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.