The Professor's Notes

Where my thoughts and your eyes (and now ears!) collide

US Sues Apple, Publishers

Posted by Steve Brady On April - 13 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

We talk about the lawsuit brought by the US in the most recent Real Tech for Real People, Episode 110.  While we share our thoughts on the pluses and minuses of the lawsuit, I thought it would be good to share this article from LifeHacker as well.  In this article they discuss the impact the lawsuit could have on pricing.  They write in part:

In a nutshell, this means prices on ebooks went up because the agreement with Apple made it so other sellers, like Amazon, couldn’t lower the price on ebooks.

Three of the seven publishers have already settled with the Department of Justice, but Apple, Penguin, and Macmillan rejected the offer. Now that we know the reasons behind the lawsuit, let’s see if any of this news is actually will have an effect on pricing.

Read the full article here.

When consumers don’t drive the market…

Posted by Steve Brady On September - 23 - 2011ADD COMMENTS

Who are the consumers of textbooks? And how do you define a consumer? We had this discussion recently on the podcast Real Tech for Real People episode 97. We were discussing the increasing use of tablets, and specifically iPads, in primary and secondary education. Of course, this led to a discussion of the use of tablets in higher education. The conversation was wide ranging in a couple key points emerged that I wish to write about here.

The primary and secondary schools systems are selecting a specific device and the books are content to go on that device. In this case, the system purchases the devices and the content and then delivers that to the student. So who is the consumer in this case? Setting aside for the moment the argument that the taxpayer is always the consumer, let’s focus on whether the consumer is the school district or the student. We can all agree that there are many stakeholders in this arrangement: the school board, parents, teachers, students, taxpayers, and I’m sure many others. But when I consider the consumer, I am considering their role in consumer plays in shaping the marketplace. In this case, while the students consumed the content, the school board by virtue of the purse string is the consumer. We can hope they are making wise decisions as they select the best combination of hardware, software, and support infrastructure.

Given this scenario the selection of a specific hardware platform makes sense. As a consumer the school district is selecting an all encompassing solution for all to use. This approach will undoubtedly balance the educational needs with the technological abilities, and of course the fiscal reality is the school board faces. The district will be able to leverage their scarce taxpayer dollars to get the best benefit possible. Are there limitations to this approach? Perhaps. There might be better solutions that only run on a different platform. But those are the tradeoffs one makes when one selects a technological platform on which to base decisions. We must satisfice.

Not consider the higher education model. As professors and students alike start to look towards digital textbooks as a valuable and viable alternative to the costly new-used-new book cycle we find a new challenge. Read the rest of this entry »

Amazon Lied? No–more likely, people can’t do math…

Posted by Steve Brady On September - 22 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

My brother shared with me an interesting posting, where the question is asked “Is Amazon Lying about eBooks outselling printed books?

I found the post to be an interesting read but there exists one GLARING problem:  they misuse statistics and probabilities, and reach erroneous (though perhaps accidentally correct) conclusions.

They are acting as if previous numbers/ratios of hardcover to paperback books remain UNCHANGED with the introduction of digital books.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the split has been 77/23 paperback to hardcover. To come in and say that ebooks are 29% which is more than Hardcovers, but not more than the 77% paperback percentage is, well, silly. That would then result in 129% of sales.

Here’s what the author(s) wrote:

“…But then I discovered a business analyst who’d found an even bigger problem with Amazon’s statistic. According to the Nielsen Bookscan service,hardcover books accounted for just 23% of all books sold in the previous year.

So what happens if you ask how many “printed books” Amazon sold, instead of using the smaller number of “hardcover books”? Following the same ratio, Amazon would be selling approximately 334 paperbacks for every 100 hardcover books — or a total of 434 printed books for every 180 ebooks. That would mean over 70% of the books Amazon sells are still printed books — 180 out of 614 — with ebooks accounting for just 29.3% of all the books that Amazon sells.

I do have to insert one quick correction to their comment: the analyst actually wrote that hardcover books account for “23% of total dead-tree book sales”  and that’s important.

Okay, in reality here is what they did:

They read that 23% of all books sold are hardcover. That works out to about 4.3478 books for each percent. They then multiplied that number by 77% to get the magical number of softcover books sold: 334.78 softcover books. They then add those (read: 100%) and compare that to the number of ebooks sold (180). Read the rest of this entry »

Are eReaders Robust Enough for Warfighters?

Posted by Steve Brady On April - 12 - 20102 COMMENTS

I have been enjoying learning about the iPad and will have more recommendations to come about apps that I absolutely love.  That said, I want to switch back to the discussion of iPad vs Kindle–not looking at features, and the like, but from the perspective of a “warfighter.”

Today’s soldier, airman and sailor (fine, and marine) carries around not only their weapon and ammunition, but provisions, body armor and all sorts of other sundries not dreamed of in past wars.  Much is designed to ensure both success and survivability on the battlefield.  But like soldiers through the ages, they like to have diversions and distractions through reading material during the “down” times.

Enter the eReader and digital books.  The beauty of these devices is they can hold hundreds of books at weight that at most tips the scale at 1.5 pounds.  This is quite attractive for the warfighter already hauling tens of pounds of gear.

An organization has formed to provide eReaders/eBooks to troops.  Their vision is:

to build the nation’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to providing e-books and e-book technology to military personnel who are deployed overseas defending our country.

and by doing this they hope to support the men and women who serve our country, putting their lives on the line daily.

I have used this then to spurred some discussion on Twitter about the survivability of these devices in the field.  Which would hold up better, an iPad or a Kindle?

Some of the considerations have included:

  • Susceptibility of the screen to cracking/breaking
  • Dust/Sand damage
  • Battery life
  • Ability to purchase/install books

One person on Twitter, @nutzareus, has commented on his experience in the field and noted that regardless what you use you must use an OtterBox to protect your device.  He commented that he used the OtterBox Defender Case for iPhone 3G, 3GS when he was in the field.

Other contributors to the discussion include:

@dpowensj, @obsidianspider, @iPeat

So what other things should be considered?  What do YOU recommend for our soldiers?  Please, share your thoughts.

The Problem of Pricing: Digital Textbooks are NOT cheap!

Posted by Steve Brady On April - 6 - 20103 COMMENTS

I have written extensively 1 about the possible move to digital textbooks, and how an aggressive move to lower pricing could work to benefit the publishers and the students.

NOTE:  Please, after reading through here, share your thoughts to my question that I ask at the end of the post. I crave your inputs and your ideas on this topic of great significance to students, and parents, who buy textbooks)

Underlying my view on digital textbooks is the idea that publishing through a digital medium removes the costs of production, shipping, and other supply chain costs, and thus could significantly reduce the costs of the  texts, resulting in the possibility of a substantial reduction in price to the students.  In addition, I argue that by making the textbooks very reasonably priced students would be more likely to simply “buy new” rather than seek out ways to hack the protections and “steal” books.

Unfortunately it seems the publishers are seeking to do everything they can to dissuade students from making the shift to digital books while appearing to be progressive.

Let me explain:

I have a textbook that I use for my Introduction to Supply Chain and Production Operations course.  The text is Operations Management (10th Edition) by Jay Heizer and Barry Render.  According to Amazon, the text lists new for $198.67 but is available through Amazon for 162.98.  Amazon points out that this is a savings of 18%.  2

So what would you expect the price to be for a digital version?  $30? $50?  $75?

Try $99.35 — and this isn’t a copy you OWN!  You are essentially leasing it (subscribing to it) for 6 months!

Don’t believe me?  Visit the link, and also check the graphic below (click to see larger image.)

This is just one example of the pricing schema.

So let me ask you this:

  • Do you believe a 50% discount off the list price is enough to get you to “purchase” a digital 6 month subscription rather than purchase the text?
  • What are your thoughts on the subscription idea versus owning an actual copy of the text?
  • What would it take to move YOU to a digital textbook?

Could Apple Actually KILL eBooks?

Posted by Steve Brady On February - 1 - 20103 COMMENTS

Once again we can’t turn on a news reader on the internet without be reminded of the Great Steve (not me–Jobs) and how he always has the “right sense” for business.  In addition to his design sense, and ability to time the introduction of products perfectly, many often credit him with “saving” the music industry by making music affordable at just 99 cents per song.

But could he have lost his touch? Could Steve Jobs and Apple not only missed it this time, but could they be responsible for bringing down a whole nascent industry with them?

On the heels of the introduction of the Apple iPad (and their announcement that books would cost between $13 and $15) we saw an emboldened Macmillan publishing house pressing their case against Amazon.  For a brief moment Amazon seemed to be fighting the good fight for consumers, and went so far as to ban direct sales of Macmillan books.

Macmillan was simply “acting out” what Steve Jobs told to Walt Mossberg when he said that the prices would end up being the same (between Apple and Amazon), because the publishers are not happy (with Amazon) and are going to pull their books from there.  It appears that Steve Jobs is doing the work of the Publishers, pushing the price points up, rather than down.  Rather than being a champion of the individual, does this make Steve Jobs simply a big business “hack?”

The bottom line here really is that Amazon knew 2 years ago what Steve Jobs should know now. Verso Direct has conducted a book buyers behavioral study/survey, in which they discover that the magic price-point for digital books seems to be right at $9.99.  According to the article “Amazon Flanks…” when Verso presented their study and broke down their findings, they reported that 3 out of 5 people will consider buying an ebook at or below $9.99.  Raise the price, and that drops to 1 out of 5.

The article then goes on to identify the real “winners” as pirates.

Is it possible that, in his rush to kill Amazon, Steve Jobs may have instead spell the death of eBooks?1

  1.  There are many other thoughts here, including the differences between music and books.  I will discuss these over the next few weeks.

Digital Textbooks and “Fair Pricing”

Posted by Steve Brady On June - 12 - 20092 COMMENTS

Those who know me personally know I have a strong desire to see digital textbooks succeed.  I think it has the potential to deliver a Win-Win for most of the major stakeholders, including the authors, the publishers, the environment (potentially) and the students.1 Perhaps the biggest challenge facing everyone in this is how to achieve that “win-win”and this involves a mix of pricing, availability, and convenience.  I hope to address that in this post. Read the rest of this entry »

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