article asks why we should consider "pdf-equivalent" of the print book as the proper metaphor in creating digital course materials. Such close equivalents produce few, if any, notable improvements in student learning outcomes. The piece goes on to focus heavily on mobile pilot projects that have been going on at Abilene Christian University over the past three semesters.

The article's reported key takeaways were:

  • Students have expectations for interactivity and connectedness when they use digital devices, yet these expectations are frequently unmet when using most digital textbooks, resulting in a lack of mass adoption.

  • Visions of media-rich, cost-efficient educational texts available on a variety of digital devices seem frustratingly slow to solidify due to a wide range of factors, including failure to effectively exploit the pedagogical potential of mobile devices.

  • Abilene Christian University and GYLO partnered to investigate student attitudes and perceptions of impact of using a mobile device app as a supplemental tool for teaching statistics.

  • A series of pilot studies found a positive correlation between use of the app and perceptions of increased engagement and consequently higher grades in the course.
These findings mirror observations noted on this blog in the past, and noted in other studies. The focus and emphasis on mobile as an adoption factor in this particular study was interesting, in addition to its reinforcement of our already held beliefs as to why digital course materials fail to meet expectations on the sales side.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Truths for publishers are for retailers too

Last week the Teleread blog had a posting entitled, Three truths that publishers should try to understand about readers. The posting starts with the following observation:
The big shift that ebooks are bringing to the market is not necessarily the paper to pixels one—it’s the shift between the bookstore as customer and the reader as customer. The problem many print publishers seem to have today is that they don’t really understand who the reader is and what they want out of a purchasing experience.
An interesting statement -- for booksellers as much as publishers. The article goes on to discuss three truths for publishers. I will paraphrase those here, and recast for booksellers.

TRUTH 1: READERS DON’T REALLY CARE HOW PUBLISHING WORKS This is true, and the bookstore corollary is that the reader does not really care how the bookstore works either. Whether it is financial return which covers their financial aid, a book that is out-of-stock because the faculty member ordered it the day before class began, or a shortage of used texts because the publisher changed editions -- student consumers often do not care about your problems. They want their problem solved -- getting course materials required for a course in a usable format at the lowest cost. They do not want explanations or to be educated on difficulties with DRM, or publisher pricing models. To quote another passage:

When you find yourself seeing a reader comment and thinking ‘but there is actually a really good explanation for that!’ your response, publishers, should not be to try and educate this customer on why this baffling situation is actually just and right. It should be to recognize that you have a customer giving you input on what you need to fix in order to get their money.
That last line is particularly true of student consumers.


We have yet to settle on what is a fair price for digital, and this is particularly true in the textbook space. Is it half the cost of new? Is it the same price as print? Are you buying the book, or just "digitally renting" it for a semester (publishers call this a subscription). Reader perception is that the digital should be much less than print because they believe the cost is in the paper and distribution, not in the content creation, editing, formatting, storage, etc.

Whereas education on what they are buying is mostly unnecessary with print books, with digital books the purchase is less clearly an easy option. Differing DRM which changes from one publisher, book, or platform to the next creates confusion. Differing definitions of what you can do with your digital book purchase can also vary, particularly with digital textbooks. What was once a simple purchase where you knew what you could do with the book, is now a complicated and often inferior acquisition experience from the point of the consumer.

With expectations set for a lower price and the experience being less than optimal, who would blame students for expecting ebooks to cost less?


Again, a quote from the article is helpful here:

I get that piracy is an issue for you guys. Loss prevention is something that every business deals with. I understand trying to keep such losses minimal—you will always have a margin for this because every business does. But the best way to minimize these losses is to solve the problems that are causing actual, potential customers to turn away. And in that respect, DRM has become a bit of a red herring.
As the Teleread article goes on to note, there are other factors that are impacting sales of digital more than piracy, but publishers are so focused on illegal downloading that they miss the big picture. This is one of the big errors that the music industry made. They were so caught up in trying to define the business to consumers, that consumers turned to piracy to get what they wanted that the music industry was not providing. In the same way, by making DRM cumbersome, but not conquerable by those who really want to pirate content, they are driving students not to adopt digital options -- and in likely encouraging the piracy they hope to prevent.

Many years ago I was involved with a project where we observed that a number of individuals were more likely to break a particular law and pay the fine than adhere to the requirement. This is because adhering to the law was so complicated and costly. We used technology to make it easier and more cost effective for indviduals to comply, and surprise, surprise, legal compliance went way up.

The same is true with DRM -- if it is too difficult for students to acquire and use the content legally, then they will find other options from the legal (e.g., choosing not to purchase, going with print, etc.) to the illegal (e.g., piracy). Ignoring the problems with DRM drives away good customers who are willing to pay, and fosters more digital theft. It also encourages more faculty to consider open source solutions, which can have a price tag, yet still be DRM free. It is time we rethink content protection and business models, and retailers have as much stake in that outcome as publishers do.

Some final guiding thoughts... The truths and lessons for Publishers in the TeleRead piece have implications for retailers too. I have said it before, but do we really know what business we are in? Beyond that, do we know what our customers really want? Successful businesses solve problems for their customers. Do we know what our customers problems are, and are we trying to solve those problems? How could we solve those problems more efficiently or effectively? If we fail to do so, someone else will, and at that point it is not really fair on our part to complain about the competition. If the competition is viable, it is because they are providing something that the customer values, and their value proposition is greater than the one we offer. Just something to think about.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Aptara's second eBook survey of publishers

Aptara has released its next eBook survey of publishers. Among the reported key findings are:

  • 64% of all publishers are offering titles in eBook format. Up 11% from the first survey.

  • Only 7% of publishers are implementing enhancements to their eBooks, suggesting that most publishers are not aware of the EPUB standard’s inherent support for content enhancement, including audio and video.

  • 61% of Trade/Consumer publishers support the EPUB eBook format standard. 18% more than any other publisher type.

  • The greatest eBook production challenge is still eReader/content compatibility issues. Even with the near universal EPUB format standard, today's fragmented eReader market makes quality eBook production a moving target, requiring manual manipulation to retain consistent formatting across device-types.
More information can be found in the study report.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A new view on the CITE

Google now offers dynamic views -- allowing you, the readers, to view The CITE content in different ways. So if you are tired at looking at the blog in its current format, try taking a look at it using: You can select different types of views to see the content in different ways. One note -- the "snapshot" view will not work for this blog as we do not have a daily picture associated with posts. Also, to use the new dynamic views feature you must be using a newer browser, such as IE8. There is also a Google post where you can learn more about the different dynamic views.

Friday, April 1, 2011

CAMEX questions answered: publisher relations

This week marks the fourth week post CAMEX (yes, a month has passed already). Each Friday I am posting questions attendeess submitted to my session at that meeting. At my current rate of a few questions each Friday, I probably still have another two months worth of Friday postings before I have answered all of the questions. So if you are waiting for your question to be answered, feel free to drop me an email for a quick response, or keep coming back and I will get to all of the questions submitted. This week's question(s) relate to some publisher relations topics:

Q1. I have had trouble getting e-book versions of traditional textbooks from major publishers, but they will sell the e-version directly to students. How can we overcome this?

A. Are you talking directly to publishers for individual titles? That could be a challenge. Have you considered working with CourseSmart or a similar company who has the content? Or are you working with your POS provider and their program for e-books? The question has some gaps in it, making it a little difficult to fully answer. In general though, if the major publisher has the digital title being offered directly to students, the content is most likely available through other channels as well to which you may have access (e.g., your POS provider or CourseSmart), so at this point I would probably start there. Publishers are unlikely to serve up great volumes of digital content directly to stores because most stores are not equipped to directly handle the files and their security, and because if publishers did this for all titles across all campuses, it would quickly become somewhat unweildy. The best way for us to overcome this is to work as a channel to define common points of aggregation and common standards for accessing and managing the files. Our (NMS's) efforts with other groups (e.g., CCRA [Canada] and ICBA) is one example of an industry or channel-based initiative to address parts of this challenge. We refer to this initiative as DCP or Digital Content Platform.

Q2. Some publishers still take 6-8 weeks for POD titles. Can we/you influence them to decrease this time period?

A. By POD titles, I am assuming you mean custom titles -- or do you mean access to titles that you can use for in-store POD? Regardless, we (NMS) do have an initiative in this area which we hope will help to decrease some of the supply chain delays and inefficiencies. We are testing this out in an alpha phase currently, and plan to launch a set of defined pilots this summer as part of the beta phase. Assuming all works well with our initial test and the summer pilots, we plan to begin expanding our tests in Fall 2011 and widen the offering to more stores starting in 2012.

Q3. What or how is NMS working with publishers relating to platforms?

A. Well, the answer to that lies in the answers to the two questions above. We have several projects or efforts underway or being investigated. Our two main areas of interest are the digital content platform (DCP) and regional print-on-demand (R-POD). As these initiatives begin to move from pilot to production this year we will be providing stores with more information. The point is that we are working with publishers on content initiatives that cover both print and digital technologies.