Monday, June 2, 2008

Could Colleges Sell Courses the Way Amazon Sells Kindle Books?

[I continue to be impressed with the Amazon Kindle and will be writing more this week about my Going Paperless Experiment. Today I wanted to walk through the way Kindle users purchase books using an example. And.... I've been asking myself.... could we start selling courses this way? Perhaps some colleges already are? See what you think.]

I'll admit I'm caught up in the hype and have been wanting to take a look at Scott McClellan's What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception. We live in the woods and buying anything (unless it is delivered) involves jumping in the car and driving. Last night I did not feel like driving so I figured - what the heck - I'll go to Amazon, pull down a free sample of the preface and first chapter of McClellan's book on my Kindle and go from there. Here's what I did:

Step 1
: On my PC I went to the Kindle section and found that the book was available. Here's a partial screen shot of the website:

Over on the right you can see I could either buy the book with one click or I could sample the beginning of the book for free. I decided to request the no cost sample. With a single click of the "Send Sample now" button the beginning of the book was ready for me - waiting in a queue for my Kindle to download the next time I turned it on and connected wirelessly.

Step 2 (30 seconds later)
: I power up my Kindle and turned wireless on. It took maybe 20 seconds for the content to download. Once downloaded to my Kindle it appears on my Home screen as a "sample". Here's a screen shot of my Kindle home screen showing the sample:

The book sample listed at the top - notice I've got a couple other samples I'm checking out!

Step 3
: I took the time last night to read the sample preface and first chapter. I was not standing in the isle of a bookstore skimming the beginning of the book - I was sitting comfortably at home - relaxed and able to focus. I decided I'd sleep on whether I wanted to pay the $9.99 for the book. Here's a screen shot of the last page of the sample with the purchase option:
I had the option of doing nothing, buying or seeing details.

Step 4
: I woke up early this morning and gave the sample another read (this time much quicker) and decided I wanted a little more detail before making a decision. On the last page of the sample I selected "See details for this book in the Kindle Store". Here's a screen shot:
I looked at the reviews, was hooked and decided to buy.

Step 5
: I selected "Buy" and got the following message:
I was given the option to cancel the order if the purchase was buy accident. I also received an email (withing about 15 seconds) with my order summary from Amazon.

Step 6
: The entire book took less that a minute to download wirelessly to my Kindle. Here's a screen shot of my Home screen showing both the entire book and the sample at the top.
Notice the entire book is tagged "new".

That's it - easy, simple, fast and efficient. It's not just Kindle selling this way - Apple has always sold music on iTunes by providing a free sample of the first 20 seconds of a song.

So.... could a college sell courses this way? Could the first week of a 15 week course be offered as a no-cost sample? I'm not talking about a pay up front, money back if not satisfied arrangement - I'm talking no money down, no credit card required first week free. Most will probably say no - it's impossible with billing, enrollment, scheduling, etc issues - right? But.... people are getting used to buying this way - especially young people. Someone somewhere at some college is going to figure out how to make this work - maybe somebody already has.

[I am in no way affiliated with Amazon and receive no compensation from Amazon. I purchased my Kindle and all content using personal funds.]

1 comment:

Mark Viquesney said...

This is an interesting idea. I could see the first week of a course being posted on the school's website. Either leave it up all year or put it up during registration time. If the person wants to take the class they are given the next start date. This would really work well for on-line classes. Rio Salado, one of the Maricopa Community Colleges, offers classes every two weeks (it is about 90% online or mail) - a person would not have to wait long to take a class from them. It also would mean that the professor better start their class off with a bang in the first week if they want to get students interested. No boring lecture to start with.