The Future of the Book (in Higher Ed) — Part II

In the toolbox of many strategic planning exercises there is a technique called Scenario Planning.  What one does is to take two, or perhaps three, major drivers where uncertainty exists as to a “yes” or “no” result and then describe the world based on alternative outcomes.  For example, a 2-parameter model would have 4 alternatives; a 3-parameter model, 8.

Years ago we did this for eBooks in the Higher Education market space and used two factors (four possible outcomes):

  • Infinite bandwidth at a finite cost, i.e. would users be able to get the content they needed quickly and at little cost?
  • Adoption — would users (teachers and students) want to use that content more than physical content?

I believe that the first factor has in fact been achieved, and that what we are looking for a significant change in acceptance (and production) of eContent.  I have long felt that eContent is different from physical books and needs to be priced differently as a site license rather than a unit based model because of the inherent cost structure of high fixed, low variable costs.

Now the interesting question is adoption.  If we were to conduct a scenario for universal adoption, what would the two factors be?

  • Natural evolution of todays generation of device users
  • Educators changing the teaching and learning process
  • Economics of higher education costs
  • Pricing of content to end user
  • Governmental intervention
  • Better tools for creating electronic materials
  • MOOCs
  • Ubiquitous availability of materials (for free) on the Internet
  • Evolution of Course Management Systems
  • ???

Time for a “Future of the Book II?”