In a recent article about ebooks not yet racking up big sales at college bookstores, an interesting quote caught my eye “…a biochemistry freshman from Westfield, said his high school experience using digital texts turned him off from the format. Maybe in the future, he said, the technology will advance to a more accessible design.” This aligns well with the experience my 18 year old son had with ebooks that he had access to in high school. For various reasons, the ebooks that were made available to him were old, simple PDF files which we all agree hardly represent the capabilities of what the major publishers can do. The problem is, the students have had their taste of the ebook and by and large they don’t like what they tasted. As we know, getting them to try ebooks again is really difficult.
This made me think about how we engage with our customers as consultants. Many Flatirons’ engagements start as relatively small, consultative opportunities. We recognize that we only have one chance to make that first impression, whether it is representing our company, our capabilities or our qualities. We strive to provide high value to the customer immediately; if we don’t, the engagement and the overall relationship with the client will be very short-lived.
In relation to the technology involving digital publishing and ebooks, I challenge not only the publishers but also us, the technologist. We need to step back and take a look at what markets we are putting all our publishing content efforts into – K-12, higher education, professional. Maybe we need to rethink our strategy, do the very best we can and make it available to the students and teachers much earlier in the learning roadmap. Having worked at one of the big publishers for many years, the really cool and innovative stuff was being done in the higher education space. By the time the students get to college, I would say that their learning habits and preferences are pretty much established and changing them is difficult. Investing more in innovative technologies and strategies in the K-12 space could create a really positive change in the way that learning occurs in the first years of formalized education.