Summaries; we miss them! (Digital Transformation Project Gr. 36)

Most of the Erasmus students buy summaries, or at least they have seen a lot of them around the University Library. Various summary providers are currently active within this business. They all try to help students to study more efficient and effective in some way.

These summaries are typical information goods; they can be seen as a container of information. The initial production is costly, but the reproduction costs are substantially lower (Shapiro & Varian, 1998). After writing and controlling the summary, the provider owns the content of a digital product, ready to be distributed. Currently these summaries are (mainly) distributed in a printed format only. However, besides purchasing them at brick-and-mortar stores, students can order most summaries via webshops as well. But is this model sustainable in a rapidly changing digital world? And why not selling these summaries in a digital format, so production costs can be minimized?

In the past decade, publishers have increasingly moved towards offering their books in a digital form: e-books. By 2013, the market share of e-books increased from almost nothing to 22% within five years. E-books have increased in popularity due to the possibility to store books on portable devices. Research has shown that we have 4.3 devices per capita in the Netherlands (Oosterveer, 2015)! According to the University Horizon Report 2012 of Johnson et al., students want to access their content anywhere and anytime. They want their digital content to be interactive, integrated and inexpensive. Furthermore research showed that students that used digital media performed as good as students that used printed materials (Connel et al., 2012).

Besides the e-book trend, a questionnaire has been conducted for this research. It was found that 96% of all students use a laptop or desktop for studying purposes while ‘just’ 82% of them is using printed materials. Smartphones and tablets are both being used by 25% of the students. Furthermore, 96% of the students is using summaries (writing summaries themselves, using summaries of friends, etc.). 46% is also paying for summaries. Overall, it can be concluded that laptop/desktop usage already outperforms the usage of printed materials among students for studying purposes.

Based on these findings and the rise of e-books, why not providing summaries in a digital format? To figure out if students would like such an online environment for studying purposes, respondents of the questionnaire were asked if they would like to have a similar environment for articles. We used articles since they are provided mainly in a digital form. The results are promising: 77% of the respondents would be interested in an online platform for articles. As this percentage is higher than the percentage of respondents that are currently buying summaries (46%). This implies that there is a group of students interested in an online summary solution, while they are not purchasing printed summaries now.

To conclude, there is no time to waste for summary providers. Digitize your summaries, minimize production costs and provide students an even more efficient and effective way of studying. Start offering summaries via an online platform!

Group 36 (B. Louwman / F. Wesselink / T.Langenberg / K.French / J.Mets)

Connell, C., Baliss, L., & Farmer, W. (2012). Effects of e-book readers and tablet computers on reading comprehension. International Journal of Instructional Media, 39(2), 131-140.

Johnson, L., Adams, S., & Cummins, M. (2012). The NMC horizon report: 2012 higher education edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Oosterveer, D. (2015, June 29). Het mobiel gebruik in Nederland: de cijfers. Accessed on 10 October 2015, from Marketingfacts: de-cijfers

Shapiro, C., & Varian, H. (1998). Pricing Information. In Information Rules; A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.


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