OPLIN 4Cast #233: E-book gender issues

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Guess what? Men and women are different. While that is obvious in many cases, it may be a little surprising to find that men and women seem to have different preferences and habits when it comes to e-books and e-book readers. Forrester Research has been keeping watch on the digital book market, and our first link below is an article about Forrester’s predictions for that market from 18 months ago. Their most recently released report seems to indicate that they got at least one thing right: women are important to the future of the e-reader business. The fourth article linked below may provide some insight into a problem women may have with the current e-book business model.

  • E-reader growth hinges on women, $99 price tag, says Forrester (eWeek/Michelle Maisto)  “Finally, later adopters—the group with the biggest potential of all—are likely to be women who currently [Aug. 2009] buy or borrow approximately 2.7 books per month. They’re less concerned with having the latest device, they’ll wait for a $149 or $99 price point, and they buy their books from multiple sources. ‘Whereas Amazon was perfectly positioned to sell to the first wave of e-reader adopters, this group may be more likely to buy from a retailer like Wal-mart or Target,’ writes [Forrester Research author Sarah] Rotman.”
  • Female magazine fans flock to Nook Color (New York Times/Jeremy W. Peters)  “On the surface, the reason for the strong performance of female-oriented publications on the Nook is relatively straightforward. Generically speaking, the iPad and other tablets are men’s toys, while the Nook Color and other e-readers are more popular with women. According to data from Forrester Research, 56 percent of tablet owners are male, while 55 percent of e-reader owners are female. Women also buy more books than men do—by a ratio of about 3 to 1, according to a survey last year by Bowker, a research firm for publishers—and are therefore more likely to buy devices that are made primarily for reading books.”
  • Meredith takes an analytical approach to tablets and e-readers (eMedia Vitals/Rob O’Regan)  “What has [women's publisher Meredith Corp.'s Liz] Schimel’s team learned so far about the user experience? For one, there are distinct differences between users of tablets like the iPad and users of e-readers such as Barnes & Noble’s Nook. Users of tablets, she said, are looking for interactivity in the form of videos or hotspots—basically, more sophistication from a technology point of view. E-reader users, on the other hand, seem happy just to have content that’s portable. ‘The delight factor there is the fact they can get great magazine content on their e-reader device,’ she said.”
  • E-books drive older women to digital piracy (The Telegraph/Christopher Williams)  “One in eight women over 35 who own such devices admit to having downloaded an unlicensed e-book. That compares to just one in 20 women over 35 who admit to having engaged in digital music piracy. News that a group formerly unwilling to infringe copyright are changing their behaviour as e-books take off will worry publishing executives, who fear they could suffer a similar fate to the record labels that have struggled to replace lost physical sales.”

Nook fact:
Barnes and Noble has specifically targeted women in their marketing of the Nook readers, and that strategy seems to have brought them one of their biggest successes. They now claim more than 25% of the digital book market.

OPLIN 4Cast #226: eTextbooks are different

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

We have certainly written a number of posts on this blog about e-books in the past, but this post is about a specific kind of digital book: “eTextbooks.” These textbook e-books differ in important ways from the novel e-books we’ve posted about previously. Reading a textbook often involves highlighting sections of text for later review and taking notes, things which few people reading novels do. This difference in the reading activity leads to an interesting difference in the preferred hardware for eTextbooks: the reading device needs to have either a touchscreen or touchpad, like a tablet or laptop computer. Most novel e-book reading devices, like the Kindle, lack this. And because tablets and laptops are computers, they can do more things than just displaying text, things which are, in turn, beginning to drive changes in the way eTextbooks are written and marketed. Will students begin to expect similar features when they read a novel e-book?

  • eTextbooks and educational apps: iPads enter the classroom (Singularity Hub/Whitney Ijem)  “High school, college and graduate students alike are making use of eTextbooks from companies like Inkling and CourseSmart. These companies work with textbook publishers to provide digital versions of the cumbersome textbooks we are so used to lugging around. There are also apps available that aid in note taking and information gathering. Older students aren’t the only ones with iPads. In some schools, children as young as 5 are using iPads to learn the basics.”
  • 1 in 4 college textbooks will be digital by 2015 (ReadWriteWeb/Audrey Watters)  “An oft-cited study by the Book Industry Study Group found that 75% of college students say they prefer print textbooks. But Xplana [report] says that rather than take that study as a sign that students will refuse to use digital books, we should instead marvel that, at a time when only 1% of college textbooks are available in an electronic format, that already 25% of college students say they prefer to study this way.”
  • Publishers back Inkling’s iPad textbooks (VentureBeat/Anthony Ha)  “But he [Inkling CEO Matt MacInnis] argued that everyone else is basically adding limited features to a PDF of the textbook and that these e-books are basically developed by the publishers’ business divisions without much input from the original textbook creators. Inkling, on the other hand, wants to publish apps that feel like they were truly built for the iPad, which usually means working with the books’ authors to create new content. ‘It only gets interesting when the content itself changes and begins to respond to your fingertips,’ MacInnis said.”
  • Textbook renter Chegg becomes more social (New York Times Bits blog/Miguel Helft)  “CourseRank, which Chegg acquired in August, lets students see reviews of courses and professors written by other students. Students can also see when a class meets so they can plan their schedule online. They can also see who among their friends have signed up for a given course, the distribution of grades (is this class going to be hard or not?) and of course, what textbooks are required. (Yes, they can then rent them from Chegg.)”

Licensing fact:
Students often don’t purchase eTextbooks; they “subscribe” to them for a term long enough to cover the class term, usually 180 days.

OPLIN 4Cast #220: Turbulent times for publishers

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

No doubt about it, libraries are going through some very tough times right now. On top of draconian budget cuts, they have to deal with the latest anti-library antics of Those Dang Publishers. We tend to forget, however, that these are also very tough times for those publishers, as they watch the business models they have relied on for years become obsolete in the march toward new digital media and new distribution methods. For example, they face business pressure to sell their e-books through “agencies,” while at the same time facing legal pressure when they do. In today’s 4cast, we share a potpourri of recent writings that illustrate some of the new stresses on the old publishing industry.

  • Monetizing the book buying experience (Off the Page/Sheila Bounford)  “Of course not everyone behaves on impulse, and consumers do not have an obligation to buy in store. Those from outside the book industry do not necessarily feel a responsibility to support their local shop if the prices there are higher than online. In a recession customers are much more likely to browse, and then go home and buy online to save money. The key questions therefore are how else can physical bookstores monetize what they offer? And, should publishers be much more proactive in supporting them through increased discounts and other measures?”
  • Random House caves on agency e-book pricing (Ars Technica/Jacqui Cheng)  “Under the wholesale model, publishers like Random House would sell a certain number of books to a reseller (such as Amazon) for a set price, then the reseller would set its own price on each book. This works out well for the sale of physical books that have to be shipped, but not so much for e-books, where there are infinite copies. The agency model, by comparison, allows publishers to set their own prices for e-books and give 30 percent of the sale price to the reseller.”
  • EU raids ebook publishers in price fixing investigation (Guardian/Benedicte Page and Leigh Phillips)  “The focus for the price-fixing investigation is understood to be what is called the agency model, which has been adopted by almost all the biggest publishers for their ebook sales. This is distinct from the traditional wholesale model, in which retailers buy the books from the publisher and can then do what they wish with them. Under the agency model, the retailer acts as an agent of the publisher, which itself sets the retail price of the ebooks, with the retailer taking a commission. Publishers see the agency model as crucial because it allows them to trade with Apple, which was already using it for iTunes, and also to control the price at which their ebooks are sold.”
  • Gannett unveils image ‘reset’ (USA Today/David Lieberman)  “[CEO Craig] Dubow said he wants advertisers and others to see that Gannett [news] properties attract local and national audiences via different media, including the Internet, smartphones and tablet computers such as Apple’s iPad. To help make that point, the company’s properties will begin to prominently identify themselves as part of Gannett. In addition, the company will launch a national advertising campaign that includes the tagline, ‘It’s all within reach.’”

Profit fact:
ECKO Publishing provides a handy online tool for publishers to figure their profit on e-books distributed through various agencies, as well as some interesting agency rules publishers must follow.

OPLIN 4Cast #219: E-book lending (personal)

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

It’s a safe assumption that most of our readers have heard of the recent move by Harper Collins to restrict the lending of their e-books by libraries; the news lit up Twitter and other news channels at the end of last week. If you need a reminder of what’s going on, we recommend the article from the New York Times and/or Joe Atzberger’s blog post. In our blog post, we thought it might be interesting to look at the current state of person-to-person e-book lending. After all, many of the earliest public libraries in this country had their beginnings as interpersonal book-lending groups before they became more formally organized. (Of course, these days the groups are likely to be Internet “friends,” rather than neighbors.) Perhaps we can find some clues to successful e-book lending models by looking at e-book clubs. Or perhaps they’re just having the same problems that are plaguing libraries.

  • New Kindle lending club matches e-book borrowers and lenders (ReadWriteWeb/Audrey Watters)  “The Kindle Lending Club is the brainchild of Catherine MacDonald, who said that when she heard Amazon announce on December 30 that it was finally adding a lending option for Kindle,  she decided to set up a Facebook group—a way to help people find others who were willing to share their e-books. But as interest in the group exploded, MacDonald realized that Facebook just didn’t offer the scalability needed for such an undertaking. ‘I had no idea how viral the idea was,’ she says.”
  • E-book lending clubs (ALA TechSource/Tom Peters)  “What I find fascinating about these eBook lending clubs is that they realized that, once Barnes & Noble and Amazon enabled the lending of etexts, a nascent market had been born. However, it was an inefficient, disorganized market because, if I own a lendable Kindle edition, I have no efficient way to lend that etext to someone else who wants to read it, unless I just happen to know a family member, friend, or colleague who might be interested in reading one of my Kindle editions.”
  • Friends, Romans, countrymen lend me your ebooks (Librarian by Day/Bobbi L. Newman)  “First let me state that I think the lending rules on the Kindle and Nook are complete rubbish. I mean really the selection is very limited and you can only lend an item one time and for only 14 days.”
  • Kindle & Nook book lending (pafa.net/pollyalida)  “While I love the idea of being able to loan the few books I’ve purchased, the restriction on loaning a title only once will turn me into more of a hoarder than a lender. If I’m going to loan a title that I really enjoyed, I want to loan it to a friend, a good friend. And not just any good friend, but that one very good friend who will love the book the most. And the one who can get through it in the limited 14 days. Don’t bother loaning me anything, I’m a slow reader.”

Club fact (kinda):
Several people have posted lists of e-book lending groups, but the Tom Peters blog post cited above is the most current and (if you include the comments) most complete that we found.