By Mika Rekai - Monday, November 26, 2012 - 0 Comments
It tracks when you read and when you don’t. Will it soon determine what you read?
For Catherine Henderson, curling up with a good book has always been an escape from reality. What the retired teacher doesn’t know, however, is that while she is lost in her Kindle, someone is reading over her shoulder.
Before ebook readers became popular in 2010—when e-reader sales quadrupled within months—publishers had only one way of measuring a book’s success: sales. Back then, it was almost impossible to do detailed market research that didn’t involve direct feedback, either through letters to the publishers or reader surveys. But the information didn’t tell the whole story about what readers wanted to read, and they said nothing about how they read. Did they read the whole book, or lose interest after a few pages? Did they skip certain chapters? Did they highlight and revisit favourite passages? Now the makers of the Kobo, Kindle and Nook are collecting hard data about exactly how their customers read.
By Jesse Brown - Friday, July 8, 2011 at 11:25 AM - 42 Comments
South Korea will be the first. By 2015, they have promised, their entire school system will be paperless. The country is spending $2 billion on creating cloud accessible, perennially updatable digital textbooks.
The U.S. is putting the same amount into their own electronic textbook program. Obama called textbooks a “huge racket” and a “big scam” while campaigning, decrying the common practice of college profs putting their own works on the curriculum, essentially forcing students to pay them personal royalties on top of tuition. Now, the Departments of Labour and Education is investing heavily in “Open Access” ebooks for post-secondary programs. The $2 billion will pay for the creation of the texts, which will then be free for all, and, one assumes, open for Wikipedia-style updates and edits. Other U.S. efforts, like the California Open Source Textbook Project, will push the initiative along for K-12 schools.
Ebooks can be a tough sell for cash-strapped schools lacking the hardware to read them. But add Open Access/Open Source to the equation, and the long-term savings usually outweigh the costs (here’s an app that lets educational buyers calculate exactly what they stand to save). Clunky hardcover textbooks, constantly in need of repair or replacement, with built-in obsolescence, are a major expense for schools. As soon as decent, curriculum-connected free versions are online, they can be used anywhere. Once forward-thinking Canadian classes take the plunge, it’s unlikely they’ll ever go back. (An obvious bonus is that unlike adults, kids prefer to read off of screens.)
But there’s a danger with letting other countries shell out for open ebook production and then swooping in to reap the benefits. As Michael Geist has pointed out, this will leave Canadian content out in the cold. Will our schools shun these open alternatives for lack of Canadian content, or will our publishers supplement the American texts with Canadian e-addendums?
Or, let me crazily suggest, might Canada actually get ahead of the ball, producing our own open textbooks that might be used in other countries? It’s not like our schools don’t have an incentive to break their dependance on the existing textbook racket—they’re about to cut a cheque of $60 million or so to Access Copyright for licensing violations of existing educational materials.
By Jesse Brown - Friday, June 24, 2011 at 11:51 AM - 0 Comments
The questions are many: What’s your debut novel worth? What are you willing to pay for a video game? How much does the best song ever cost?
Also: how do you compete with free? How do you beat piracy? What am I willing to pay in order to not feel like a leech?
One dollar minus one penny seems to be the magic number when selling virtual goods that can otherwise be easily acquired for free. Self-published authors are discovering that when they drop their sticker price from $2.99 to $.99, sales shoot up, and their titles rapidly climb the charts. Rovio, makers of Angry Birds, have built a multimillion dollar business, a buck at a time, and now preach the gospel of that sweet spot price. Kindle Singles are Amazon’s bargain-priced short e-books, which are breathing new life into long-format journalism. Nine of the 10 best selling apps right now on iTunes are priced under a dollar. As different industries experiment with a range of pricing schemes for their wildly divergent products, they are all arriving at the same conclusion: 99 cents.
So is the web just filled with cheapskates, or what?
Maybe, but we’re righteous cheapskates. Any content seller who has tried putting their wares online at the same sticker prices as in brick and mortar stores deserves a bit of dollar store justice for playing customers like chumps. Some have even demanded higher prices for digital downloads. This betrays an outright contempt for consumer intelligence. Baked into the price of a DVD at HMV are manufacturing, printing, and shipping costs, retail space rental and the hourly wage of the stockboy who pointed you to the right aisle. Eliminate all of that, and the consumer rightly feels entitled to a significant savings. Pretend this isn’t true, and you’ll be lucky to get 99 cents.
There’s more to it of course… 99 cents is a magic number that for most people means they don’t have to think too hard about pushing “buy”. Most folks are still getting used to paying for a download, and the low price point allows more and more people to get comfortable with virtual goods. For more experienced users who know how to find content for free, .99 cents is about what it’s worth to not have to bother.
Should a song cost the same price as a movie? Do we value a great book no more than a time-wasting iPhone game? I don’t think so, an in time I imagine that content sellers will regain a bit more pricing flexibility in the hearts and minds of consumers. But for now, I’d buy that for a dollar.