A Lesson in E-Literacy
“We’ll have to pay closer attention to this over time,” says McConnell. “It may mean lowering the prices on textbooks or creating our own communities like the students have and finding ways to limit our losses.”
Chat Rooms: Essential, but
Speaking of online communities, Castelli says chat rooms are becoming more a part of his company’s offerings, though he sees them presently as a value-add as opposed to a revenue driver. “We’ve set up ‘ask the expert’ sessions online where we have literacy experts do a 20-minute presentation and then entertain questions at the end from people in the audience. It’s been modestly successful, but it’s more a way to add to the relationship with our customer,” he says.
Greg Koenig, marketing communications manager for Siboney Learning Group, which publishes educational software for schools, believes publishers need to catch up in this underused territory. “My college-age daughters have Facebook and MySpace as a part of their daily lives, so imagine how it will be for young children of the future,” he says.
Still, Koenig says that while online tools may be essential, they will not become the only means for book marketing and reader engagement. “… We can’t underestimate the effect of a live book signing. I think chat rooms have to be seen as an extra, but not something that should substitute for that face-to-face meeting—that can gain a reader for a lifetime,” he says.
E-books are another area in which the learning curve is low, says Iiams. “I have heard publishers praising e-books, but we’re [a] primary [education book publisher], so [at that level], kids are just learning to read,” she says. “I don’t think kids are using technology in the classroom as much as some would like to think.”
Castelli says his company will have 192 e-books this fall. “They are of interest in the English Language Learner market, once known as ESL. They demanded audiocassettes in the past to hear how words are supposed to be spoken, and we’re taking it to the next step by having the e-book for easy text reading.”