Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Facebook Mall & Retail Trends

Working through my email archives this week and I came across this message from Karen Hernandez at Normandale Community College Bookstore. She wrote:

I thought this was an interesting article about shopping and setting up a store on facebook. Might be something that stores should think about doing soon while it is still free. If you read the entire article in “All Things Digital” it appears to be something that would be attractive to students when they find out about it.

This piece relates to another story from All Things Digital that has been sitting in my archives for a while. That story was on retail technology trends in 2010 that will change the way consumers shop: mobile, social, and local. Here is an excerpt:

Mobile: There’s definitely an app for that. As smartphones go mainstream, savvy shoppers use apps to price-check and read reviews of products in the store.
Result: Retailers watch in horror as shoppers leave their stores empty-handed and drive across town to another store or go online to order a different or cheaper product.

Social: Friends and social circles influence purchase decisions through the rise of Facebook and Twitter. Users check in on apps, such as Foursquare and shopkick, for discounts and incentives.
Result: Retailers who don’t bone up on their social media skills may miss out on generating conversations across the Web that result in online sales or traffic to their stores.

Local: Advertising begins shifting to Groupon and LivingSocial, as group discounting and daily deals gain popularity.
Result: At least initially, these deals have been successful at locking in sales for local stores and restaurants looking for a bump in visitors.

The story goes on to discuss what various retailers are doing in each of these areas with ideas for driving traffic or changing business practices. The world of retail is changing--time for folks to get on board.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Move toward digital series

The Textbook Guru blog has begun a new series on the "Move Toward Digital." The series includes guest posts, interviews and the author's view point on the every changing world of education and the move from physical books to digital.

Here are some of the initial postings in the series:

- Consumer Trends and Drivers toward e-Textbook Adoption
- Four Obstacles to Overcome Before Digital is Universally Adopted
- How the Internet is Changing Education (Infographic)
- The Status of Math in the United States, and the Classroom of Tomorrow

Monday, June 27, 2011

Perceptive Computers and Educational Technology

Adaptive software capable of "theory of the mind" intelligence was the topic of a recent keynot at the International Society for Technology in Education. As reported in Education Week, the keynote by molecular biologist John Medina proposed applications that could "be capable of involuntarily detecting student confusion, determining what the student's learning gap is and adjusting instruction accordingly. This could be done both by analyzing student work in a program, but also by computer recognition of facial expressions and physical behaviors."

Medina also questioned the ethical or cultural implications of such technology where the computer could detect whether a student is bewildered or inspired, or if an individual has innate ability for things like teaching. Self-paced learning and comparable technologies are already under development in the digital course materials space, and adaptive learning is almost certain to be an important part of the digital learning landscape by the end of this decade. The question, Medina posed, is whether the use of such technology could be used to harm as much as help students in the future.

Friday, June 24, 2011

EBook numbers rise

According to AAP figures ebook sales for trade books continue to rise, now accounting for just under 19% of all trade sales (from reporting publishers) in April, and 22.1% of reported sales for the first quarter. Even with growth in ebook sales, overall sales in trade were down by just over 10 percent from the prior year.

Where have all the readers gone?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wake Forest Profs Trying to Reinvent the College Textbook

Research has shown humans learn best when they put facts together in an order that makes sense to them. Now, a pair of professors from Wake Forest University is trying to turn that concept into a digital biology textbook call BioBook. The effort is based on the free, open-source learning management system Moodle, according to an interview with one of the authors in Campus Technology.

BioBook is being created in HTML5 and set up so students can see information on the left-hand column of the screen and track their progress on the right. It will also be available online and in a mobile format while allowing the ability to type notes.

A pilot program with 10% of the students at four schools using the text will begin in the fall. Results produced by the 10% using the digital textbook will be ultimately compared to the 90% who didn’t use it.

“There are other digital textbook initiatives underway at other colleges, although most involve taking existing, linear books and making them digital. BioBook, on the other hand, is truly digital from its roots,” said Jed Macosko, an associate professor of physics at Wake Forest who teamed with senior biology lecturer, A. Daniel Johnson, on the project.

Monday, June 20, 2011

EduTone's Android tablet for K-20 education

In a press release last week, EduTone announced new developments for their Android-based tablets. EduTone seeks to distinguish its tablet devices by making them more directly focused on the education market. The devices have security mechanisms built in to support CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act) and enable easy but secure connection to school-based applications. The device will now also come bundled with a number of other peices of software designed for education. An interesting aspect of their product offering is that they offer a lower-cost device coupled with a subscription based service for educational content. Like phone companies with smart phones, it is likely the subscription piece where they plan to build enough earnings to subsidize the cost of the device. Regardless, with the departure of the Kno from the landscape, and rumors that the Entourage Edge has or may soon follow, the EduTone line of educational tablets may still face stiff competition in the marketplace.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

POD's tipping point approaches

A recent Publisher’s Weekly article (available only to subscribers) discusses Print-On-Demand (POD) technologies, with particular focus on the Espresso Book Machine (EBM) by On Demand Books (ODB). The simplified concept behind POD is to enable bookstores to print needed books while eliminating storage stockouts, expanding inventory options while reducing actual physical inventory, and reducing other supply chain costs, thereby reducing total costs while enabling more content sales.

The EBM, which according to the story now retails for $185,000, is one option that bookstores today have to fulfill book orders in-house. ODB CEO Dane Neller says the rise of e-books has contributed to some of the EBM’s success by opening up new opportunities for print. He is also quick to point out that the EBM is not a POD solution, but a sales solution.

In the last year, ODB established a partnership with Xerox. According to Xerox’s first Thought Leadership Workshop about the EBM, many bookstores are using the EBM to compete with Amazon. For some stores, they see the book machine as the “salvation of the neighborhood bookstore,” says Jeffrey Mayersohn of Harvard Book Store. Stores that have book machines are seeing great growth at about 1,000 to 2,000 books per month in some cases.

Other options in the print arena include Hewlett-Packard’s Raptor machine, which has been in testing with three college stores for the last year. A philosophically different approach to the in-store solution, the Raptor could provide EBM with direct competition.

Recognizing that not all stores can invest in an in-store solution at this time, and seeing that there are other challenges to building a successful POD business, NACS Media Solutions (NMS), a subsidiary of the National Association of College Stores, is currently running a pilot program to create a regional POD network that can enable short runs of 1 to larger runs of 1000 or more, with rapid turnaround. The regional approach offsets downtime and will expand to provide printing "close to to the point of consumption" in order to reduce shipping and other supply chain costs. The NMS service will also utilize a cloud-based repository and include other service offerings designed to increase store success at POD.

We will be releasing more information about this program, our partners, and the pilots as we proceed over the next few months. If all goes well, NMS expects to do a soft launch in January, with a full launch expected perhaps as early as next March’s CAMEX.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Life is for sharing...

Every once in a while you come across a video that is worth sharing. This is one of those, I think. Those who know me know of the near-infamous bad travel karma that I seem to experience. I have a lot of funny and unsual travel tales, but this is one that goes beyond my experiences. Not a normal posting for this blog -- but there is a connection. Think about how technology has lead to some very innovative and creative uses of media. How will this type of creativity and media eventually change the nature of course materials? What will students be creating in the future? There are a lot of interesting applications of video and media at the moment, but we are probably just at the beginning.

The following video has moments that are funny, others that are touching, but all-in-all cool. It ends up being an ad for T-Mobile-- but you would not know it until the very last couple of seconds when you see the sponsor once the video ends -- the message is that "life is for sharing." Have a great weekend and enjoy! (and one of these days I would love to see something like this happen live! I wonder how much work and practice it took for them to get this one down so well?)

Friday, June 17, 2011

When technology trends (and textbooks) collide...

There have been a couple interesting studies out lately involving textbooks and tablets. A classic collision of technology trends as mobile devices and digital content converge among college students.

A few weeks ago we wrote about the study by the Pearson Foundation. Among some of the interesting quotes:

[W]hile 55 percent of students still prefer print over digital textbooks, among the 7 percent of students who own tablets devices like iPads, 73 percent prefer digital textbooks. With 70 percent of college students interested in owning a tablet, and 15 percent saying they plan to buy one in the next six months, the survey suggests that there may be a coming rise in the e-textbook market.

These findings are interesting on several points. First is the declining preference among students for print over digital -- dropping from 75% (widely found in a number of studies) down to 55% in the past 6 months. However, the preference of print over digital more than flips when you look at students with a tablet device -- with 73% of those students prefering digital to print.

Unless one wants to believe that this is just an abberation among early adopters, this week, a new study conducted at Abilene Christian University appeared in Campus Technology. Independent from the prior study, this study found similar preference for digital over print even among individuals exposed to a tablet for as little as three weeks. An interesting quote from this piece:

“After trying an iPad for a short period—about three weeks—three out of four college freshmen said they’d be willing to purchase an Apple iPad personally if at least half of the textbooks they used during their college career were available digitally.”

The article goes on to discuss the barriers to digital textbook adoption. Among top reasons they note lack of inventory, the cost of digital, and the need for truly media rich content. The first and last are on our list of factors. The second surprised me, as the physical print and distribution costs are not a substantive portion of current textbook cost -- so why should people expect the cost to be lower. Plus, the current cost of generating truly media rich content and integrating it in pedagogically proven ways can be quite high. Digital textbooks should probably cost more not less right now if we are just talking about costs and truly media rich versions. The costs for consumers are marginally lower currently as we look at "PDF equivalents" and publishers attempt to build market share for digital.

As we look at the inventory challenge, most textbooks currently available in digital are the large adoptions -- so mostly content oriented toward first- and second-year courses. If students start coming to campus with tablets in growing numbers, over a four-year period you could have more than half of all textbook content available digitally.

So what would that mean for the printed textbook in four years time -- i.e., 2015? What happens if tablet adoption follows patterns similar to iPod or smartphone adoption in recent years? (A reasonable projection, since most technologies are on accelerating adoption curves, and early projections say this technology is on a similar or faster trajectory than the identified counterparts). What if just half of students have a tablet device by 2015, and they acquire just half of all of their textbooks in digital format? That is 25% of course materials being sold digital right there.

Is there anyone credible out there who STILL does not think trends in digital content or mobile devices or technology in general does not matter in the textbook world?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

IBM: Typewriters to the Cloud

This week, IBM turned 100, and their website to commemorate the event has a number of interesting pieces of content.

From an innovation perspective, IBM has always been an interesting company. There are many things those of us who work in industries experiencing technology-based change can learn from IBM's history. One of those things is reinventing oneself. IBM has done an excellent job of reinventing itself as a company over the past 100 years as the times and technology have changed. Below is a video by the BBC which talks to this aspect of IBM's history in particular. My favorite quote from the video is:

To stay ahead in the technology race IBM has had to accept that it has to give up on much of its past.
Another interesting clip within the video that might interest some readers of this blog is a short piece on the "supermarket of the future."

A second video on IBM's history is also quite interesting. It is a bit longer (at 13 minutes) but provides a "100x100 view" of their history, by featuring one hundred people, who each present the IBM achievement recorded in the year they were born.

Happy 100th Birthday, IBM!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Video for learning: Corrected

Sorry -- I accidently embedded the wrong video in the original posting. I have since edited that posting so that the correct video appears.

Video for learning

At the end of this post is Hans Rosling's health and wealth statistics video that has received a fair amount of attention. Not only is this a great video -- it provides a good platform to talk a little bit about the future of course materials from today's vantage point.

I remember an EDUCAUSE video by Richard Katz from 2006 on how technology could influence higher education. Part of that incorporated the idea of EDUtainment. Subsequently, I have occasionally heard discussions that explored the idea that "star faculty" could be broadcast online across many institutions -- creating economies of scale, and local faculty would facilitate discussion, activity, or provide local support and expertise. You find the "best of the best" to teach the "intro-level" courses in a consistent way via video or multimedia, and then faculty at each institution contribute upper level lectures or offerings on their areas of expertise. Other faculty provide educational support and guidance and the "local touch" which enhance and reinforce the educational experience and provide for 1-on-1 or group interaction in a way that much video and multimedia currently cannot.

Among the challenges here, however, is the cost -- and the appropriateness -- of using technology in learning. Creating the video below certainly required some financial support. Creating similar content for lots of different concepts will take time and far more resources, and not all content is suitable to this type of format. As in other domains, we must be cautious about using technology for technology's sake, and we must think about the most effective uses of technology in course materials. Odd argument to hear from a technology guy, I know.

In the short term, until technologies evolve that make creation of content like this even easier and lower cost, creating a large suite of educational content that is truly born digital will take time, effort, and resources -- implying that a large volume of digital course materials that go beyond the "pdf of the book" will likely take some time to really produce yet. Doubting that it will eventually arrive is probably not a safe bet.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

OER infographic and accuracy of OER data

The Atlantic recently published a piece which included an interesting infographic that compared Open Source Textbooks to other textbook options. As with much of the media on open source textbooks these days, there is a fair amount of incorrect data being bandied about, which leads to some false conclusions about the benefits. Such items make for good teachable moments, though.

If you scroll past the infographic, you will find among the comments one from our government relation's director, Rich Hershman. Rich and I are both proponents of the open source movement, and together crafted a policy position for our Association's board. That position, in support of the OER/open textbook movement was adopted nearly three years ago and remains in effect. That aside, there is room for constructive criticism of the open textbook movement and a number of the claims used relative to the movement. I think Rich's comments do a great job of capturing some of these perspectives.

Here are Rich's comments from the posting:

While this is an interesting graphic, I would question some of the facts it displays. The National Association of College Stores has been tracking the cost of textbooks and other course materials for years, and our data and that of others in some aspects are quite different.:

1.) According to actual student surveys, the average full time student spends between $600-$700 annually on course materials , not $900. This $600 to $700 includes purchasing new books, used books, rental, and ebooks. It does not factor in financial aid, tax credits, nor if students sell their textbooks back, all of which would further reduce the net costs -in some cases significantly. Student spending on college textbooks has actually been declining in recent years, according to at least two recent national surveys of students.

2.) The $184 average cost estimate of open source textbooks does not factor in the total costs of the content , since the open source textbook community now advocates for and and in some cases receives federal, state, and institutional subsidies (beyond student fees) in order to develop, update, maintain, and support such textbooks. Therefore, some of the costs of open source textbooks would be hidden from students, though they likely would pay for some of these costs indirectly. Also depending on how a fee would be established, if it was a mandatory school-wide fee as some have advocated, students from low-cost content subjects, like literature, would be forced to subsidize students taking higher cost science and math courses.

3.) Switching to open source textbooks would cost states and localities in states like California, Florida, Texas, Ohio, and Illinois hundreds of millions in lost sales tax revenue. This would likely be offset with further cuts to education funding, and result in higher tuition and fees. It would also reduce income tax and eliminate thousands of jobs and employment opportunities for students and recent graduates.

4.) The average price of new course materials, including textbooks, at colleges and universities in 2009-2010 was $62, not $171. Implying that the average cost of all new textbooks actually used in schools is $171 greatly misrepresents the potential savings as you look beyond single title examples and attempt to jump to claims of aggregate savings.

Open source textbooks are a valuable and an important development in the marketplace for courses materials. There are many reasons why institutions should support the development and experimentation of open source textbooks for academic reasons separate from the perceived cost-savings arguments. There are opportunities to make course materials more affordable through the adoption and use of open textbooks. However, the case for open source textbooks from an affordability perspective should be made with a complete understanding of all the direct and indirect costs and benefits to students. This info-graphic, cool as it, seems to fall short of this test.

It would be great to see the infographic updated with correct information, as such graphics can be useful tools for communicating complex data. OER can have a positive effect on education. However, if we fail to measure the effects accurately, we may come to false conclusions and reap some unintended consequences.

As one example, most college stores are independent non-profit businesses today, and even if they are part of one of the contract management chains, they return revenue or provide other services to the academic institution in most cases. Most revenue from course materials goes to support financial aid or student services. While improving textbook affordability via open source textbooks, educational affordabilty can also be affected, and we are hearing more anecdotal examples of this happening on campuses.

I believe that part of Rich's point is that in addition to the inaccuracies in the infographic, there is a larger set of economic implications here connected to textbooks and textbok affordability. The OER movement needs better and more accurate data on "total cost of ownership" at the student, institutional, governmental, and national levels. This would enable us to better support OER initiatives and find models that are true wins for students. A deeper conversation and investigation of the true costs associated with OER should occur -- otherwise we risk taking a positive innovation and turning it into a shell game with educational affordability at stake.

Short of this type of investigation, why not just take the billions of dollars going into developing open access textbooks and give it to the current textbook publishers to make their content free for the students with greatest need? Or use it to subsidize the top 20 percent of titles from publishers, or the top X percent of most widely used textbooks, making the current high quality products free to students rather spending money to reinvent an industry that already exists? Sure, this would have unintended consequences as well, but we might start with a higher bar and have an immediate affordabilty impact across the widest possible range of students.

My comment here is meant to be somewhat flippant or extreme -- the point being that we cannot throw money at OER and just expect that it will produce high quality, affordable results. There are reasons to support OER and the OER movement beyond affordability. The movement would be well served to make more of those arguments, and fact-check some of their current assumptions related to affordability.

Monday, June 13, 2011

What's wrong with my technology???

Well, things have been a bit busy lately. I have dozens of items awaiting write-up for posting, and certainly there is no shortage of news happening in this space lately. I hope to be back to a more regular posting pattern in the very near future.

In the interim, a colleague shared this video with me over the weekend, and I thought it would be a good way to start out a Monday morning for everyone. British humor applied to technology -- what could be better?

Friday, June 10, 2011

CAMEX question answered: campus relations

There are not many “CAMEX questions” left – and those that remain are a bit more complex or challenging to answer in the space of a blog post. This week’s question relates to campus relationships with administration.

Q. How do I convince my administration that they need to partner with the bookstore to develop digital strategies for the future? Is there a ‘how to” from other schools?

Good questions. The answer to the first question likely depends on many factors such as school size, reporting structure, how the store has traditionally been positioned on campus, etc.. On the second question, I am not aware of a “how to” guide, but NACS does have some resources for members on how to engage different groups on campus. There is the communications toolkit, which includes templates and questions for talking with different administrative groups on campus. There are new resources and case studies being built relative to the College Store of 2015 initiative within the Foundation. Additional resources are in development.

If your store currently has little partnership with the campus administration, then now is an excellent time to start. Relationships are built on trust, and building trust takes time. Work on building relationships long before you need them.

One tactic you can use is to find out what initiatives are underway on campus. Likely pockets of activity are in IT (look for instructional designers or folks who work in academic computing), or in the library.

Look at your current textbook adoptions compared to prior years. Which faculty use technology (e.g., MyMathLab or clickers) or an open source textbook? Has a textbook adoption disappeared?

Is the faculty member using nothing, or are they using materials put on e-reserve in the library, placed elsewhere, or being acquired directly from the content provider.

Another tactic is to become a resource expert for your administration on digital course materials. Point them to good articles or resources on the transition to digital: case studies of what other campuses or bookstores have done; trend reports; reports on other technologies or experiments; or industry analysis.

Another approach to building expertise is to sponsor or help coordinate a campus or committee meeting on digital course materials strategy. There are multiple ways to approach this depending on your school size and type, along with other factors. Consider inviting an administrator to a webinar or meeting. We have conducted digital sessions for a fair number of institutions and are likely to do so again in the future as time and other resources permit.

Put some skin in the game – innovation is a contact sport. Experiment with digital or communicate to administration how you are helping reduce the cost of course materials – or what you are learning from digital sales and experiments at your store or others.

Remember to be optimistic yet realistic. Convey that you have a positive sense of urgency about the role of digital course materials and your store’s willingness to be part of the future and solution. Also articulate the strengths your store brings to the table that explain why you ought to be a part of that future. People like solution providers more than obstructionists. If you find yourself arguing that something cannot be done make sure you are not doing so because that is the way you have always done things.

There are many other tactics to consider and I ask readers to share their ideas here, via email, or on NACS listservs. I think the above boil down to some key concepts:

(1) Adopt a winning mindset (and think like a retailer).
(2) Be a resource and point of expertise.
(3) Find out who the influencers are on your campus relative to digital.
(4) Experiment.
(5) Think of your job as store advocates – to students, faculty, and administration.

Good luck, and thanks for a great question.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Store question: What will digital mean to you?

I recently received the following message from a college store manager:

What would the top 3 titles going to digital on any campus look like? For us 5 out 2500 titles could have have a profound affect on our operations. Our top 10 titles represent close to 10 percent of our total textbook activity in September. We learned last week that there is a strong likelihood we will lose our largest adoption to an online only approach 2012-2013. 1500 -1700 copies gone to the ether ..... where will the staff and physical plant go ?
I have heard a number of stores argue that, "Digital sales are only 2.8%, why should I care?" And another store manager recently asked if I constantly beat my head against the wall. (Another store colleague answered ahead of me that I have probably beaten my head against the wall so much that my brains are now probably mush.) Humor aside, stores that do not think digital matters, even at 2.8%, could be in for a surprise awakening -- and sooner rather than later.

Back in 2007 I projected that digital would start having real impacts within the textbook industry beginning in the 2010-2012 school years. It looks like those predictions were close to accurate.

What would your store do if you lost the top 10 best selling titles in your store in the next 2 years? What if you lost the top 10% of best selling titles? This is the thing about digital -- it is like the old Gibson quote -- "The future is here, it is just not evenly distributed yet." Large adoptions are likely to move to digital first, and when that happens, if your store cannot provide digital products what are you going to do? You could see a substantive loss of sales in a very short order -- which will then lead to more difficult managerial questions than those before stores today. The question is not, "Should I do digital?" or "Why should I do digital?" The question is, "How do I best provide digital so that I continue to provide a value proposition for my customers in the future."

What does digital mean to you?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Concerns Partly Cloud-y for the Future

Apple CEO Steve Jobs demoted the personal computer to “just a device” when he announced the launch of iCloud computing at the recent Worldwide Developers Conference. Jobs might be correct, but a March 2011 study commissioned by Qwest Software suggests that while higher education leaders see cloud computing in their future, they aren’t as certain of how to make it happen.

In Pulse on Public Sector Virtualization and Cloud Computing, potential cost savings were cited as the biggest incentive for adopting cloud computing to a third of the participating institutions. However, a third also said security breaches were the biggest obstacle. All told, about half of the schools surveyed were optimistic about the prospects of cloud computing.

“There are some challenges around security, funding, and around access, but all those things can be tackled," Paul Christman, vice president of sales for Qwest’s Public Sector division told Campus Technology. “Of the three market segments in this survey, the feds are driven by mandates, the states by cost savings. But education is really driven by what this can do, what this can accomplish, and what this can’t accomplish in some other way. The search for the positive [aspects of cloud computing] is really borne out in the academic side.”

Monday, June 6, 2011

Free e-book on analytics in retail

IBM has made available a free e-book version of the limited edition book Business Analytics in Retail for Dummies.

The use of analytics in retail is not new, but it is a fairly new practice for many in the campus retail environment. Various POS providers are adding analytics modules, and other industry suppliers, such as Verba, also provide some analytics capability. Improved data-driven decision making is critical for retail businesses today (large or small), and will be even more so in the future.

As with many books in the "Dummies" series, this book provides a good introduction and some practical action items for individuals or businesses that lack experience with business analytics. From its description:

Business analytics isn't a new concept, but new technologies are emerging that make it possible for average business users to analyze and understand the data. This book offers principles and tools you can use to discover how your customers behave – and how to put that knowledge into action to drive more sales. In this book, you'll learn how to: Understand the basic concepts of business analytics; Dispel business intelligence myths; Set up scorecards and dashboards; and, Measure consumer sentiment through social media.
Industry icon Rich McDaniel might refer to the concepts here as "measuring what matters." The book is a good one to help retailers start thinking more about how they use data in decision making. Some of the chapters include topics like: using analytics to meet the demands of smarter consumers, measuring the impact of decisions, and ten ways to improve shopping experiences. If you are looking for some summer reading and have yet to start using analytics, this might be the [digital] book for you!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Rethinking Education Video -- M. Wesch

Michael Wesch videos related to anthropology, the web, and higher education are always interesting. Here is one he created a while back, but which I had not posted here before. It is called Rethinking Education. He has another in production on the Visions of Students Today 2011 that is looking for student submissions.

Rethinking Education Video - M. Wesch

Michael Wesch videos related to anthropology, the web, and higher education are always interesting. Here is one he created a while back, but which I had not posted here before. It is called Rethinking Education. He has another in production on the Visions of Students Today 2011 that is looking for student submissions.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The E-reader Effect

[Note: Sorry for the lack of extensive posting lately, the last week has been particularly busy].

There was an interesting article in Inside Higher Ed this week on how the shift to digital is beginning to affect university presses. The article opens with a reiteration of how ebooks in higher ed are off to a slow start, compared to trade books. This is not surprising to most of us who follow the ebook business. Trade books, in many ways, are easier to render to devices -- and devices like the Nook or the Kindle are designed to support trade book reading. However, we still lack an effective device and reading environment that effectively supports the more complex engagement patterns that surround textbooks or other course materials.

What was of interest in the article was the reporting out from a recent survey of AAUP members. Citing the study, the piece notes that, "As of last December, e-book sales or licenses accounted for less than 3 percent of total revenue for the overwhelming majority of university presses." Interestingly, this is nearly equivalent to the percentage of ebook sell-through that the college stores see on average. However, the piece goes on to note that, "60 percent of respondents expressed “serious concern” about the viability of their current business models" as a result of declining print sales.

The article points out that ebooks are one of the only segments of the university press business that is growing, and that the rate of growth has increased since the original study was deployed. University Presses are also seeing particular success in making backlisted titles available to consumers.