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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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.