Editor’s Note: after doing a story on the TeacherStore I got in touch with the founder, Neal Goff, and asked him to give me a short piece on what prompted him to start it. PB
Back when I published classroom magazines, my company did some research on where teachers buy the materials they use in their classrooms. I was surprised to see how high Amazon and barnesandnoble.com ranked on teachers’ lists. These two major E-retailers do, indeed, offer a wealth of materials that teachers can use. What, then, possessed me to start K12TeacherStore.com, a digital-only E-bookstore targeted specifically at the K-12 educator market.
The short answer is: discoverability. Amazon and B&N may carry thousands of books that teachers can use, but those books are buried within an avalanche of titles that have nothing to do with education. Just as some shoppers prefer boutiques to large department stores, teachers looking for E-books to use at school are likely to want to shop in an environment designed just for them.
At K12TeacherStore.com, we put a lot of effort into designing a browse tree that enables a teacher to drill down within a subject area – e.g. “Reading & Language Arts > Language Arts Skills > Writing Skills > Handwriting.” That browse function makes it a great deal easier for the teacher to find exactly what she’s looking for, and quickly. Plus, we wanted to be able to be able to serve a customer who might be looking for, say, calendar activities for grade 2. (Try doing a search on those criteria; you’ll find 10 titles that fit the bill.)
The store has been open barely a month, but the early results corroborate our hypothesis that teachers have very specific needs, and they’ll search for titles using very targeted criteria. For instance, we made a sale the other day of a book called Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. The search term the buyer used to find us was “AP prompt on Frederick Douglass.” This buyer had a specific teaching need – to help students prepare for AP exams, which were scheduled for the first week of May – and we were able to meet it.
If you do a search at Amazon on “Frederick Douglass AP prep,” and you’ll get some, well, interesting results. This is a not meant as a criticism of Amazon, which does its job serving the general reading public exceedingly well. But just as there’s a place for Bloomingdale’s as well as for the small dress shop around the corner, there’s room in the bookselling world for both Amazon and the K12TeacherStore.com.