Admissions viewbooks, e-readers, and teddy bears

Viewbooks and e-readers: Exploring the Possibilities

Yesterday I put the final polish on upcoming workshops for two July Conferences, ACT’s Enrollment Planners Conference and eduWeb 09.

Both workshops will expand the topic of a shorter presentation at SUNYCAP earlier in June: Can you imagine crafting a recruitment communication plan without using paper?

This presentation first ran last summer at the ACT conference. Wild. Crazy. Silly. Foolish. But many people paid extra dollars to attend and speculate about the future.

This year’s is revised and updated to include what’s been happening since then. Two areas are especially important: unexpected pressure to reduce costs by moving print publications online and continuing technology advances.

Clinging to Print  

Everyone seems to agree that the most difficult piece to relinquish is the printed admissions viewbook. People cling to that with the same fear of loss that small children have about their favorite teddy bear before they fall asleep at night. If we don’t have a printed viewbook, what demons and dragons will come from under the bed and devour us?

But there are signs that a fine life without a printed viewbook might be possible.

Electronic Publication Plans

Earlier this year, Karine Joly at HigherEdExperts took a survey of online readers and reported on “The State of Print and Electronic Publications in Higher Education.” She had responses from 198 people, with a good division between public and private sector schools.

    • Two years ago, in an earlier version, nobody reported that they had moved their viewbooks to “online only” status.
    • This year, 5% reported already making that move. 
    • And 23% reported that they had started creating an electronic version of their viewbook. (That doesn’t automatically lead to dropping the print version, but it puts people in a better place to do that. And let’s hope that not many of these folk plan to just take the print version and put it online as a PDF.)

Last year’s ACT workshop included discussion of e-readers, with special attention to Amazon’s Kindle. The Kindle had elevated the visibility of e-readers past what Sony had been able to accomplish a few years earlier. The Kindle, however, had a major limitation: it was only available in black and white format. And nobody seemed to know when a color version would debut. Without a color version, it was hard to imagine that people might read admissions viewbooks on e-readers.

Fujitsu E-reader with color display

But a color e-reader debuted in Japan earlier this year, from Fujitsu. And early reviews have been positive, like this one in FastCompany magazine. Right now the cost at about $900 is prohibitive for most people. Even the Kindle’s current cost puts it outside mass market adoption. But that, of course, isn’t the point. The color technology has arrived and the cost will fall. In 2009 it isn’t quite as silly to imagine a time when people will download and read an admissions viewbook on an e-reader as it was in 2008.

Preferences for Online Information

Put this together with what’s being reported in the Noel-Levitz E-Expectations research series each year. Many future students and their parents prefer online information gathering about colleges and universities. Will that continue to grow in 5 years? In 10 years? Is it impossible to imagine that people will fill out an online inquiry form to download your viewbook to their e-reader? I wouldn’t bet my life savings against it.

Before long, we might not need printed viewbooks the way small children will still need teddy bears and other stuffed animals. Really.

That’s all for now.





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