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How to Green Textbook Sales: Tear Them Into Chapters

| Friday March 4th, 2011 | 0 Comments

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Has this ever happened to you? After buying a huge stack of books for your University courses, half of them end up being used for only a single chapter, or perhaps a handful more. That’s money and resources that didn’t need to be used. But up until now, professor’s hands were tied, as they typically can’t legally copy the needed chapters or give them to students as a PDF.

With the increasing ubiquity of iPads, Kindles and the like, eBook versions of text books are starting to become an option for students. But what if you only need certain chapters of the book and paying for the whole thing is an unnecessary expense?

Until services like Reference Tree, there wasn’t much you could do.

Reference Tree is a UK based company that has partnered with major publishers to offer books on a per chapter basis, for as little as £1.60 ($2.60 as of this writing) It still has a way to go to being the ideal service, as the chapters appear to be only available online, not on reader devices, and the ability to take notes and share them with others is still to come.

However, an intriguing feature set to roll out this year is teacher’s ability to understand student’s engagement levels with the material via analytics tools. I’d be curious to see how this gets used by teachers – Who might tell their students they’ll be doing this, using it as a way to encourage students to read for fear of being seen not reading required material! It could also be informative as to which areas students are gravitating to, helping reshape the future iterations of the class, or the content of the class in realtime.

Another service that excels where Reference Tree falls short is CengageBrain. It offers books by the chapter, on multiple platforms, along with the option to buy, or rent physical text books, made simple with prepaid return shipping. And, in a case of being where students already live, it offers additional resources via a free iPhone app, including flash cards, quizzes, etc.

I think that if one company could offer CengageBrain’s variety of platforms and additional resources coupled with Reference Trees analytics tools, it would be a tremendously successful company and an exceptional service to teachers, students, and authors.

Readers: What’s your take on these companies? Where is electronic delivery and use of books missing out on their potential? Who’s excelling in this space? Chime in, below.

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing.


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