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?

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