Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about consumer technology.
Oh, e-readers are e-readers. And tablets are tablets. And surely the twain shall meet. Indeed, they already have, with the iPad hosting not only its own integrated bookstore, but client software from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and others. Barnes & Noble, in turn, describes its new Nook Color as a "readers' tablet." But these devices and their affiliated digital bookstores are all chasing the same avid readers of bestsellers. These readers read mostly for leisure or self-directed enrichment as they can fit it in to their schedules.
But those who sell e-readers and tablets would really like to tap into a market of people who have
to read versus want
to read -- not just the low-stakes novellas of Amazon singles, but hefty, cumbersome, expensive, perpetually obsolete tomes that are assigned to 19 million full-time college students annually. The National Association of College Stores estimates that the average full-time college student spends nearly $700 per year on course materials. For the 2008-2009 school year, the average new textbook price was $64. And the mean gross margin on course materials for a college bookstore is 27 percent.
That is a prize worth pursuing. But can a device dedicated to the way students study survive amidst an onslaught of tablets from every corner of the PC, consumer electronics and cell phone industries? Kno thinks the answer is yes.