All-digital newsstand coming to college stores

More than 3,000 magazines and books will be available on mobile devices like the iPhone.
More than 3,000 magazines and books will be available to college students on mobile devices like the iPhone.

College students will be able to access digitized publications from around the world starting in August, including many that can be incorporated into their course work, after the campus retailing industry teamed up with a digital content distributor to create an online newsstand stocked with 3,000 magazines and books.

The nonprofit National Association of College Stores (NACS), based in Ohio, announced July 12 that it would make the digital resources available through Zinio, a content provider that offers 75,000 publications in 24 languages. The online publications can be accessed through computers, iPhones, iPads, and other mobile devices popular among college students.

NACS officials touted the digital newsstand as the first directed specifically at the college market. Officials did not release the number of campuses that would use the Zinio newsstand when it’s opened later this summer.

The newsstand will offer students access to the latest issues of the trendiest magazines, as well as literary classics such as Beowulf, Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, and more than 100 others. The classics and magazines are searchable through a browse feature on Zinio’s web site.

Any purchase made from the Zinio newsstand will be accessible on any device that has a Zinio application installed on it, officials said.

Mark Nelson, vice president of strategy and development for NACS Media Solutions, a subsidiary of NACS that launched the newsstand with Zinio, said the organization’s foray into providing digital content for students comes in response to the increased demand for web-based reading among college students.

“We feel this is the future of the college store,” he said. “We’re doing this in a way that expands the role of the college store beyond our traditional role, to include more of an entertainment aspect for students.”

Access to Zinio, Nelson said, also could play an educational role for students. If, for instance, a faculty member wants to incorporate international magazines into the curriculum for a foreign language course, he or she can have students read magazines from different countries on the newsstand web site.

“It really gives us opportunities to match magazines to courses,” Nelson said, adding that the online newsstand was not piloted on campuses because “the technology has already been proven.” He added: “This gives our stores another way to deliver content that can [be used by college faculty].”

In its July 12 announcement, NACS said the new campus-based digital newsstand will include “a revenue-sharing arrangement for NACS members who wish to promote the site to their local college students,” although it didn’t specify how revenue would be distributed among campuses that promote the newsstand among student groups.

Richard Maggiotto, founder and president of San Francisco-based Zinio, said the web site’s well-stocked library of digital books and magazines would be ideal for college-age customers who prefer accessing material online.

“This is a highly mobile, technologically savvy audience that is incredibly comfortable with digital content,” Maggiotto said. “The platforms and reading habits of the college market makes it perfect for a digital newsstand.”

NACS released survey findings in May that showed three our of four college students preferred traditional printed textbooks over digital texts for their classes.

The study also found that more than half of college students surveyed on 19 campuses said they “were unsure about purchasing digital textbooks or would not consider buying them even if they were available.”

Laura Cozart, a research manager for NACS, said the overwhelming preference for traditional textbooks was “not surprising,” because “every new innovation takes time before the mainstream population embraces it.”

NACS member stores offering digital educational content that can be accessed on eReader devices reported that eBooks make up 2 to 3 percent of their sales. Cozart said that figure could jump to 15 percent by 2012, as eBook manufacturers make their content more interactive and faculty become accustomed to electronic texts.

However, students’ reluctance to embrace digital books doesn’t mean they’re not reading other content on their web-ready mobile devices. Forty-one percent of students said they “regularly” access reading materials from the BlackBerries, iPhones, and similar devices, according to the NACS survey.

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