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The current state of textbooks: give us an update. What’s going on?
John Bales: It’s very exciting times. There are a lot of changes going on in the industry. The first thing we have to do is change how we look at textbooks. It’s really not about textbooks any more, it’s about educational content. How do we, as a University and as a college bookstore, deliver that content? There are a lot of changes happening in technology with new devices, and there are a ton of changes happening in the delivery of educational content.

For instance, last fall semester we had e-books – digital books – for roughly 40-45 titles out of 1,500 books we carry. This spring, we had 250. So you can see the amazing growth in digital content and digital books.

So faculty and students are accepting and adapting to the changes?
In the end, what’s going to be critical is the customer – the student – is going to tell us what they want. There is a customer base that is completely engaged and wants only digital, and there’s another customer base that wants to stick with print. So for us as a store, obviously we have to have what that customer wants. What’s important to us is to have all those solutions. This fall, you’re going to be able to buy a new textbook, a used textbook, a digital copy or possibly a rental book, based on what will be available in those titles. We’ll have a full solution for our customers.

What are the pieces of technology that are popular now?
Predominantly, our students are coming to school with a laptop, so for faculty and students, that’s the predominant piece they’re using. But that’s changing rapidly. Devices out there now are notebooks, netbooks, which are the smaller versions of the notebook, readers like the Kindle, and a number of hand-held devices like the iPod Touch or smart-phones like the iPhone. A little plug for the Bookstore here – we’re an Apple store, so come see us for all of your Apple needs. But, these are all devices that students and faculty will use in addition to their laptop, PC or desktop device. These new devices are becoming amazingly popular, and somewhere in the future, all this probably merges into smaller devices that are very mobile and let you do a lot of different activities on them.

Can you help me make a connection between a small, hand-held device and a textbook?
You can actually download an application for these devices that allows you to put a reader, like the Kindle, on something like an iPod or iPhone. You can download content and read it. Personally, it’s a little small, but kids today think it’s the perfect size. The textbook part of it isn’t perfect – it’s better for recreational reading – but as the industry evolves, there will be additional opportunities for textbooks on these devices.

What advice can you give faculty for keeping up on teaching with technology?
Students are our biggest customer base, but faculty is the biggest driver of that customer base. My best advice is come see us and let us show you some of the technology that’s out there. Faculty is going to drive the technology in terms of what they allow in the classroom and what they discourage in the classroom. We’re happy to work directly with faculty and show them the devices that are available and how educational content is now being distributed.

We’re standing in the middle of the Bookstore, so I have to ask you: What’s your favorite book?
I’m a big fan of the Common Read, and I’m not sure if we’re ready to release the title for this fall, but it’s going to be released very soon.
[Aside: Can we release that, Kathleen?
Kathleen: “The Short Bus.”]
“The Short Bus” is the Common Read for this fall, and we’ll have it in-store in about two weeks.
[Kathleen: It’s here.]
It’s here already, how about that!