How can learning experience from academic books be improved

Varsha Jagdale
Sep 5, 2017 · 6 min read

Is there a new business opportunity for Amazon Kindle?

Executive summary

Explored new business opportunities for Amazon Kindle by pulling insights from multiple sources (market data, competitor analysis, survey, interview). Identified an opportunity to improve learning experience from academic/technical books by enhancing the discovery (learning path suggestions), purchase (chapter based purchase), and usage phases (self curation of books). This project taught me how to frame and reframe a problem.

Key Details

Team Individual Project
Research Methodologies market research, survey, interviews
Tools Sketch, inVision, Google Survey
Communication Methods Video, Presentation


1. Research Phase 1 : Product and Market

Brand Study

The brand was studied to understand the Amazon Kindle ecosystem including the mission, product line, business model and design language.

Amazon Kindle’s mission is to ignite intellectual curiosity through reading. It has a multilayered ecosystem consisting of the hardware device, the reader App and digital content like eBooks. A connection is maintained with the physical world through the skeuomorphic design.

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Product History

Amazon has released almost a new Kindle version every year. The level of innovation achieved per year varied and can be classified as incremental, transformative or disruptive.

The disruptive innovation has proved to seek greater rewards. For instance, the launch of a then unique wireless eReader. Now, Amazon Kindle is leading the eReader market space. On the other hand, Kindle Fire which was similar to the other tablets did not occupy much of the market space.

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Market Research

Because of Amazon Kindle’s complex ecosystem, it has several competitors in different spaces.
eReader space: Nook, Kobo, Sony eReader…
Tablet space: iPad, Samsung tabs…
eReader apps: iBooks, Barnes and Noble App…

Though Kindle leads the market in the eReader and eBooks space, the revenue generated from this market lead is insignificant when compared to printed books.

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2. Redefining the problem statement

The overall market share can be boosted if Kindle outdoes the printed books. This thought process led to the formulation of the first version of the problem statement.

Are there use cases in which digital books will be better than physical books?

3. Identifying Stakeholders

Books are a communication medium between the author and readers. Publishers facilitate this communication. Because of the limited capacity of doing user research, only readers were targeted. There were several hypothesis, this phase of research was used to streamline to one hypothesis.

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4. Research Phase 2: Interviews

Semi-structured interviews were conducted to understand how people perceived digital books and e-readers. Qualitative research method was chosen because the hypotheses were not well defined to be expressed clearly in a written form. The broad areas of hypothesis were- the content of books, collaborative reading, digital book subscription and relations within the stakeholders.

There is a distinction in the approach of people towards academic texts and pleasure reading books.

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5. Redefining the problem statement; again

The user interviews helped narrow down the hypothesis areas to one. Academic material seemed to be a problem area which could prove to be a differentiator for digital books.

Can Kindle provide a better experience than printed books for reading academic material?

5. User Research Phase 3: Survey

Second round of research was conducted to further analyse the academic reading problem area. Also, the first round of research had a skewed demography and less number of participants.

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6. Persona and Journey Map

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7. Design considerations

There is a major distinction in which people read academic books and pleasure books.

Academic books are not necessarily read linearly or entirely.
People often take notes while reading academic texts.
People refer more than one technical book to understand a single concept.
Academic reading is difficult because of the jargons.
Multi-modality to support better reading experience e.g. audio and text.

8. Design Ideas

This exercise was performed to think out of the box. Ideas cards aligned on different dimensions. Ideas were first generated without any constraints and then evaluated on financial viability, usability and technical feasibility aspects.Ideas evaluated on financial viability, usability, and technical feasibility aspects

Improving the reading experience of academic books should include the decision, buying and review phases.The main idea is to modularize academic books into chapters and selling them individually. This goal will be supported in the following phases

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9. Workflows

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Decide: Helping the user select the best resources by presenting a visual study map

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Buy: Buying only what the user needs. Selling chapters of books instead of a whole book.

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Read: Supporting multimodality through audio.
Review: A self-curated book consisting of chapters from various books and self-notes.

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10. Wireframes

The user wishes to learn Java.

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The user is presented with potential learning paths. A study path consists of chapters instead of an entire book.

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As the user go through the book, there are options to bookmark and take notes for later referencing.

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In case there is a diagram, the user can expand it and play an audio description of it without needing to go to the textual view for description.

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The user self curates a book by collecting different chapters. The user is able to track progress on the learning path.

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11. Learning and Takeaway

While enhancing the user experience, it important to think about the potential business value.
A good product aligns user needs, business goals, and technical feasibility.
Market research could help in streamlining the focus of user research.
It is difficult to validate business ideas in school projects.
A video is a powerful tool for communicating insights.

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