This blog is dedicated to the topics of Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education. it is intended as an information source for the college store industry, or anyone interested in how course materials are changing. Suggestions for discussion topics or news stories are welcome.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

“Universal access to all knowledge is within our grasp”

There is an interesting video on the TED website titled, "Brewster Kahle: A digital library, free to the world." The video is a presentation by Brewster Kahle, a digital librarian and inventor, who is working on building a digital library of every book, movie, and strata of web history in an effort to make everything that was ever meant for distribution available to anyone in the world. In the video, Mr. Kahle discusses his vision and argues that “universal access to all knowledge is within our grasp” and if accomplished it could be “one of the greatest achievements of all time." Mr. Kahle provides a look at the technological, political, and social aspects of achieving such a vision, and discusses his current scanning and internet archive initiatives. He also raises some interesting questions to think about as we enter into the new year. As we go digital, what is the role of public vs. private? Do we really want to live in a world where the public domain is locked up? How do we ensure that we will continue to live in a world where both publishing and libraries exist to benefit individuals, as they do today? For readers of this blog, we might add some of our own questions, such as: How do we ensure that we will continue to live in a world where retailers, such as college stores, exist to benefit individuals as they do today? What is the college store’s role in an environment where the content could be increasingly “free”? These are not questions we can wait to begin answering in 2-3 years time.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Author Seth Godin’s perspective on the publishing industry

A posting from The 26th Story blog features an interesting interview with Seth Godin, author of several bestselling marketing books and the recently published title, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. In the book, Mr. Godin explains that tribes or groups of people connected to each other, an idea, and a leader are the best achievers of lasting change. However, tribes can become “stuck” when they accept the status quo. “Every one of those tribes, though, is a movement waiting to happen, a group of people just waiting to be energized and transformed. A movement is thrilling. It’s the work of many people, all connected, all seeking something better. The new highly leveraged tools of the Net make it easier than ever to create a movement, to make things happen, to get things done. All that’s missing is leadership.” In the interview, Mr. Godin explains that book publishers are currently “stuck” and there is great opportunity to take the lead and become “unstuck.” “You're not in the printing business. The life and death of trees is not your concern. You're in the business of leveraging the big ideas authors have. There are a hundred ways to do that, yet book publishers obsess about just one or two of them. Here's the news flash: that's not what authors care about. Authors don't care about units sold. They care about ideas spread. If you can help them do that, we're delighted to share our profits with you. But one (broken) sales channel--bookstores--and one broken model (guaranteed sale of slow-to-market books) is not the way to get there. If you free yourself up enough to throw that out, you'll figure out dozens of ways to leverage and spread and profit from ideas worth spreading.” Mr. Godin suggests that publishers need to determine what it is, that is holding them back from taking the lead. Mr.Godin goes on to provide an interesting perspective on the topic of free content and the lessons that can be learned from the music industry, noting that he is pessimistic that the book industry will learn from the music industry.

College stores should be concerned about one of the above comments: "But one (broken) sales channel--bookstores--and one broken model (guaranteed sale of slow-to-market books) is not the way to get there." Like publishers, there are opportunities for stores to take the lead and become “unstuck.” It gets back to the fundamental question (again) of what business are college stores in? If it is just pushing paper textbooks, then we as a channel are indeed broken and probably not the way to get to the future. Part of the message here also relates to multi-channel strategies. Most industries have moved toward multi-channel strategies, and so we must expect that a future fact of the retailer’s existence will involve a multi-channel approach – providing new competition, and new opportunities for stores.

To think about this challenge to lead and become "unstuck", Mr. Godin has a posting on Squidoo, which is worth a read. There, Mr. Godin provides a list of 93 tribe building tactics that can be used to engage others and create connections. Many of these ideas would be easy for college stores or the industry to implement. In fact doing so is probably something of an imperative. It is a place to start and take action.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

ScrollMotion signs deals with several major publishers to bring new titles to Apple iPhone

According to a posting from the Wired Blog, ScrollMotion has signed deals with Houghton Mifflin, Simon & Schuster, Random House, Hachette, and Penguin Groups USA, to turn newly released and best selling e-books into applications for the iPhone. The ScrollMotion product differs from Stanza and other e-book reading applications currently available for the iPhone for a few reasons: each book is a stand-alone application that uses ScrollMotion’s Iceberg reader, each book keeps the same pagination as the print book and allow the reader to zoom/scroll to view, and the books include newer in-copyright titles and best sellers. The Iceberg reader is linked to FairPlay iTunes DRM and therefore Apple will receive a percentage of each book sale. ScrollMotion co-founder Josh Koppel commented, “This is a business model that works on their business model.” In the future, ScrollMotion has plans to release e-reading applications for the Blackberry and Android platforms.

Friday, December 26, 2008

E-books turning the page...

An article in the New York Times Technology section this week reports that sales of e-books via e-reader devices are on the rise. Among others, some interesting quotes from the piece:

For a decade, consumers mostly ignored electronic book devices, which were often hard to use and offered few popular items to read. But this year ... the e-book has started to take hold.

The perception is that e-books have been around for 10 years and haven’t done anything ... But it’s happening now. This is really starting to take off.

And as we come close to the end of 2008, these quotes are significant ones. The article provides many other examples and provides a good summary of e-books across the spectrum of devices, and some sampling of sales trends. The message seems to be that e-books are coming close to jumping the adoption chasm and are on the verge of becoming more mainstream. Booksellers that are not thinking about how to sell content in an increasingly digital world may find themselves less and less the "go-to-first" option for readers.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas & befriend a geek

Happy holidays everyone. For those of you who celebrate Christmas, but still find yourselves compelled to visit your favorite blogs on Christmas day, here is the site for you:


The site includes a short video, which can also be found on YouTube.

Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

iPod Shuffles assist Intensive Reading students

According to a recent article, the North Port High School Library in Florida has found that using iPods Shuffles can assist Intensive Reading students. In October, the school invested in 40 iPod Shuffles in an effort to improve student’s reading skills and encourage them to read more. Since then, the students have been using the iPod shuffles to listen to audio books while following along in a printed copy which is a strategy to help improve the rate at which a person reads. As a result, teachers at the school report that the program has been popular with students and they have even been taking the books home to read on their own. The library hopes that the positive outcome from the testing phase will allow them to invest more and upgrade to iPod Nano’s. The Nano version includes a screen which will make it easier for students to find the place in the book where they left off.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

RIAA to discontinue mass lawsuits for illegal file sharing of copyrighted music

An article from The Chronicle of Higher Education explains that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has decided to discontinue filing mass lawsuits against groups of students for illegal file sharing of copyrighted music. This news comes after hundreds of people were sued on college campuses throughout the past five years. Instead, the RIAA will pursue a new strategy of working with Internet-service providers to send e-mail warnings and if necessary suspend accounts of individuals when copyright infringement occurs. Although mass lawsuits will no longer be issued, the RIAA will continue pursuing the outstanding lawsuits and has reserved the right to sue people who continue to participate in heavy file sharing or those who ignore repeated warnings to discontinue use. The RIAA believes that the past litigation helped to raise awareness but the marketplace has changed in recent years and the new strategy will help prevent piracy by reaching more people. Mitch Bainwol, RIAA Chairman explained, “Part of the issue with infringement is for people to be aware that their actions are not anonymous.”

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Future of Media Consumption

An interesting article from The Wall Street Journal, discusses a variety of new innovations that will soon change the way we watch movies. In the future we will be able to send movies wirelessly from iPhones to TV’s, talk with others via the TV screen while watching the same movie, and experience advanced digital projection and 3-D movies at the theater. Another feature that will become more advanced is movie distribution via kiosks. Companies such as Blockbuster and MOD Systems are in the process of scheduling and conducting pilots while our own NACS Media Solutions/Polar Frog Digital pilots are set to begin in the first two weeks of January. The idea behind all of the kiosk solutions is to offer convenience and choice to the customer by allowing them to choose a movie from a selection of thousands of titles and make it available to them in minutes. While Blockbuster is currently testing out kiosks that burn movies onto Archos portable movie players and then hook up to TV’s, MOD Systems is working on kiosks that burn movies to SD cards that can be used with select TV’s and DVD players. As noted in a previous posting and press release the NACS Media Solutions/Polar Frog Digital pilot will place kiosks in college bookstores and allow students to create “Burn to Own” DVDs. During the second phase of implementation, “Burn to Rent” DVDs and a web-based download delivery option will also be available.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Follett Digital Resources signs eBook agreements with four publishers

On Thursday, Follett Digital Resources announced that they have signed new eBook distribution agreements with four publishers: Nova Press, Oxford University Press, Temple University Press, and Zed Books Ltd. According to the press release, Follett’s e-commerce websites will now offer over 51,000 public library and K-12 titles.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

University of Wisconsin-Stout to provide 14,000 HP laptops to students

According to a recent article, the University of Wisconsin-Stout has signed an agreement with Hewlett-Packard to distribute 14,000 HP laptops to students over the next four years. HP will also provide support and services to the school, and the technology will be upgraded each model year. The new initiative is part of the university’s e-Scholar program which provides a digital environment for students and faculty members by giving them the tools they need to be successful at the university.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mapping the future of digital education

A recent article from Education Week discusses the initial findings from a digital education project known as the American History and Civics Initiative. The project is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and is an effort to map the future of digital education by comparing historical thinking tools to 21st century skills. Many of the findings presented in this article support conclusions that NACS has been pointing out for the past two years in various presentations on the future of digital course materials. For example, the initial findings indicate that the future for digital education will be based on interaction and engagement, and simply converting traditional content to a digital version will not work. The CPB project also points out an interesting framework of conditions and elements that must be in place for digital course materials to truly affect student learning in a positive way. For example, the article notes that certain conditions will need to be met including: learning environments that keep students engaged, designing content that connects with other sources and allows students to learn through the media of their choice, using content layering to motivate students and help build skills, and using technology to implement project-based learning techniques. Once the digital content has been created to meet the conditions, there are three other elements that must be achieved for effective digital learning including: a distribution system which does not restrict access to technology, learning platforms which monitor student’s performance against standards, as well as preparing teachers for the digital future. Achieving these elements may not be easy because standards, policies, and teaching methods that have been in place for years will need to be reviewed and reworked. For example, the researchers speculate that statewide policies regarding the use of traditional textbooks in the classroom will need to be revised because textbooks will play a different role in the future than they have in the past. Additionally, technology polices will need to be reviewed, “Most schools demand that their students drop back half a century when they enter: no cell phones, intermittent Web access, copied worksheets, prescripted paper-based content. Building 21st-century skills means having 21st-century schools, places that encourage open exploration and require collaboration, that engage by design instead by a teacher’s singular efforts.” The recent YouTube video entitled “A Vision of K-12 Students Today” also emphasizes some of these points. The empirical data CPB is collecting are something stores should take note of and factor into future plans for course materials. Others in higher education should also pay attention, as it has implications for faculty development and other institutional investments as well. We look forward to learning more about the findings as the study progresses.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chegg.com receives additional funding

On Wednesday, Chegg.com, an online service for renting and selling textbooks, received an additional $25 million in funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), Foundation Capital, and existing investors Gabriel Venture Partners and Primera Capital. According to the press release, Chegg.com has initiated an aggressive growth strategy and the funding will be used to help grow the site, and increase the textbook rental catalog. The company believes that their business model could be very successful due to the current economy and the rising costs of higher education. Ted Schlein from KPCB commented, “We believe there is strong potential for growth and success for the textbook rental market as parents and students look for new ways to save on the costs of a higher education.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

October 2008 e-book sales statistics

E-book sales statistics for October 2008 have been released by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) via IDPF. The most recent data continues the upward trend in trade e-book sales with sales for October at $5.2 million, a 73% increase over October 2007. IDPF reports calendar year to date revenue is up 57.7% for the year. Note that these figures represent the 12 to 15 trade book publishers who have been willing to supply their data to IDPF.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ingram Digital and McGraw Hill partner to offer e-books and digital learning opportunities to higher education in Latin America

Earlier this month, Ingram Digital and McGraw Hill announced that they will partner to deliver e-books and digital learning opportunities to higher education in Latin America. According to Ingram’s news release, the partnership will combine McGraw Hill’s Spanish language educational content with Ingram’s VitalSource e-book platform in an effort to help reduce the current digital content gap between the United States and Latin America. William Chesser, Vice President and General Manager of Ingram Educational Solutions further explained the initiative, “E-books have been available in the U.S. for a while, and though the Latin American market may not have moved to digital as early, we are seeing real acceleration now. As a recognized leader in Spanish-language education resources, McGraw-Hill was in an enviable position to capitalize on this emerging market. Our existing relationship with McGraw-Hill, and the strength of our feature-rich VitalSource e-book delivery platform, allowed us to provide them with a low-risk opportunity to tap a new revenue stream.” The companies report that the colleges have been very receptive to the initiative and they are currently working on deals with the top 15 universities in Latin America.

Monday, December 15, 2008

“Pirates of the Amazon”

Last week, two students from the Piet Zwart Institute in the Netherlands released an add-on for the Firefox web browser called “Pirates of the Amazon.” The add-on provided users with a “Download 4 free” notification when digital books, music, or movies they searched for on Amazon were also available for free on The Pirate Bay, the world’s largest bittorrent tracker. However, the website was not up for long before Amazon threatened legal action and soon after the student’s referred to the project as a parody and an experiment on their website, “Pirates of the Amazon was an artistic parody, part of our media research and education at the Media Design M.A. course at the Piet Zwart Institute of the Willem de Kooning Academy Hogeschool Rotterdam, the Netherlands. It was a practical experiment on interface design, information access and currently debated issues in media culture.”

A posting from the Bits Blog explains that parodies are protected to a degree under the United States copyright law. The student’s course director, Florian Cramer, also insists that the project was legal, as explained on the Nettime mailing list, In our point of view, the legal grounds for that are contestable since the add-on itself did not download anything. It only provided a user interface link between the web sites Amazon.com and thepiratebay.org.”

An article from the Washington Post, comments on the timing of trying to take on the world’s largest online retailer during the busiest shopping season and when piracy is consistently making the news in recent headlines. The students maintain that they are surprised by the reactions and they continue to use their website to record press coverage and collect documentation for their course.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Penguin 2.0 web initiative

Last week, Penguin Group announced the creation of a new suite of digital and print services known as Penguin 2.0. According to the new blog created for the initiative, “The purpose of Penguin 2.0 is to make our website the hub for a number of new digital and print-based features, all of which will feature some aspect of a Web 2.0 world.” The new initiative includes two programs called Penguin Mobile and Penguin Personalized that are available this month and additional services will be rolled out in 2009. Penguin Mobile is a free application for the iPhone that gives user’s access to Penguin content and news while Penguin Personalized allows customers to create personalized editions of particular Penguin books which are then printed via print-on-demand. According to an article from the New York Observer, next year a service that allows users to create customized books from a collection of stories, essays, and text will also be available. The successful iTunes concept provided inspiration for this service but Jeff Gomez, Penguin's senior director of online consumer sales and marketing notes that he “would never want to break apart an entire book” and allow the full-length version to become obsolete.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hewlett Packard and Arizona State University introduce new paper-like display

On Monday, Hewlett Packard and Arizona State University introduced the prototype of a flexible, unbreakable paper-like display. According to the press release, the display is made mostly of plastic, consumes less power, and uses about 90% fewer materials making it a great achievement in the effort to create a mass market for high-resolution flexible displays. Additionally, the display was created using self-aligned imprint lithography (SAIL) technology which enables more cost effective production and could therefore help lower the costs for computers, smart phones, and electronic devices. Principal Analyst, Vinita Jakhanwal discussed the future for electronic displays, “Flexible electronic displays are playing an increasingly important role in the global high-tech industry, serving as the crucial enabling technology for a new generation of portable devices, including e-readers and similar products designed to combine mobility with compelling user interfaces. We expect the flexible display market to grow from $80 million in 2007 to $2.8 billion by 2013.”

Friday, December 12, 2008

Random House and Lexcycle partner to offer free full-length e-books for the iPhone

On Monday, Random House Publishing Group and Lexcycle announced that Random House and Ballantine will be the first major book publishers to offer consumers free full-length e-books via the Stanza book reading application for the iPhone. This announcement follows last week’s news of a partnership between Fictionwise and Lexcycle to make 40,000 new eBooks available for the iPhone. According to a press release on Lexcyle’s website, the initial offering will include books from author backlists, as well as excerpts from new novels published in 2009. Avideh Bashirrad, Deputy Director of Marketing for Random House commented on the use of free content to market new books, “Stanza has clearly tapped into an audience that's hungry for content, and we're happy to modify our traditional marketing methods to make use of the new technology available to readers today.”

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Amazon Kindle out of stock for Christmas

According to a recent article, Amazon may have underestimated the demand for the Kindle this holiday season because the device is now sold out through Christmas. As noted in a previous posting, search traffic for the Kindle soared to 479% when Oprah endorsed the Kindle on her October 24th show. The Amazon Kindle webpage explains that new purchases are “Expected to ship in 11 to 13 weeks.” So did Oprah’s praise really drive sales much higher than Amazon anticipated? An interesting article from Motley Fool speculates that Amazon may have actually intended for the sell-out and delay on new shipments because their next generation Kindle is due to hit the market in the first quarter of 2009 or in about the same time frame as the expected ship date of "11 to 13 weeks." This could mean that Amazon is trying out Apple’s tactic of decreasing shipments in anticipation for the next release. However, whether or not the sell-out was planned, Amazon is sure to miss out on some holiday revenue. The article notes, “The company's timing is terrible, of course. It should have hit the market with these puppies in October, when Bezos was on Winfrey's show. Instead, it lets rival Sony’s Reader, and smaller niche players, carve up market share over the holidays. Amazon got the market pumped about e-books last month, and now it's the one company that isn't delivering the goods. Ouch.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Recording Industry Proposes Taxing Students Instead of Suing Them

The Techdirt blog last week unveiled a new approach to addressing content piracy by students. Both Techdirt, and subsequently The Chronicle’s Wired Campus, noted that Warner Music Group is negotiating with several universities to conduct an experiment in “voluntary blanket licensing.” Under the program, colleges would charge and collect a flat rate fee/tax, for a nonprofit organization managed by the recording industry. That nonprofit would distribute the revenues to artists. The Techdirt site includes a PowerPoint presentation on the proposed program produced by EDUCAUSE. The Techdirt blog does raise some interesting concerns: such as whether the tax is truly voluntary or not, and whether the model would stifle other innovations that may prove to be better solutions for students, institutions, and artists. The posting notes:

There's obviously something appealing about ending the lawsuits and letting people file share freely. But, it's quite problematic to add an effective "tax" when none is necessary. Plenty of other business models, such as those we've outlined here and elsewhere can suffice to fund the creation of music. The presentation says that a nonprofit has been set up to handle the money, claiming that it's "to be clear we intend to operate with good intentions and not profit as a motive," but given the way the industry has acted in the past, that's difficult to take at face value. Also, this isn't really a license. It's a "covenant not to sue" -- meaning that lawsuits could still result.

As a colleague of mine is fond of saying, “nonprofit is a tax status, not a business model,” meaning, that nonprofits do not have to run in the red. They can derive revenues that exceed their costs, i.e., make a profit. If such is the case, will there be a refund back to the institutions and students, or will that excess profit go back to the recording industry? There is nothing wrong with the recording industry profitable. It is necessarily if the industry is to survive and prosper. The concern would be that an involuntary tax be employed to students, when not all students may take advantage of the service. There are other potential business models developing in and around higher education that could also work. Institutional licensing has some other risks, such as long-term costs versus the initial cost ramifications.

A final observation, made by another colleague of mine, is that at the end of the EDUCAUSE PowerPoint presentation there is a note that how this model could lead to all other content following a similar model – including text. In the library space we hear claims of a “serials crisis” brought on, in large part, by the growing licensing costs associated licensing fees applied by the content holders. Perhaps different groups in higher education should fund a study or policy paper review to evaluate the true implications (costs and savings) to students and institutions presented by content licensing over both the short and long terms.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ohio State University College of Medicine uses Apple iPod Touch to enhance education

According to a recent article, The Ohio State University College of Medicine is the latest school to offer hand-held technology to their medical students to enhance their education and improve patient care. As noted in previous postings, the University of Louisville recently partnered with Sprint to offer pre-loaded Smartphones to students and Harvard Medical School began using the Kindle to improve medical education. Over the next two years at the OSU College of Medicine, each medical student will receive a free iPod Touch preloaded with medical software programs. Dr. Catherine Lucey, vice dean for education at the college comments, The iPod Touch has the potential to positively impact both medical education and the care provided to patients at the bedside. The personal digital assistant puts a wealth of information at the fingertips of our students. They can study when they want and where they want. If they are seeing a patient and a question arises, they can find the answer instantly, to share with them." Additionally, the iPod Touch will provide students with the ability to instantly view: high quality images, detailed photographs, videos of medical treatments/surgical procedures, and lists of medications and potential drug interactions.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

“eBooks, 10 years on (formats, technology, market place)”

There is an interesting posting on author Adrian Graham’s blog titled “eBooks, 10 years on (formats, technology, market place)”. The posting provides a look at the author’s experience with eBooks and the associated technology. Additionally, the author discusses his predictions for the future. He notes, It’s weird when an apparently obscure technology you know and use and enjoy the benefits of turns from being perceived as ‘pointless’ to being ‘cool’ and then ‘the norm’. I think eBooks are a little bit of all three at the moment but soon they will be ‘the norm’.”

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Textbook Accessibility for Disabled Students

A posting in yesterday's Wired Campus discussed an interesting new initiative to make it easier for institutions to meet the different format needs of students with disabilities: the AccessText Network. The network will be a clearinghouse of content created by the Association of American Publishers and the Alternative Media Access Center, part of the University System of Georgia. The idea is to "facilitate and support the nationwide delivery of alternative files for students with diagnosed print-related disabilities." AccessText will be a conduit for information about what is available and in what formats and allow students to order the content in the format that meets their needs. This initiative should help reduce the cost of textbooks for disabled students and institutions, while improving access.

Other resources on digitized books for the disable include a blog posting from last year that mentions Gooogle's efforts to make Google Books more accessible. That posting is based on an article from about the same time that discusses some of the issues and opportunities associated with technology and students with visual impairment.

Finally, check out Bookshare.org which offers books for free in different formats for the disabled. Their site also has other information on this topic.

There may be opportunities for college stores to work with some of these initiatives and reduce the costs to institutions for providing the materials to students.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Fictionwise and Lexcycle partner to make 40,000 new eBooks available on the iPhone/iTouch

On Wednesday, Lexcycle, creator of Stanza, the favorable book reading application for the Apple iPhone and iTouch partnered with Fictionwise, a leading independent eBook publisher and distributor. According to a press release on Lexcycle’s website, the agreement brings 40,000 new titles to the Stanza application. Customers can now access and download the titles via the Stanza Books by Fictionwise ebook store which is accessible through the Stanza application. An article from GalleyCat notes that the partnership also provides Stanza with Fictionwise’s DRM technology. Lexcycle COO, Neelan Choksi commented, “To date, every conversation we've had with a publisher has the question: 'What's your DRM story?' For the first time, we have a DRM story. It's a necessary evil for publishers. Now they can feel secure that their content is protected." According to some reports, the Apple devices are already selling more ebook units than the Amazon Kindle. Increasing the available inventory is sure to have a positive effect on that progress. How long will it be before Apple decides that people do still read and creates a device that is a little more reader-friendly? I would gladly consider a device with the iPhone/iTouch capabilities, but with a slightly larger screen to work with – particularly with all of the apps available for these devices now. Of course, power consumption for such a slightly larger device could be problematic, and it would create some concern and challenges for traditional booksellers.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

New Digital Education Blog

Recently Education Week created an informative new blog called Digital Education which provides coverage of technology topics and trends in the K-12 space. A link to the blog has been added to the Blogroll on the left.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The new Espresso Book Machine 2.0

Last week, On Demand Books announced that their new and improved Espresso Book Machine will be rolled out to select college stores for testing in early 2009. According to a posting on the company’s website, the Espresso Book Machine 2.0 has many advantages over the previous versions and has been specifically designed for commercial use. The new machine’s advantages include: smaller size (now the size of a photocopy machine), lower price, and quicker speed.

With the machines latest improvements and lower cost, it could prove to be a much more viable print-on-demand solution for college stores. Two college stores, the McGill University Library in Montreal and the University of Waterloo Bookstore in Ontario have already signed on as test sites while the University of Pennsylvania Library is also being considered.

According to an article from Book Business, even the earlier version has proved to be very successful for The University of Alberta Bookstore. Todd Anderson, director of the bookstore explains, When we first looked at the Espresso, we looked at our business to determine how we would use the machine. We came up with three very distinct business opportunities that we could use the Espresso for and 14 different lines of business within those strategies: cost savings for students, for-profit publications and library usage. Since turning the Espresso on in November of 2007, every single one of these lines of business has occurred, some more than others."

The next few years will certainly be an important time for the Espresso Book Machine as additional publishing and retail partners are brought on and more college stores seek print-on-demand solutions.

Additionally, the On Demand Books website features a great video of the Espresso Book Machine 2.0 which shows the complete print-on-demand process.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Random House to make thousands of titles available in electronic format

According to an article on Yahoo News, on Monday Random House announced plans to make roughly 7,000 more books available via electronic format in the upcoming months. Random House CEO Markus Dohle explained the new initiative by saying, “more people everyday are enjoying reading in the electronic format and Random House wants to extend our reach to them with more of our books." With the addition of the new e-books, the company will increase their e-book library offerings to approximately 15,000 titles. The e-books can viewed on the Random House website and then purchased in a variety of formats from 18 retailers including versions for the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Current happenings in K-12

This month’s Digital Directions newsletter by Education Week provides a few interesting articles on the current happenings in K-12. One article, discusses a small study known as SMART which is testing the use of Mathematical Markup Language (MathML) for students who have disabilities that interfere with the ability to read print. MathML is a digital language that is often used to display formulas and notations in mathematical software but is not commonly used for creating digital textbooks for K-12. For the study, Prentice Hall digitized one of their math books using MathML. The information was then loaded onto a flash drive along with MathPlayer software to allow the equations to display in Internet Explorer and Read & Write 8 Gold software to add text to speech functionality. With the combined technologies, the flash drive provided students with a digital textbook to speak the words in the book and even highlight the words as they were spoken. The study is now in its second year of testing with improvements being made based on first year observations. The initial findings from the study indicate that students using the digital textbook learned more than those using the printed version. The article also notes that MathML is being considered for addition to the technical specifications of the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS). If approved, publishers would be required to include MathML in digital textbooks in order for schools who receive federal funding to purchase them.

A second article, discusses a recent panel discussion on “disruptive innovation” in K-12 education. The discussion was led by Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School, lead author of, Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. The book is based on a principle which Christensen originally applied to business but one which can also be applied to education. The idea is that new technologies can easily come into the market and evolve to displace the established leaders. The author predicts that this could soon happen in education because children’s need for individual instruction will drive students out of public schools and into customizable online learning programs. While the theory has its critics, the book should be an interesting read for college store managers. In particular, the book has an entire chapter on how instructional materials (i.e., textbooks) could be replaced through disruptive innovations.

Monday, November 24, 2008

LCTCS to offer mobile education opportunities

Earlier this month, the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) announced a new program known as LCTCSOnline which offers students a customized online learning solution by providing access to course materials via the computer or other mobile devices. According to an article posted on the college’s webpage, the school is developing solutions to improve access for students with travel restrictions or scheduling conflicts. LCTCS President, Dr. Joe May commented, “We believe the ability to do some of their course work through the cell phone will be a major draw for individuals. Presently, of the 4.2 million individuals that make up our state’s population, 25% have Internet access while 68% have cell phones. That means there are a large number of individuals to whom we can offer an opportunity to take courses, earn a degree, and have better quality of life in a more convenient way.”

According to the press release on Pearson’s website, Pearson Custom Solutions worked with the faculty at LCTCS to create a customized solution that brings together portions of Pearson’s education offerings. The entire platform including hardware, software, and help desk support, will be managed by eCollege while CourseConnect will deliver the content and online learning. The press release also offers a link to a video which provides a great overview of the program offerings. A third article notes that Pearson will be compensated via a portion of the student enrollment fees.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Texas State University Bookstore video advertisements

The Texas State University Bookstore has created two great video advertisements for their store which can be accessed on the bookstore’s webpage. The first video, How to Buy Your Textbooks walks viewers through the book purchasing process with reminders regarding refund policies. A bit of humor is inserted into the video, which makes it worth watching. The second, The New Bookstore Commercial, has less humor involved, but reminds students that money made from purchases at the college store stays on campus to benefit students.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

September 2008 e-book sales statistics

E-book sales statistics for September 2008 have been released by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) via IDPF. The most recent data continues the upward trend in trade e-book sales with sales for September at $5.1 million, a 77.8% increase from September 2007. IDPF reports calendar year to date revenue is up 55.2% for the year. Note that these figures represent only a portion of the trade book publishers who have been willing to supply their data to IDPF.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Coastline Community College offers replacement textbooks to students affected by recent California wildfires

According to an article from University Business Magazine, the college store at Coastline Community College has offered to replace textbooks that were damaged as a result of last week’s California wildfires. The Coastline Foundation Executive Board will cover the associated costs in an effort to help students continue in their classes without interruption. In order for students to participate in the offering, they must be enrolled in the fall semester and show proof of residency at a location affected by the fire.

Judge tentatively approves Google Book Search settlement

According to an article in Yahoo news, a NYC judge has tentatively approved the Google Book Search settlement. The initial approval of the settlement was put into record on Monday and the final hearing has been set for June 2009. As a reminder, if approved, Google will pay $125 million and establish a Book Rights Registry that will provide revenue to rights holders via a 63:37 spilt with Google.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

PC Magazine to end print edition

PC Magazine is the latest publication to announce that after 27 years in print, it will move to online only in January 2009. In recent years, the print version of the magazine has become increasingly less popular as readers have shifted to the internet for comparative electronic reviews. Earlier this year, Ziff Davis Media, owner of the magazine, reduced the print version from biweekly to monthly and has now decided to focus efforts on PCMag.com and the electronic version of the magazine called PC Magazine Digital Edition.

In a letter to readers on PCMag’s website, Lance Ulanoff, Editor-in-Chief of PCMag Digital Network explains, “While we are energized by the endless possibilities of the digital format, I assure you that the decision to stop producing a hard-bound copy was not an easy one. But the reality is that the ever-growing expense of print and delivery was turning the creation of a physical product into an untenable business proposition.”

The magazine’s move to digital provides yet another example that electronic forms of reading are gaining popularity as readers shift away from traditional print for various reasons. As noted in a prior blog posting, Christian Science Monitor also recently announced the end of their print edition. What does this shift among magazines and newspapers mean for the future of other print forms, such as digital textbooks?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hewlett Packard and Timsons partner to produce new printing system for book production

Earlier this month, Hewlett Packard and Timsons announced that they have joined together to produce a new digital inkjet printing system for book production. According to Hewlett Packard’s press release, by joining efforts the companies will be able to offer, A new solution designed to take digital book production beyond niche applications to mainstream production.” An article from Book Business Magazine reports the printing system is designed for short to medium run book production and will be available for commercial purchase in mid to late 2009. When released, the technology could offer new opportunities for publishers, printers, and possibly college stores to participate in print-on-demand solutions.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

President of Florida Community College at Jacksonville to meet with Amazon

In an effort to make textbooks more affordable for students at Florida Community College at Jacksonville, the school’s president has come up with a proposal for Amazon. According to an article in Jacksonville’s The Daily Record, President Dr. Steve Wallace will be meeting with Amazon to discuss creating a purchasing arrangement that would provide students with Kindles that include materials produced by the college’s faculty. The school currently owns the materials produced by their faculty and therefore the materials could be added to the Kindle software without the need for licensing arrangements. It will be interesting to see if Amazon agrees to a purchasing arrangement and also if they agree to provide localized materials via the Kindle. If arrangements are made for one school, other schools will surely be interested.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

McMaster University purchases Espresso Book Machine

According to an article on TheSpec.com, McMaster University’s Title bookstore is now one of the nine owners of an Espresso Book Machine. The bookstore received their machine last week and since then employees have been learning how to operate it, as they prepare for a large showing of customers at their January launch. When the machine is in full operation, consumers will be able to choose from over one million public domain-books whose copyrights have expired. Additionally, the university plans to buy the rights to publish chapters of textbooks which would allow students to save money and create an opportunity for professors to combine material from multiple sources. Local authors in the community could also benefit from the university’s Espresso Book Machine because it will allow them to publish their books one copy at a time via an initial fee followed by a per page copy fee. McMaster University is the second college store to acquire an Espresso Book Machine, with the other being at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Google Book Search Settlement

An article from Book Business Magazine offers some insight into how the U.S. publishing industry could be favorably affected by the Google Book Search agreement. Rights holders will see the benefit from the establishment of a Books Rights Registry that would provide them with revenue from sales, advertising, subscriptions, and per-page printing via a 63:37 split with Google. While consumers could benefit from the ability to search the full text of copyrighted books and then choose from purchasing options such as digital, hard copy, and by page. Schools and libraries would also benefit from Google’s subscription service offerings. What is perhaps less clear is how this will affect booksellers that occupy the retail space – from the local college store to Amazon, this could be a potential challenge to handling retail transactions. Others also see this agreement as potentially disrupting competition. According to an article on Bookseller.com, the UK Booksellers Association warns that if the agreement is brought to the U.K. it could create “a de facto monopoly” by removing competition from the market and denying customers a choice. The association adds, "This recent agreement, if ever adopted in the UK and Ireland, would have a hugely damaging effect on the publishing and bookselling industry and, consequently, for authors and the public as well."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

American University creates best practices guide for using copyrighted material in the classroom

An article from The Chronicle of Higher Education discusses a new guide called “Code of Best Practices in Fair USE for Media-Literacy Education.” The guide was created by American University’s Center for Social Media and provides educators using media literacy in the classroom an interpretation of the copyright doctrine of fair use. The document does not offer the limits of fair use rights but instead it describes how the creators of the document and their counsel believe rights should apply in certain recurring situations based on prior cases and legal interpretation. The authors of the guide hope that their work will help professors understand their rights better under current law. The document appears to encourage a more broad interpretation of fair use based on a set of five principles. There is an associated video that explains the purpose of the guide that is worth viewing to understand the perspective from which the guide was written. Many might not agree with the broad interpretation of the fair use doctrine, but that, in part is the point of this report and why it was created. Fair use is a concept that is arguably not well understood by faculty or students. In an increasingly digital context, where media literacy is a critical competency for future citizens, the bounds of fair use lack clarity and are open to a myriad range of interpretation. This report provides a stake and attempt to clarify fair use rights from one perspective. It will be interesting to see what happens next – particularly as course materials themselves become increasingly digital.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Pirate Bay tracks over 20 million users

According to an article on Torrent Freak, The Pirate Bay, the world’s largest bittorrent tracker has reached a new milestone and now tracks more than 20 million users-- a gain of 14 million users in one year's time. Last November, it was reported that the site was tracking about 6 million users and a year before that 3 million.

Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde, credits the increase to the continual software and hardware improvements and notes that lack of budget is the only thing hindering the amount of users that can be tracked. “I wish we had lots and lots of money so we could just buy like 10 servers and another gigabit.”

The site aims to increase the amount of users to 24 million by Christmas eve while other torrent sites such as isoHunt and Miniova are also breaking visitor records each week.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Study reveals that educating students on P2P could reduce illegal file sharing

An interesting article posted on Inside Higher Ed discusses preliminary findings from an in-depth study of student’s downloading habits. The study is funded by the Digital Citizen Project and involves monitoring the Internet use of students living on campus at Illinois State University. The students were monitored for three separate months and to date only data from the first month has been analyzed. One finding from the study reveals that many students are simply not aware of the difference between illegal and legal peer-to-peer file sharing which leads researchers to believe that the true issue with file sharing is lack of education.

Warren Arbogast, founder and president of Boulder Management Group and member of Digital Citizen Project’s management team said, “The one thing we do know is that we cannot assume the students know more than they know.”

Arbogast went on to say that file sharing should not be thought of as a technological issue that can be solved by installing the right monitors because that mindset leads to a race between students and the industry to outdo one another with new and innovative ways to share music and video. Arbogast noted, “I think the bottom line for me is that this ... now is less an IT issue than it is an education issue. We’ve got a problem with theft, and I think the question is do we want to try and do something about it?”

Once all data from the study has been analyzed, the findings could provide insight into the types of interventions that could be used to reduce illegal file sharing.

Friday, November 7, 2008

University of Louisville partners with Sprint to offer pre-loaded Smartphones to medical students

According to a recent article, the University of Louisville has entered into an agreement with Sprint to provide medical students the option to purchase discounted pre-loaded Smartphones to enhance their education and improve patient care. The Smartphones will provide the students with many benefits including: fast access to medical information and drug reference guides, a virtual library of textbooks and medical references, as well as the advantage of carrying one all-encompassing device rather than multiple devices such as a phone, pager, etc. The article notes that the use of wireless technology in the medical field is growing rapidly and this program will help prepare the students for the future.

Edward Halperin, dean of the School of Medicine noted, "We believe it is worth investigating whether or not giving medical students these tools and technology will enhance their knowledge and sharpen their decision making. Ultimately, our graduates will require these skills as outstanding physicians. It is important to assess the role of technology in the acquisition of clinical skills."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Search traffic for Kindle soars after Oprah’s endorsement

According to an Advertising Age report, since Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of the Kindle on October 24 there has been a significant increase in Kindle interest. The article reports that after the show aired, search traffic for the word “Kindle” went up 479% that day and even more the following day. Additionally, traffic from Oprah.com to Amazon.com increased a remarkable 15, 458% from October 23 to October 24. Traffic to Amazon.com was also up 6% compared to the previous Friday and given that Amazon is one of the top 20 internet sites, a 6% increase can mean hundreds of thousands of visitors. Amazon has not released sales numbers for the Kindle however if the search volume and web traffic figures are any indicator, it looks as though Oprah’s endorsement could significantly boost Kindle sales this holiday season.

Monday, November 3, 2008

E-book experiment at CSU-Monterey Bay

A professor at CSU-Monterey Bay is conducting an e-book experiment with the help of Sony in an effort to encourage students to read more. According to an article from the Monterey Herald, Sony has donated 30 digital book readers to be used in a first-year seminar at the university. Half of the students in the class will use the digital book reader and the other half will read printed copies of a novel. The students will then be tested on their reading comprehension. Data from the testing will be analyzed to find out whether the digital book enhances reading skills. Professor Juan Gutierrez hopes that a digital reading device will be what it takes to stimulate students that are growing up in an increasingly digitized world to read more. Gutierrez commented, “We need the students to read more, and we need the students to read better.”

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Lenovo introduces new mini-notebook for education market

On Tuesday, Lenovo introduced a new mini notebook designed as an introductory mobile computer for grades K-12 and as a secondary device for higher education. Lenovo’s IdeaPad S10e netbook weighs less than three pounds and will be the first netbook to feature an instant-on platform giving users immediate access to basic functions such as e-mail, web browsing, and word processing. The netbook also offers hardware, educational software, and warranty options allowing schools to customize the computers to meet their needs. Could this be the start of a race between Ultra Mobile PC’s and e-Readers?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

E Ink’s New Display

On Thursday, Teleread posted an article with an impressive YouTube video demonstrating E Ink’s latest enhancements in the AM 300 developer’s kit. The new technology features fast animation that could be used to animate advertisements in e-newspapers or graphics in textbooks. In the future, if this technology becomes available in e-textbooks, students are sure to benefit from animated demonstrations that further explain the text.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Google reaches settlement with the Authors Guild and AAP over Google Book Search

Earlier this week, Google announced a settlement with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) to expand online access to millions of in-copyright books and other written materials in the U.S. from the collections of major U.S. libraries participating in Google Book Search. More details of the settlement can be found in an article posted on Tuesday in Publishers Weekly. Another article also appears in this week’s Campus Marketplace.

The Official Google Blog notes that the agreement is truly groundbreaking for three reasons. “First it will give readers digital access to millions of in-copyright books; second, it will create a new market for authors and publishers to sell their works; and third, it will further the efforts of our library partners to preserve and maintain their collections while making books more accessible to students, readers and academic researchers.”

The settlement must be approved by the court but includes a $125 million payment by Google as well as the establishment of a new licensing system allowing copyright owners to register their works and receive a share of subscriptions, book sales, and ad revenues.

However, if the settlement goes through as stated, some parties may not participate. On Thursday, Harvard University Library announced that they find the terms of the settlement unsatisfactory and will not allow their in-copyright works to be scanned. Harvard’s concern includes questions regarding access to the scanned books, prices charged for access, and the quality of the scanned books. University spokesman John D. Longbrake noted that Harvard participation will be dependent on the result of the settlement and they may decide to join “if the settlement between Google and publishers contains more reasonable terms for the University.”

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Christian Science Monitor to end print edition

According to an article in The New York Times, after a century in publication, The Christian Science Monitor will be the first national newspaper to discontinue its weekday print edition and move to online only in April 2009. John Yemma, The Monitor’s editor explains, “We have the luxury – the opportunity – of making a leap that most newspapers will have to make in the next five years.”

This development provides another signal that digital forms of reading are gaining ground and other newspapers are sure to track The Monitor’s success as they determine the future of their publications. Last year, in an interview with Arthur Sulzberger, owner, chairman, and publisher of The New York Times, he suggested that they too could move to online only in five years. Sulzberger said, "I really don't know whether we'll be printing the Times in five years, and you know what? I don't care either.” Sulzberger later clarified his statement by saying, “So let me clear the air on this issue. It is my heartfelt view that newspapers will be around—in print—for a long time. But I also believe that we must be prepared for that judgment to be wrong. My five-year timeframe is about being ready to support our news, advertising and other critical operations on digital revenue alone ...whenever that time comes."

The change to online only versions of newspapers could disappoint faithful subscribers but as John Yemma explains the transition is inevitable, “Longtime readers love coffee and a newspaper. So do I, there’s nothing like it. But everyone, sooner or later, is going to have to make the transition, and that’s recognized.” The same can probably be said of textbooks and course materials. If the shift to digital is inevitable and if it begins to have an impact within the next 3-5 years, will your store be ready for the transition?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The DMCA turns 10

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the passing of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In commemoration of the event, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released a new report titled, “Unintended Consequences: Ten Years Under the DMCA”. DMCA has not always been well received by higher education, and as the EFF notes in their report, there have been a number of specific instances where the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was not used against copyright pirates but instead against legitimate activities conducted by consumers, scientists, and businesses. Over the years, EFF has fought against many DCMA suits in the name of free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights. However, a posting on the Wired Blog provides a different perspective on the DCMA saying that it is often misunderstood and although it has caused problems and abuses, the internet would not be where it is today if it were not for the law. The posting notes,

“Blogs, search engines, e-commerce sites, video, and social-networking portals are thriving today thanks in large part to the notice-and-takedown regime ushered in by the much-maligned copyright overhaul.”

The posting goes on to say that even Google which also owns You Tube credits the DMCA for its success.

In the future, Congress could reopen the DMCA which will create an opportunity for reform but also an opportunity for the MPAA and RIAA to influence the law. We have already seen instances where the RIAA has influenced recent legislation, such as the reauthorization of the higher education act, which will now require institutions to perform some of the policing function for content providers that they have previously avoided. A reopening of the DMCA could have significant implications for DRM, and digital course materials. This presents both opportunities and challenges for the college store community, as well as much of the rest of higher education related to digital content and intellectual property.

Information on the basics of the DMCA, as well as links to the DMCA itself, are available through the UCLA Online Institute for Cyberspace Law and Policy, as well as other sources.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Could Oprah help boost Kindle sales?

On Friday, Oprah Winfrey announced on her talk show that her “Favorite New Gadget” is the Amazon Kindle. Oprah declared, “It is absolutely my new favorite thing in the world”. Oprah went on to describe the Kindle as “life-changing for me” and the wave of the future”. Oprah gave each member of her audience their own Kindle and provided viewers with a promotional discount code to save money on their purchase. Oprah’s endorsement could be just what Amazon needs to boost sales in the upcoming holiday season. To date, Amazon has not released any information regarding Kindle sales and according to the market research firm, Codex Group, it could be because there is a difference between the hype the Kindle has created and the amount of actual purchases. Oprah has proved many times in the past that she can significantly influence consumer product sales through her annual “Favorite Things” show which has brought overnight success to many small companies and through her famous book club which has put many authors on The New York Times best-seller list.

On Friday’s show, Oprah also spoke about her desire to use the Kindle for textbooks at the school she opened in South Africa as well as her prediction for the future.
“I was telling my head of school in South Africa about it because my little girls are 12 and 13 years old and they have 60 pounds of books on their back. I’m trying to figure out a way to get all of their textbooks downloaded to the Kindle so they do not have to carry their textbooks around.” Oprah went on to say, “I do believe this is the future for academia, period.”

We look forward to finding out more about Oprah’s influence on the Kindle sales.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mag Rack Entertainment buys on-demand television network

Mag Rack Entertainment is an interesting new company to take note of. The company was formed this year by two entertainment and technology entrepreneurs and in October they announced the purchase of Lifeskool on-demand television from Cablevision’s Rainbow Media Holdings. According to Lifeskool’s website,

“Lifeskool is the only FREE On Demand television network dedicated to helping you make the most of your life with exclusive content that inspires and informs.”

The on-demand service is offered on the web and also on TV through certain cable providers. Currently the shows are updated each week with 13 categories to choose from including: Cooking, Health & Fitness, Music, and Video Gaming. However, we may see enhancements to these offerings soon as the network develops under its new owners.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

New e-book application for the iPhone

According to Apple designer, Sebastiaan de With’s blog, Apple will soon release Classics, a new e-book application for the iPhone featuring some great enhancements to the other applications currently available. Classics' interface is designed to allow users to read comfortably in any light including the bright afternoon sun. The application also includes custom book covers and 3D page-turning animation. Classics will include 12 books when it is released and additional books will be offered via free updates.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Speed-reader lives in Sony storefront to promote new e-reader

At the beginning of October, Sony launched a nation-wide campaign known as Reader Revolution to promote the release of the new PRS-700BC e-reader next month. Since then, Dave Farrow, a speed-reader and memory expert has been living in a NYC storefront reading books on the e-reader. For each page Farrow reads, Sony will donate an e-book library of 100 classics to a school. The first 100 schools to download their e-books will also receive five e-book readers. Sony has even set up a live webcam in the window with both interior and street views that is pretty entertaining.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Houston bookstore begins nationwide book drive following Hurricane Ike

Recently the Blue Willow Bookshop in West Houston began a nationwide book drive to replace the school library books that were lost as a result of Hurricane Ike. The drive focuses on three local schools which each lost more than 75% of their book collections. The bookstore hopes that with the help of booksellers, publishers and many others, they will be able to collect more than 1,000 books by December 1. For more information on the effort and to find out how you can contribute, please visit Blue Willow Bookshop.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

E-textbooks could help reduce back pain for college students

A recent study conducted by Boston University reveals that 85% of college students experience back pain from the weight of books in their backpacks. Dr. Karen Jacobs, one of the researchers of the study, recommends that a backpack weigh no more than 10-15% of a student’s body weight and that students carry only what they need. However, a few textbooks can easily add up to more than the recommended percentage never mind the additional weight of a laptop and notebooks. It is also not easy for students to only carry a minimal amount when they have tight schedules or live on large campuses and can not return to their rooms easily. One solution to this problem might be digitalization. In the future, students may find that e-textbooks help them reduce the amount of weight they are required to carry around in their backpack.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Flexplay brings convenience to consumers with “No-Return DVD Rentals”

If you have recently shopped at a Staples store or a Hudson Newsstand at the airport you may have seen Flexplay’s “No-Return DVD Rentals”. Recently, Flexplay Entertainment began offering time-limited DVDs in airports, convenience stores and travel plazas. Flexplay’s strategy focuses on convenience and targets consumers who rarely rent or purchase DVD’s by reaching those consumers in places they already shop. In a posting on Flexplay’s website, Joe Fuller, Executive Vice President of Marketing explains,

“Nearly everyone has experienced the frustration of renting a DVD and returning it unwatched, or paying fees for late or lost discs, or not having any new movies to watch because the old ones were not sent back. Our mission is to provide a more convenient and efficient DVD rental experience that gives the customer complete flexibility.”

Flexplay’s DVDs offer the equivalent of a two-day movie rental without the need to return the DVD after viewing because it simply stops working. The customer is in control of the rental because the DVD is activated by the customer when the sealed package is opened not when the DVD is received. The DVD stops working two days after it is opened due to an adhesive in the DVD that oxidizes when exposed to air making the disc unreadable by a DVD player. For added convenience, the DVD’s can be recycled when they become unplayable and unopened DVD’s are designed to work for one year.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Harvard Medical School uses the Kindle for medical education

A posting on the Geek Doctor blog reports that Harvard Medical School is the first medical school to implement Kindle support for 20,000 educational resources. By using the school’s Mycourses website, users can send any Word or PDF document to their Kindle for 10 cents per document or for free if they choose to download the documents to their PC and then transfer to the Kindle via USB cable. Some students will even receive a free Kindle during the pilot. The posting goes on to say that this green alternative could cut down on the thousands of dollars spent on paper for printing course documents at the University. We look forward to hearing the reviews from this initiative.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Results of CDW-G’s study - "The 21st-Century Campus: Are We There Yet?"

Last week, CDW-Government, Inc. announced the results of its recent study titled, "The 21st-Century Campus: Are We There Yet?". The study examined both the current and future role of technology in higher education and produced many interesting findings. One interesting portion of the news release reveals that regardless of major, students feel that campus technology is a key factor when selecting schools and believe it is critical for their chosen professions. Additionally, according to independent research conducted in a 2006 study, "Are they Really Ready to Work?”, employers agree that technology skills are increasingly more important and colleges should strive to develop those skills in their students. However, the study found that only 33% of faculty say that technology is fully integrated on their campuses, and that most students lack exposure to common workplace collaborative technologies such as video and web conferencing.

How do your schools compare? Are students exposed to workplace collaborative technologies on campus before entering the workforce? What might the college store’s role be in helping students and campuses with this technology/training challenge? Is there a potential product or service opportunity?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Follow up on e-books and law schools

In regards to an earlier posting, last week The Pendulum featured a follow-up article on the meeting of law schools, book publishers, Amazon and Sony that was held in Seattle on September 27. The meeting allowed for discussion on the future of learning and the use of electronic books for law schools. The article notes that Amazon did not attend as planned but Sony and Adobe did have several representatives present. The article goes on to say that before decisions can be made, educators will need to learn more about the effectiveness and the capabilities of e-reader technology to determine if it serves a desirable and educational purpose. Elon Law professor, Steve Friedland commented, “Are we going to achieve anything or are we just going to add bells and whistles?” The article did not mention if another meeting has been scheduled.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Gonzaga Bookstore uses Amazon to purchase textbooks

An article posted on the Gonzaga bulletin last week provides another example of how a bookstore is working to make textbooks more affordable for students. Last year, the bookstore implemented a new pricing model to reflect true market price and give students better book prices upfront as well as greater returns when the books are sold back. Recently, the bookstore has also begun buying books from Amazon to offer even lower prices to the students. Purchasing the books from Amazon allows the store to charge students less for the books because the actual textbook cost is less and the store can still make the same profit as before. Purchasing the books through Amazon can be challenging because as Gonzaga Bookstore Director, Scott Franz mentions,

"The book market is very competitive so we try to get online and acquire the lower priced books as early as possible. We want Gonzaga students to enjoy the lowest price advantage and do our best to beat students from other schools to the market."

Do any of your stores purchase textbooks from Amazon?

Friday, October 17, 2008

NACS Media Solutions seeks proposals for Print-on-Demand solution

Today NACS Media Solutions (NMS) sent out a RFP to vendors seeking proposals for both local/regional and in-store Print-on-Demand (POD) solutions. Print-on-Demand services are a critical component of the NMS digital distribution strategy, and are essential to meeting consumer choice for the print format. As a service aggregator, NMS desires to have one or more business partners that can help us achieve a strategic objective of offering Print-on-Demand functionality through our commerce hub, subsequently delivering print format content to consumers in 24 to 48 hours. The desired solution must be scalable, cost effective and easy for stores to implement. Any selected solution must also significantly enhance the customer service experience. If you are interested in finding out more about the RFP or have any questions, please e-mail Mark at mnelson@nacs.org

Thursday, October 16, 2008

TextbookTorrents.com shut down

Last week there was progress in the quest to end textbook piracy when the Textbook Torrents website was officially shut down in fear of a lawsuit. As noted in a previous posting, the website encouraged students to scan their textbooks into an electronic format so that other students could illegally download copies of the text. The welcome message on the website read,

“There are few scanned textbooks in circulation and that’s what we’re here to change. Chances are you have some textbooks sitting around, so pick up a scanner and start scanning it.”

According to a posting on TorrentFreak, a blog dedicated to news about BitTorrent, the admin of Textbook Torrents hopes that another replacement site will soon be available. When asked if he thought publishers had learned anything he stated,

“Intellectual property corporations are notorious for missing the point. Like I’ve said before, we were out to make a statement, to give out as much free stuff as possible, and I think we’ve made that statement - perhaps not as loudly as we could have given another few months and a little more perseverance - but certainly people have heard, and are talking. Piracy will never be sustainable for the textbook industry, but perhaps this is the first step towards a more sustainable model in the future.”

Surely the website has brought more attention to the issue of textbook piracy and many questions still remain on how to make content more affordable to students to prevent piracy in the future. Are you aware of any piracy prevention initiatives on your campus?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Could video game learning be the way of the future?

There was another interesting article published last week discussing the use of video games in the classroom and the associated learning benefits. While many teachers and experts remain skeptical if gaming should be considered a successful learning method, teachers in New York City have experienced proven results with a fast-paced video game that quizzes students on algebra topics. The teachers say that students enjoy the game so much they even come in early, stay after school and play at home. One topic that is not directly discussed in this article is the concept of winning and its affect on student interest. Not only do students enjoy playing the game for its entertainment benefits but they have the opportunity to be the best in the class if they can answer more questions correctly than their peers. This gives students the drive to learn and study more on their own. And really, what student doesn’t want to be the smartest in the class? Could video game learning be the way of the future?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Textbook experiment at Columbia Business School

A recent article provides an example of how faculty members are experimenting with new ways to help make textbooks more affordable for college students. This semester, a professor of marketing at Columbia Business School is offering free online access to his latest independently published textbook. However, the book is only free until the end of the semester when students will be asked to pay the amount they feel the book is worth. It will be interesting to see how students respond to this tactic and if they are willing to pay after the semester, when they have already begun thinking about their upcoming expenses for the holidays and approaching semester. Perhaps knowing that fifty percent of the payments will be donated to college scholarship funds will entice the students to pay more.

Do you know of any experiments around textbooks and pricing occurring on your campus? Can you suggest any experiments that could be conducted with faculty members?

Monday, October 13, 2008

IDPF August 2008 e-book sales stats

Ebook sales stats for August 2008 have been released by AAP via IDPF. The most recent data continues the upwards trend in trade e-book sales. Sales for August were US$4.3 million, up 82.9% over August 2007. IDPF reports YTD e-book revenues among participating publishers is up by 52%.

IDPF is presenting at the Frankfurt Bookfair in Germany this week on digital publishing and the e-pub standard. They will be joined by representatives from OverDrive, Random House Digital, and Sony Electronics. It should be a very interesting session. It sounds like an interesting session. If anyone has notes or insights to the Frankfurt Bookfair, and particularly the role or presence of digital there this year, please share!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Apple iPhone takes lead over Amazon Kindle

According to an article published in Forbes, the Apple iPhone is now more popular for reading books than Amazon’s Kindle. Apple may have even unintentionally taken the lead in the digital book market due to Stanza, the favorable book reading application offered for free along with its titles via Apple’s iPhone store. Not bad, considering that earlier this year, Steve Job’s declared,

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,”

Although as Chief Executive Hadrien Gardeur of Feedbooks, Stanza’s largest distributor of content, points out, the iPhone and Kindle may not be direct competitors,

“Kindle appeals to heavy readers who spend far more time reading than anyone who uses an iPhone. But I don’t think the mass market is ready to spend that kind of money. So they really don’t compete with one another at this point.”

Stanza is currently working on deals with several major publishers which may make the two direct competitors when it acquires the advantages of the Kindle including newer titles, and the ability to browse, purchase and download directly to the iPhone. Stanza will face new competition in the upcoming months if the E-Ink screen technology used by the Kindle progresses. However, it will be interesting to see if the heavy readers are willing to give up the screen technology in favor of an all in one device when Stanza announces their negotiated deals in the New Year.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Will pairing video games with books intrigue young readers?

There was an interesting piece in the New York Times earlier this week regarding the pairing of video games with books to intrigue young readers. The article mentions the various studies that have been conducted and the many opinions associated with each to prove and disprove the theory. One portion of the article that I found interesting discusses how teachers are embracing the fast paced, image laden world of games and exploring ways to incorporate video games into the classroom in hope that the children will be drawn to reading. In New York, there is even support for creating a public school based on video game concepts. It will be interesting to see if methods such as these really motivate children to pick up books or if they will skip the reading in favor of the game. Perhaps teachers will find that a proven learning game such as role playing which allows students to play an active role is more effective and does not require the digital dependence. If video gaming in the classroom is the way of the future and students become accustomed to this learning method, it is sure to have an affect on their ability to learn in conventional ways as they progress through higher education. This in turn will have implications on the learning materials offered at all levels.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Small stores and NMS pilots...

The question has been asked, "Why are there no small stores in the first set of pilots for NACS Media Solutions?" Considering all of the factors at play, the answer could be presented as quite complex, but here is the simple reasoning behind the decision:

1- We had to keep the initial pilot under 10 stores, and initially we planned on only five. To be able to evaluate some of the system capabilities, we needed to be able to maximize the total number of transactions that might occur during the initial pilot period. Good IT project management suggests that we control pilot diversity at first to allow for better consistency in the process of evaluating the technology capabilities.

2- For the initial pilots, we are working only with commercial movies and TV content, and we had the understanding that the studios wanted evidence that some well-known larger campuses would have interest in the initiative. This contributed to our ability to get more favorable pricing, which we will be able to pass on to stores of any size. Similar requirements associated with the content licenses restricted our ability to include any Canadian stores in the initial pilots as well. We hope to move beyond those restrictions soon.

3- Because the initial content consists of only commercial movies and TV, based on our financial analysis, stores would need to conduct a certain average number of transactions per day to make the initiative profitable. That threshold was greater than what most smaller stores are likely to experience in a day for movie content. However, as we add other forms of content, the value proposition will increase and the barriers to profitability will drop. At least one small store we reviewed the pilot criteria with agreed that it was better for a store of their size to wait to the next phase to participate.

4- In the first phase of pilots we are assessing the pure technology, and gathering initial information to assist stores in determining how to sell or market the content offerings. We need to ensure enough initial transactions to be able to evaluate the viability and appropriateness of the selected partners and the solution relative to the needs of the college store.

Our goal is to design a solution that is scalable for stores of all sizes to the best of our ability. Indeed, the primary mission of NACS Media Solutions is to enhance the capability and credibility of the college store industry as a whole in the delivery of digital content. To be successful in that mission, we recognize that any solution that does not work for small stores in addition to large stores, will not be effective. We plan and hope to have 15+ small stores participating by July 2009. Small stores will help us assess some of the scalability and feasibility dimensions so that we can continue to refine and scale the service for all NACS members. There are many decisions yet to be made and small stores should not fear that the pilot stores are going to make all of the decisions for the industry about what the final solution looks like. We recognize that the solution will need some modifications to work for all stores and that broad-based and diverse participation in the solution design will yeild a more robust end product that will provide greater satisfaction for a wider range of stores and their customers.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Next round of e-readers begin to launch

Following news last week of the new larger-size e-reader from iRex, Sony announced this week that it will launch the next generation of its Reader in November. The new reader (the 700BC) will add an interactive touch screen display and built-in light. It will allow annotations with a virtual keyboard and highlighting of content with a stylus pen. There will also be additional text search features. Other standard technology enhancements (faster processor, more memory) are also included. With this revision, the Sony Reader takes a step closer to the Kindle’s functionality. It also adds some functionality oriented toward working with documents – a capability likely to be common in the next generation of e-readers entering the market. Maintaining the smaller size is a bit surprising, but the additional functionality will be welcome all the same.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

E-textbook Trial at University of Texas at Austin

A few articles published recently discuss the e-textbook trial to be conducted at the University of Texas at Austin this spring. The Austin American-Statesman reported last week that during the trial initiative the university will cover the cost of electronic materials for 1000 students enrolled in courses such as accounting, marketing, chemistry and biochemistry. University officials hope that this experiment will relieve some of the financial burden associated with the cost of textbooks. Keven Hegarty, UT’s vice president and chief financial officer noted, “Because of the cost of books, 20 percent of students can’t or won’t buy the text.” Hegarty went on to say, “If we can improve this model and get enough professors and publishers interested, we can drive textbook costs down to half…what the average student spends on printed textbooks.” It is probably important to note that the e-books will only initially be free, and that this is an institutional licensing model, meaning that the institution is paying for the content via license. Eventually they will pass some or all of that cost back to students. As noted in the article:

Tentatively dubbed the e-book initiative, UT will pay for electronic copies of textbooks for students in certain classes, starting in the spring. The initiative treats the e-books, which students can download onto their computers, like software, for which UT pays a licensing fee. Initially, students in those classes will use the e-books for free. If the program, which campus and industry officials say has been tried at other schools, is successful, students would pay $25 to $40 a book in licensing fees.

Additionally, during the e-textbook trial, the campus store will print bound copies of the text on demand for those students who choose to opt out of the free e-textbook offer in favor of a printed copy. The cost for each printed copy is estimated to be between $20-40 as noted in an article posted by Inside Higher Ed.

Another article published by Ars Technica, also points out the substantial savings that students at the university could see with the use of e-textbooks. According to UT’s financial aid website, the students spend about $409 a semester for books therefore students could potentially save over 75% by going digital. This article also credits NACS digital distribution initiative however it incorrectly states that textbooks will only be delivered via kiosk and fails to mention the web-based component. A correction notice has been submitted to the article discussion site.