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, January 31, 2009

Soybits map of publishing trends for 2008

Soybits, a Spanish blog that focuses on publishing trends recently created an interesting subway map visual of the publishing trends for 2008. Such maps are becoming more common, with several examples out there for web traffic in general. This one is of interest because it shows more of the digital content and publishing space. For those that do not speak Spanish, you may not be able to read portions of the map but you can see how e-book readers, publishers, authors, blogs, technology platforms, and formats among others, impacted the publishing industry in 2008 and the connections that were established between each. The map provides an interesting insight into the evolution of technologies and organizations involved with changing the e-book environment. As the Princeton University Press blog noted: “The best part is, both industry insiders and outsiders can glance at an image and take away from that image what is universally understood about maps: there’s more than one way to get there.”

Friday, January 30, 2009

Universities in Europe to pilot open content learning

According to a recent article, universities in Europe are interested in making more content available to students through open content learning. With the combined efforts of the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the Higher Education Academy, open content pilots will soon be initiated. The pilots will include individual professors, subject areas, and institutions in an effort to explore the impact of the learning method and understand how to contextualize existing online material. Several universities across the world already participate in open content learning and David White, co-manager of technology-assisted lifelong learning at Oxford University, believes that students will benefit from the learning style. He explains that the role that professors and students play in the classroom is changing with the advances in technology and students need to learn how to communicate in a variety of forms including: collaborating a distance, managing multiple streams of information, and leading online discussions. In turn, professors are likely to transition into a facilitator role for this process. Additionally, students will be more in control of their learning because they can enroll in one school while participating in online forums at other schools worldwide.

The open content model is also gaining attention here in the states. Initiatives like Connexions and Flat World Knowledge offer open access textbooks. The most recent issue of EDUCAUSE Review (Jan/Feb 2009) EDUCAUSE Review Magazine (January/February 2009) had several commentary articles on open access textbooks. Open access textbooks was also the topic of two panel discussions at the SPARC-ACRL Forum on Scholarly Communication at the American Library Association meeting in Denver this past weekend. If open access is here to stay, stores must consider their role when the content itself is free. Our opportunities lie in providing locally printed versions when students request them, or in providing other educational resources that add value to the core textbook to promote student success. The complexity of our environment in the age of digital just got a little more challenging.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sony to offer OCLC NetLibrary collections for e-reader

According to a recent press release, Sony has partnered with OCLC NetLibrary to give library patrons the opportunity to check out Sony PRS-505 e-Readers for use with collections of NetLibrary e-books. Currently, there are five collections of e-books available including: Career Development and Business Self Help, Management and Leadership, Popular Fiction, Romance, and Young Adult Fiction. When patrons wish to check out the devices, librarians will use the library’s PC to download the e-books from the NetLibrary website to the e-Readers. Depending on the library policies, the e-readers may be checked out for onsite or offsite use.

Patrons at participating libraries will now have a great opportunity to try out the e-reader and e-book technology. Susan Hildreth, State Librarian of California explains, “In an era of diminishing time and resources, libraries can provide valuable convenience and flexibility for their patrons with downloadable books and the opportunity to read them electronically. Twenty-first century libraries are successful when they offer content in the widest variety of formats."

College stores are also investigating sale of SONY Readers – providing an opportunity to add value to the library-based collections and for the college store. Joint marketing or advertising campaigns could help both groups, and companies like Sony, better leverage the device, the content, and the retail opportunities – while reducing costs for students in content and device acquisition.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Atiz Innovation unveils the BookDrive Pro scanning system

Last week, at the American Library Association Meeting, Atiz Innovation, Inc. unveiled their new book scanning system called the BookDrive Pro. The new system is an enhanced version of their previous model, the BookDrive DIY and designed to support the movement to digitize books. Both models use digital SLR cameras and a v-shaped book cradle to eliminate page curvature issues and damage to the book spine. To create the BookDrive Pro, Atiz worked with its library customers to resolve the weaknesses associated with the BookDrive DIY. The Atiz website provides comparison diagrams of the enhancements to the new model which include: a more ergonomic design, automatic camera positioning, double security locking mechanism for cameras, LED lighting panels for more even light distribution, and an Auto Capture Switch to automatically initiate scanning when a page has been turned. According to the press release, there are currently 500 BookDrive units in place across the world and Atiz expects to double their sales in 2009.

The continued digitization of library collections provides some interesting opportunities and challenges for college stores. On the one side, there are new opportunities for libraries and college stores to work together and share revenue, for instance, creating print-on-demand versions of items that have been scanned (where copyright allows, of course). As an example, McMaster University Titles Bookstore has created such a partnership with their library and is producing copies of some scanned, first edition classics that were signed by the original authors for resale, with a revenue share between the store and the library. What if as a collection of institutions (libraries and stores) we could share such collections in digital format, allowing the content to be sold through any store? As more books are digitized by libraries, and often made available through Google, what will be the impact on book retailers? What are the other opportunities for stores under these new business and content distribution models?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

November 2008 e-book sales statistics

E-book sales statistics for November 2008 have been released by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) via IDPF. Trade e-book sales were $5.1 million for November 2008, a 108.3% increase over November 2007. IDPF reports calendar year to date revenue is up 63.8% for the year. Note that these figures represent the 13 trade book publishers who have been willing to supply their data to IDPF.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cleveland Public Library becomes first to offer e-book rentals via epub format

Last week, the Cleveland Public Library along with the 29 other libraries in the Clevnet Consortium became the first library in the nation to offer e-book downloads via epub format. According to a recent article, the library has been offering e-book downloads in a variety of formats since 2003 but with epub, the text is reflowable and therefore compatible with an increased number of devices including PC and Mac computers and the Sony Reader. Currently, the library offers 143 epub titles through the OverDrive powered download website and plans to expand the collection daily. Readers can choose to check out the e-books for 7, 14, or 21 days and after that time, the files will automatically expire. Additional libraries in New York and Chicago are expected to receive books in epub format within the upcoming months.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

“From the Typewriter to the Bookstore: A Publishing Story”

If you are looking for a good laugh, the Digital Marketing team at Macmillan recently produced a funny video to show viewers how books are “really” published. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sony’s prototype for future e-reader

Last week at the 2009 International CES consumer technology tradeshow, Sony’s exhibit featured a video demonstration of the Sony Contrast Flex OLED Reader. The video is now available online via Sony Insider. As you can see in the video, the e-reader is very thin and made of a flexible material. To flip the pages, the user bends the device which creates a similar experience to reading a paper book. According to the blog, Sony is creating a prototype of the e-reader and it could be available in five to ten years, assuming that Sony continues to pursue OLED technology at that time.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Northwest Missouri State University expands e-textbook program

Last semester, Northwest Missouri State University began an e-textbook pilot program which allowed professors in four disciplines and about 250 students to test out Sony PRS 505 e-readers loaded with McGraw Hill electronic textbooks. This semester, the university has expanded the program by purchasing e-textbooks for about 500 students that can be downloaded onto their laptops while an additional 3,000 students will have the option to purchase the e-textbooks. Additionally, a smaller group of students will test out the newer version of the Sony e-reader the PRS 700. According to a recent article, the university decided to focus this semester’s pilot on laptops because they currently provide more interactivity than the e-readers. However, students could see an improvement this semester because the Sony PRS 700 offers increased interactivity compared to the earlier version. A second article explains that the university plans to expand their program to eventually eliminate all printed textbooks and expects that this will occur in about three year’s time. Dean L. Hubbard, President of the university commented, "We’ll move as fast as the industry moves and they’re moving very rapidly." Jeffrey Ho, a product manager for McGraw-Hill Education noted, "Right now, digital products account for a small percent of our higher education business, but it is growing at a rate that is breathtaking."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sales projections for the Kindle

A recent article from The New York Times provides some interesting projections for the Amazon Kindle if it were to follow a similar sales trajectory to the Apple iPod. The article suggests that if the second generation Kindle can quadruple sales just as the second generation iPod did, then Amazon could sell 2.2 million Kindles this year. If every Kindle owner then bought two books a month for $10, with a 15% margin on sales, the Kindle earnings could reach $330 million, resulting in 27 times the expected earnings for the Kindle.

If Amazon also releases a student version of the Kindle this year and can tap into the $5.5 billion annual United States college textbook market, what will sales look like then?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

“21st-Century Skills”

An interesting article from U.S. News & World Report discusses the concept of “21st- century skills.” The argument by elected officials, educators, and leaders is that there is too much focus on teaching content in the classroom when there are new and necessary skills that students must acquire to be successful in today’s economy including: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, media literacy, and global awareness. Therefore, the focus in the classroom should be on “how to know instead of knowing.” However, Andrew Rotherham, author of the article, points out that while there are some new skills required due to technology, for the most part these skills are not unique to the 21st century and learning content is still very important. “What’s new today is the degree to which economic competitiveness and educational equity mean these skills can no longer be the province of the few. This distinction is not a mere debating point. It has important implications for how schools approach teaching, curriculum, and content.” Rotherman explains that content and critical thinking complement each other and to actively engage in critical thinking, the content must first be understood. He suggests that the movement will be most valuable if it leads to the teaching of content augmented with the advanced skills. Additionally, strategies must be created to make the school system more equitable so that all students are given a chance to learn these skills. Rotherman notes that there are many challenges that must be overcome and changing the school system will not be easy, “If they want to genuinely transform teaching and learning, proponents of 21st-century skills must be as deliberate about how their idea is approached and implemented as they want schools to be about teaching these skills.”

As we think about 21st century skills and learning, that most likely means an evolution in course materials to 21st century formats. Given directions in accreditation and learning assessment, publishers are responding by developing tools that confirm learning outcomes are achieved. Those new learning tools will most likely be in digital format. 21st century course materials are not a century away. Retailers must think about their role in delivering these new course materials and learning formats if they are to remain viable in the future.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Will Apple introduce a large screen iPod touch in fall 2009?

Rumor has it that Apple plans to release a large screen iPod touch with a 7 or 9 inch screen in fall 2009. According to a TechCrunch report:

“Apple has been experimenting internally with large form tablet devices for years, one source says, but there was concern that users wouldn’t like the device. The difference now is the iTunes app store, which has thousands of games and other applications that are perfect for a touch screen device with an accelerometer. Apple says more than 300 million applications have been downloaded since the App Store launched in July 2008. Combine the App Store, iTunes and a browser and you have one heck of a device.”

There have been similar rumors regarding a new device for some time now however this report claims that sources have actually seen the device and that Apple is in discussions with OEMs in Asia regarding mass production.

If these rumors are true, then combined with (a) other rumors or stories about the number of e-books being sold or distributed to iPhones/iTouches, (b) the capabilities of iTunesU, and (c) the number of academic institutions interested in trying out not just e-readers, but working with companies like Apple, what are the implications for future course materials. Any Apple device is almost certain to be full-color, something other e-reader devices currently lack. That would create some distinct market differences when it comes to the types of course materials that could be delivered over such devices. The challenge then might be the critical mass of educational content. Would open-source content spring up to fill the gap among the traditional textbook publishers for born-digital content suitable for such a device? Would faculty be willing to adopt such content in sufficient volume to make a difference in the marketplace? We can hypothesize about the answers to these and other questions. The question remains though whether stores or publishers will be any better at predicting the effects of such technologies than the music industry was just a few years ago.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Library of Congress receives 20 suggested exemptions to the DMCA

In October, the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress announced the start of their year long review process to consider exemptions to The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). As a reminder, the DMCA was passed in 1998 and prohibits the circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted material. Since then, the exemption review period has occurred every three years with the most recent review in 2006. In order for exemptions to be considered, petitioners must prove that they are or likely to be, “adversely affected in their ability to make noninfringing uses due to the prohibition on circumvention.” Since the announcement in October, the Library of Congress has received 20 suggested exemptions. Several were submitted by universities and academic associations including: University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, University of California at Berkeley, Temple University, and the Library Copyright Alliance and Music Library Association. As noted in a recent article from Inside Higher Education, the exemption proposal of most interest to higher education is one submitted by Peter Decherney from the University of Pennsylvania along with other film studies scholars, which builds on the exemption that they submitted and won in 2006. The proposal asks that the exemption which allows film studies professors to reproduce clips from DVDs be changed to allow film studies students to use the material as well and allow for the use of audiovisual material in any university library, not just the film studies department library. The authors explain that the law is affecting students’ ability to progress in the discipline just as media studies professors were previously affected. The other proposals submitted by universities and academic associations ask to expand the exemption to include K-12 teachers and professors in all disciplines.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Internet surpasses print newspapers as preferred source for national and international news

According to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 2008 marks the year in which the internet surpassed print newspapers as the preferred source for national and international news. The survey included 1,489 adults and found that television continues to be the main source for news at 70%, followed by the internet at 40%, and newspaper at 35% (participants were allowed to choose multiple responses). However, these results do not actually indicate a decline in newspaper popularity but rather a sharp increase in internet popularity as a news source. Compared to the 2007 results, the newspaper percentage increased 1 percentage point from 34% to 35% while the internet jumped 14 percentage points from 24% to 40%.

When comparing the results of people between the ages of 18 and 29, the percentages for both television and internet are actually the same this year. In fact, when compared to the 2007 results, the television percentage actually decreased 9 percentage points from 68% to 59% while the internet increased 25 percentage points from 34% to 59%. While the presidential election, economy, and other events that occurred in 2008 may have contributed to the increase in internet usage as the preferred source, the results provide another signal of the tipping point from print to digital.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

iTunes becomes DRM-free

On Tuesday, at Apple’s annual MacWorld Expo it was announced that the entire iTunes catalog will become DRM free, meaning that users can now move their songs among Apple and non-Apple computers, phones, and music devices as they wish. As of today, 8 million of the iTunes songs are available without DRM and by the end of the quarter the remaining 2 million songs will be added. This news comes two years after Steve Jobs posted an open letter on Apple’s website encouraging the music industry to drop DRM.

According to an article from The New York Times, the decision to go DRM-free is actually a compromise between Apple and the major music labels – Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group. In order to remove the DRM restrictions, Apple had to agree to let the record companies set a range of prices for songs in the iTunes store. By allowing a range, the companies hope to make more money on the best sellers and draw attention to the older hits. However, it is not clear why the record labels and Apple suddenly agreed to the compromise. Some speculate that the record companies held out the past few years in an effort to help strengthen competitors but now with the tough economy and declining music sales, it was time to compromise.

What does this mean for Apple’s competitors? And perhaps more importantly, what does it mean for education? Higher education institutions have been grappling with content piracy, including music, for some time now. Will DRM-free content reduce or increase this challenge? How will this shift ultimately affect movies and other content with DRM? A posting on Teleread says it best, “Well, if Apple can do it with the music industry, how long will it take publishers to wake up and notice that the playing field has changed? If past history is any example, too long, I’m afraid.”

Will 2009 be the year of the e-book?

There is a great posting on Gutenberg.com which provides 20 reasons why 2009 could be the year of the e-book. The posting is well worth a read and includes many reasons to take note of:

  • Less than 1% of people who use the internet have personally experienced E Ink technology. Once people try out e-readers and see that the screens are not backlit and that E Ink technology makes reading easy on the eyes, their opinion of the devices will likely change.
  • It is a great time for companies to enter the e-book industry and establish their place in the high growth market. Companies that choose to wait a few years until the industry is more developed will pay significantly higher costs of entry.
  • When iPods were first introduced to the market it took about two years to sell a million devices. E-readers are following a similar sales pattern with half a million e-book readers sold and half a million people using devices they already own for reading such as the iTouch/iPhone.

What is your opinion? Can you think of any other reasons? Do you think 2009 will in fact be the year of the e-book?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Abilene Christian University creates classroom response system for the iPhone

According to a recent article, during the fall semester, Abilene Christian University became the first university to provide iPhones and iPod Touch devices to the entire incoming freshman class. Since then, programmers at the university have created several applications for the devices to connect students and teachers in more ways in and out of the classroom. Some examples of the applications include: attendance, calendars, campus maps, and weekend activities. Another useful application is similar to a classroom response system or “clicker” because it allows professors to poll the students during class to gauge how well they understand the topic. The application developed at the university is more advanced than other systems because it allows for free-form response questions rather than just true/false and multiple choice. According to William Rankin, an English professor at the university, by including this application on the iPhone, the disadvantages often associated with response systems are taken care of including the need for students to purchase a separate device and remember to bring it to class. Since students carry their phones with them for communication purposes, they are more likely to always have it with them in class. This may help resolve the problem of multiple clickers in the classroom. Students could download a clicker app rather than buy a whole new clicker. Thus, the new clicker market, and secondary market for clickers – both which arose just within the past couple years – could disappear just as quickly. There is a concern though – what happens to students who cannot afford an iPhone/Touch, or institutions that can not provide iPhone/iTouch to every student? Will the cost of not doing so be greater than the upfront investment? Or will such devices be required in the way that many institutions now require a laptop?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Minnesota students endorse textbook affordability campaign

A recent article discusses how several colleges in Minnesota are implementing initiatives to decrease textbook prices for students. Some initiatives include: book rental programs, expanding the selection of ebooks in the college store, and purchasing more textbooks to keep on reserve at the library. Another cost saving approach implemented by biochemistry professors at the University of Minnesota involved selecting five textbooks that could be used for the course and then asking publishers for bids. The professors then chose the lowest priced textbook. However, faculty are not the only ones involved in the effort, students are also taking the lead and implementing their own initiatives. This month, the University of Minnesota Student Association endorsed a textbook affordability campaign designed by the student-led Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) which asks professors to do the following: consider the cost when selecting textbooks, tell students if older versions of the book can be used instead, and publish materials online. Ryan Kennedy, chair of the University of Minnesota's Student Senate and an MPIRG leader explained, "The goal ... is to start affecting departments' actual purchasing policy. That's the long-lasting, systemic change we're looking for." The group plans to speak with professors at several private colleges this spring to inform them about the campaign.

Student groups across the US and Canada are becoming more active at promoting actionable steps for reducing textbook prices. They are also addressing or targeting communications more directly at faculty members to change their behaviors. This presents opportunities and challenges for college stores. We have seen several stores take a proactive approach towards student relations in this area. A great example would be the Canadian Roundtable on Academic Materials (CRAM). In addition to sponsoring meetings, CRAM has drafted a set of principles, a “be booksmart campaign” for students and instructors, and other resources. Stores that are more proactive in working with students and faculty are likely to be better positioned for the future. NACS has developed some materials in the campus relations toolkit that may help stores with these conversations. The campus relations toolkit is available to members through the NACS website.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Projections and Innovative Ideas Wanted

As 2008 comes to an end and we look forward to 2009, we can’t help but wonder what changes will occur and what innovations will be introduced in the coming months. A comment from one of our readers provides some interesting questions to think about as we enter the new year. Will 2009 be the year a winner is declared in the digital content race? Will the next migration be from print to a next generation Kindle/Sony/iPhone or will it be from laptop to Kindle/Stanza device? Or should we really be concerned with the digitization of the supply chain and the fact that digital content for the e-readers is delivered primarily from the e-reader retailers? Some other questions you might think about include: Where does open source fit in the realm of the textbook’s future? Will the publishing industry follow in the footsteps of the music industry? What role will wikis play in the textbook of the future?

What are your projections for 2009? What ideas or technologies would you like to see reported on more here?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year -- and Thank You!

Happy 2009 to all of our readers. In the past year we have covered a number of topics and stories -- from developments with e-readers to innovations in education. We are approaching our 300th blog posting. Since we began tracking number of visits back in April we have had over 8500 visitors to the blog representing 110 countries from around the world. We hope that you have enjoyed reading this blog as much as we have found it enjoyable to produce. 2009 is looking like it will be an eventful year in the digital content space.

We are interested in hearing from you about developments or innovations related to digital content, course materials, and education. If you are doing something interesting in this space, or have recently come across an interesting study, please share!

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, peaceful, and productive New Year-
Mark (NACS Digital Content Strategist) &
Liz (NACS Digital Content Analyst)