Tuesday, June 26, 2012

College Stores Must Get Involved in the E-Text Conversation

Last January, an e-textbook  pilot program was launched on five university campuses aimed at providing each with ways to access digital course materials and negotiate volume pricing deals designed to reduce costs to students and pay authors and publishers fairly. That program is now being expanded to at least 25 additional schools for the fall 2012 semester.

Through the pilot, each institution subsidizes the cost of the digital course materials, which are provided to students at no cost, with a print-on-demand version available for a $28 fee. The participating courses use McGraw-Hill Education e-books and digital learning materials, along with the Courseload reader and annotation software.

The program has also, in some cases, excluded the college store from the textbook equation.

“When students don’t need to shop at our stores for their books, they certainly don’t need us for school supplies and other items,” wrote Jon Kates, executive director of the University of Virginia Bookstores and Cavalier Computers, in the For What It’s Worth column in the March/April 2012 edition of The College Store magazine.

UVA was one of the first schools to take part in the pilot and will continue to look at the program this fall, so Kates has had a firsthand look at the program. He’s also being proactive and listed in the column a variety of ways his store is working to remain relevant on campus.

“This program/model is really about institutional licensing,” said Mark Nelson, chief information officer of the NACS and vice president of NACS Media Solutions. “There are a lot of challenges and shortcomings of institutional licensing models, but unless stores understand those better, it will be difficult for the industry to speak with sufficient credibility on the topic. Stores should work to get involved.”

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