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HarperCollins Now Moving into The Digital Present by Loaning Staff Laptops, Tablets

The best way to get someone to truly invest in new tech is to encourage them to use it for personal needs, and it looks like HarperCollins is taking that to heart.

Earlier this year the UK branch of HarperCollins started a new program to provide interest-free loans to its staff. The loan, which is capped at £500, can be used to buy  a laptop, tablet, or some other mobile device. The loan can be repaid over a 1 year period via payroll deductions.

35 employees from the publishing firm’s 900 UK staff have signed up since the scheme was launched in May, and it will be open to the rest of the staff for the rest of the year.  John Athanasiou, HR director at HarperCollins, said: "If you look at our strategy of trying to upskill people in the digital space, it is allowing employees to explore it in their own time. The whole [transformation] going on in publishing is about technological changes."

The value of this program should be obvious, but given some recent events in digital publishing, that may not be the case.

By making sure its employees use these new devices, HarperCollins is putting them in a position to better understand their customers, both in how they use digital content now and how they might want to use it. This program will likely show a return in terms of improved quality in HC content as well as potentially new product niches.

And at the very least it will prevent HC from an embarrassing faux pas like B&N Chairman Len Riggio and his now famous statement that he doesn’t use his Nook.

Speaking of which, how well do you think he understands that part of his business, given that he refuses to use it?

That’s not a flippant question; B&N appears to have been caught out in the ongoing market transition away from ereaders and to tablets  and other mobile devices, leaving them in a less then enviable position of having to sell off their ereaders at whatever they can get for them (hence the BOGO sales). B&n continues to commit more resources to the development of the Nook ereader (Nook Glow, for example), and that might not have happened had the senior management understood the market better.


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Jeff Rutherford July 4, 2012 um 8:39 am

How about this. You buy the staff laptops, iPads, Nooks, Kindles, and Kobos, that they can freely take home with them every night.

What a concept!

flyingtoastr July 4, 2012 um 11:02 am

"Speaking of which, how well do you think he understands that part of his business, given that he refuses to use it?"

Given that he’s chairman of the board of directors, it doesn’t matter at all. The board of any publicly traded company doesn’t have anything to do with day-to-day operations of the company.

"B&N appears to have been caught out in the ongoing market transition away from ereaders and to tablets and other mobile devices,"

Except for… you know… inventing the 7″ media tablet market.

Keep up the FUD!

Nate Hoffelder July 4, 2012 um 6:47 pm

Do you mean the media tablet no one wants to buy? It sure seems to go on sale a lot. And it’s not a media tablet; it’s an enhanced ereader.

BTW, you are welcome to say they invented the market but the fact is they weren’t the first. Pandigital released a couple enhanced ereader models before B&N. Then Pandigital decided to get out of that market and converted all their enhanced ereaders to straight Android tablets.

That last bit kinda proves my point about B&N; everyone else opened up their hardware and pulled out of the market B&N invented. Hmm, maybe that was the right choice.

Jeff Rutherford July 5, 2012 um 10:38 am

@flyingtoastr – are you really going to claim that Len Riggio because his title is chairman has nothing to do with day-t0-day operations of B&N.

The fact that you would say that shows your lack of understanding of BN’s business. Len Riggio is BN – it’s as simple as that. Look around for any business story about BN and Riggio from the last 15 years. Nothing happens at that company without his direction and explicit input.

So, yes, Nate had a very good point. I would argue that Len Riggio would be happily content if the only web presence BN had was a brochure ware page that hadn’t been updated in 15 years. It’s a well-known fact that BN started selling online kicking and screaming. And, frankly, from a business standpoint you can’t really blame him.

He had to respond to Amazon and Bezos. But the margins for selling physical books online were a lot lower than Riggio’s carefully build super store system. No Amazon, no real competitor, and BN would not be selling books online today, and the Nook wouldn’t exist.

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