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, February 28, 2009

A Kindle Cartoon

It is Saturday -- time for a cartoon. We have not had a fun cartoon or video here in a little while. A colleague in DC sent this one along and it is worth sharing. Enjoy!

Friday, February 27, 2009

2009 Horizon Report

The 2009 Horizon Report produced in collaboration with the New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative is now available for viewing and downloading. This year’s report is the sixth annual report in the series. We have a prior posting on the CITE for the 2008 report. As with prior reports, this version outlines, “Six emerging technologies or practices that are likely to enter mainstream use in learning-focused organizations within three adoption horizons over the next one to five years. Challenges and trends that will shape the way we work in academia over the same time frame are also presented.” The report breaks down the technologies into three adoption horizons based on the likelihood of entrance into the mainstream for teaching, learning, research, or creative applications. This year’s list includes:

Within 1 year or less
- Mobiles
- Cloud Computing

Within 2-3 years
- Geo-Everything
-The Personal Web

Within 4-5 years
- Semantic-Aware Applications
- Smart Objects

More information about each technology and the key trends can be found in the full report. Additionally, there is a Horizon Project Wiki that is used as a workspace for the project and contains links to the data, research, and background materials in the report.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Ruckus Network shut-down

Earlier this month, The Ruckus Network, an online music streaming service designed to fight illegal file sharing on college campuses, abruptly shut down. According to an article from Tech Crunch, the closing came because Total Music, the joint venture between Sony BMG and Universal Music Group that acquired Ruckus last year, is also struggling. Total Music acquired Ruckus with the intention of using the technology for the back-end of a music streaming service for Facebook however it is not likely that this deal will happen now because both companies can not agree to the terms. Facebook is not willing to share revenue and user data in return for free music and Warner Music has refused to join in the agreement with the other major music labels.

This announcement has left over 1,000 universities that were registered in the Ruckus system wondering what to do next because as an article in PC Mag explains, the Higher Education Opportunity Act requires that students using university networks are given an alternative to popular P2P sharing networks. However the law does not currently explain what measures would be considered an appropriate alternative and now the U.S. Department of Education is working to define the terms, a task that could take several months. Additionally, the remaining leading service, the Choruss initiative which is backed by Warner Music Group, is not currently available because many details including pricing still need to be worked out.

The music industry is now tasked with determining an affordable solution for universities to participate in, as the fight to stop illegal file sharing on campus continues. The tough part is coming up with a pricing model that works for all parties. As Jason Herskowitz, Vice President of Project Management at TotalMusic explained on his blog soon after the Ruckus announcement, “I only hope that someone else figures out how to crack this music-on-the-web nut in a way that is a win for everyone in the value chain. The problem is that to make a music service a win for everyone, then all of the famished participants have to sit at the table - and be content to let all the others have a little bit to eat, even though they are still hungry themselves.”

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

December 2008 e-book sales statistics

E-book sales statistics for December 2008 have been released by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) via IDPF. Trade e-book sales were $6.5 million for December 2008, a 119.9% increase over December 2007. IDPF reports calendar year to date revenue is up 68.4% for the year. Note that these figures represent the 13 trade book publishers who have been willing to supply their data to IDPF.

Flat World Knowledge to offer free textbooks on campus learning management systems

According to a recent posting on the Wired Blog, Flat World Knowledge, an open source textbook publisher, announced that they will begin offering their free textbooks for use on campus learning management systems (LMS) such as Blackboard and Angel. In the past, typically only supplementary materials have been available on LMS but with this announcement, entire Flat World textbooks can now be uploaded to the systems and then divided by chapters. Flat World’s current textbook offerings include mostly business texts but a recent partnership with an education assessment software company will add general education textbooks to the offerings.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is piracy the reason e-books are slow to take off?

An interesting posting on the Guardian Technology Blog suggests that the real reason e-books are not taking off is due to the lack of pirates. The posting explains that the music and publishing industries are often compared and therefore everyone is waiting for a drastic change for books. However, the reason that the music industry changed was due to the overwhelming amount of lost revenue from music piracy and currently the publishing industry is just not feeling that same push. The posting notes:

“I suspect that the real change will come as more authors who are already part of the digital age push for new things. But that's a generational shift, and we're still a long way from it.
It's not that I don't believe electronic books can't be a success - just that without an outside factor that can push things faster than the industry is comfortable with, progress is always going to be very, very slow.”

Although there is piracy in the publishing industry the authors point is that by comparison the publishing industry is currently not in the same situation as the music industry. Perhaps the growth in open access textbooks are an equivalent, albeit more legal, response to industry dynamics than piracy. It will be interesting to see if the publishing industry has learned from the lessons of the music industry and if it will be prepared for the change when it ultimately arrives. Textbooks seem to be an ideal market for the piracy problem as the consumers are telling us one thing, but what is being provided is another. In the end, as the music industry learned, the consumer always gets what the consumer wants. If publishers and college stores do not provide that, someone else will.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Are you prepared for the transition to digital delivery?

The group at ICBA put together a great program this past Friday -- a full day of digital content topics. Very well done. In advance of the day, a number of stores participated in a multi-part webinar series, which included a quiz of sorts. The quiz appeared in the program brochure, but it asked such a fantastic set of questions, that I thought I should repeat it here for the benefit of all college stores -- and for that matter, other stakeholders in the higher education digital content space.

The quiz asked the following 8 questions:
  1. Have you created a sense of urgency about succeeding with digital delivery throughout your organization?
  2. Have you built a team to guide the transition to digital delivery?
  3. Have you created your digital delivery vision and strategy?
  4. Have you communicated your commitment to digital delivery throughout your organization and achieved buy-in from everyone?
  5. Have you empowered all levels of your store to act on your digital delivery strategy?
  6. Have you identified short-term wins to be achieved immediately?
  7. Are you unwavering in your desire to succeed with digital delivery?
  8. Are you using the execution of your digital delivery strategy to build a new store culture that can sustain it?

These are questions I wish every college store in the country were thinking about and working on answering. I wish I had come up with these questions first! Kudos to the ICBA on this one.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Training/hiring collaborative people/ideas

A member sent the link to the following video in, which in turn was forwarded among senior staff at NACS. The speaker talks about a culture and hiring philosophy that links to innovation and collaboration. The video is of Randy Nelson, Dean of Pixar University (training arm for Pixar). The idea of collaboration as being a process of building on other people's ideas (rather than judging and correcting). It is a 9 minute video worth watching. Find it at:


A different stream of thought for a Sunday posting.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

An observation on stores, libraries and IT

I made an observation recently at the ALA meeting during a panel for SPARC/ACRL. It is one I have made before, but this time I have gotten a few comments back, so I thought it might be worth sharing more broadly. Having experience in academic IT, libraries, and college stores, I have observed that these three groups have some very common interests and overlap. There is a challenge to our working together effectively though. That challenge is a conflict in values. Put in its simplest and most sterotypical form, that conflict of values plays out as follows:
- Libraries want to give everything away for free
- IT departments want to control access to everything
- College stores want to charge for everything

These fundamental value differences and stereotypes (based somewhat in reality) make it difficult for these three groups to come together to work on collaborative solutions for the benefit of the whole. The days of stovepipes in higher education must necessarily come to an end, however. That means we must find ways to overcome weaknesses or leverage the opportunities that come from these distinctly different value systems -- and the resulting skills and biases that come with them. As some institutions are finding, there is great advantage to be realized for students in doing so.

Does your campus have a group that meets regularly to discuss the future of digital content on campus? Does that group include the above three stakeholder groups, plus faculty, students, and others? What is your campus strategy for the transition to digital?

Another thing stores and libraries have in common

There were a couple articles of interest in the past week on things libraries are doing in the digital space. The Daily Iowan had an article that detailed how UI's main library is bringing its special collections and artifacts online -- and the implications of doing so for education. Here's one quote from the piece:
“Many professors are really starting to emphasize teaching with primary documents,” said UI history Associate Professor Leslie Schwalm, who studies Civil War era history. “It involves a much closer examination of the subject, and it’s always a little more exciting for students than a textbook would be.”
Inside Higher Ed also had an article this week on libraries and the move to digital. The article points out indicators of the "declining value of the library Web site as information gateway." Wow. If campus libraries, with their specialists in information cataloguing and retrieval, are having problems creating environments that help faculty and students find information to support teaching, learning, and research, what hope, might you ask, do college stores have? It signals yet again that there are reasons for us to work with libraries to provide a unified environment to the resources students and faculty require to be successful.

The article references a 2008 report by Ithaka on the "key stakeholders in the digital transformation of higher education." The report is worth reading for college stores -- even though the authors somehow did not see stores as key stakeholders in the digital transformation of higher education. Perhaps another signal that stores are being marginalized on their own campus because they are not engaging in the campus discussion. In a survey we just completed at NACS among college stores, only 24.5% of stores reported knowing whether or not their campus had a committee that discusses digital course materials. Of those where a committee did exist, fewer than half had college store representation. To be part of the future, stores must be part of the discussion today.

The Inside Higher Ed piece continues with some lengthy discussion, but the last paragraph is perhaps in some ways the most relevant for the store environment. The author, a librarian himself, writes:
Put simply, the library portal as we know it today is unsustainable. It, along with a host of other indicators such as declines in reference questions and shifts from print to e-resources, signals that for academic libraries a “let’s just keep doing business as usual” mentality is a sure path to obsolescence. If academic librarians fail to grasp the urgency of needed changes to their portals it is quite possible we will read in a future article something along the lines of “Academic librarians thought they were in the information gateway business, but they were really in the learning and scholarly productivity business. They just didn’t recognize it.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? One could substitute "college stores" for "academic libraries" and the tale would read the same.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Interactive whiteboard technology used in K-12

A recent article in the Sun Sentinel discusses a new interactive teaching technology that is currently being used in Broward county elementary schools in Florida. The technology consists of a touch-screen whiteboard as well as microphones and speakers that capture the conversation between multiple classrooms to provide students with a fun and interactive way to learn with other students in their county and potentially across the world. Additionally, the new learning method gives teachers the opportunity to learn different techniques and teaching styles to incorporate into their own classroom. James Notter, Superintendent of Broward schools explained that the district plans to convert all of the public schools to digital classrooms in three to five years time. He noted, "It's their world, we are absolutely modifying learning to our students' world of today...We're not sitting in rows and columns, handing out a textbook and a workbook."

This example of learning technology re-iterates a common theme in today's successful e-business environment: collaboration and participation are key. The K-12 environment is no different, so why should we expect higher education learning models to be any different? Or, along the same lines, why should we expect course materials not to follow this pattern? Which reminds me, if you have not read the article by John Seeley Brown and Richard Adler from yet -- you should do so. It was the most read article in EDUCAUSE Review last year -- and for good reason. It addresses this idea of education as participation and has implications for the course material market. For stores, one takeaway question should be, "how do we contribute to or provide a collaborative or participatory experience for our student customers when participation is increasingly the norm?" A related book on this topic is Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams. Anthony will be a featured mega-session speaker at CAMEX this year.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The effect of Web 2.0 on textbooks

An article in Campus Technology yesterday discussed how factors such as high textbooks prices, the Web 2.0 business model, and knowledge building could lead to a revolution for how students will access textbooks. The article repeats, as have others, that the revolution in digital textbooks is not about digitizing print textbooks. Instead, this article suggests the solution is to get authors to write for companies that follow a Web 2.0 business model and publish textbooks online. BookBoon, Flat World Knowledge, Connexions, and Wikibooks are some examples of companies that follow the Web 2.0 business model, where the online content is free but the ability to generate revenue is just a click a way either through advertisements or charging for the print version of the content. These business models are examples of how many businesses outside of the publishing industry operate today and provide us a glimpse at what some of the new entrants to the textbook market could provide. In addition to providing new, more flexible pricing models for students, many of these new companies participate in the Web 2.0 model of knowledge building which is the idea that knowledge is available to be worked on and used by others. For example, Flat World Knowledge offers faculty the ability to modify online textbooks and create customized versions for their students while Wikibooks are free content textbooks and annotated texts that anyone can edit. The article goes on to suggest that while this idea may take some time to catch on, students need to push faculty to adopt the more affordable online texts.

What does this mean for the college stores? As we continue to see a shift towards collaborative learning and more textbook content becomes available for free, stores must consider their role in this change. In a panel at TOC last week, one of the educational publishers noted that free content is increasingly devaluing other content, and that this is one of the issues driving e-publishing in higher education. Stores must find ways to work with free content, to preserve market share, and perhaps define new revenue opportunities that satisfy the needs or interests of students having content in different formats.

Interactive art history textbooks

An interesting posting on Fast Company last week discussed a new interactive art reference website known as smARThistory. The site is an ongoing effort by Beth Harris, MoMA's director of digital learning, and Steven Zucker, graduate-studies dean at the Fashion Institute of Technology to create an engaging "web-book" to enhance traditional art history courses.

The project began in 2005 after years of dissatisfaction with large and expensive art history textbooks and has evolved into an intuitive reference website that features an interactive timeline with images that link to podcasts and screen-casts. The podcasts and screen-casts are recorded by Harris and Zucker and include spontaneous discussion about the works of art, which they have found to be more compelling to students than monologue. On the website, Harris and Zucker explain that their efforts are "a first step toward understanding how art history can fit into the new collaborative culture created by web 2.0 technologies."

The posting on Fast Company goes on to discuss how virtual textbooks like smARThistory could greatly benefit other disciplines such as math and science with the use of animated illustrations. As we move towards a more collaborative learning culture and more content becomes free via the web, stores must consider their role in this change.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Blogroll please...

A couple updates to the blog roll. Teleread moved its blog a couple weeks back, so I updated the link. And then, alas, I will refer readers to yet another blog of interest on the topic of digital content. This one is thedigitalist by the folks over at Pam Macmillan publishing. It is a very good blog with interesting postings. Here is a quote from one recent posting that gets to the question I posed to everyone yesterday:

Quite frequently I hear people talking about the future. They will argue and pontificate about when the new digital book, the new digital fiction, the new digital culture will arrive. In the world of digital publishing futurologists abound as we all try and work out what will happen next, even as we are still working out what’s just happened. The thing is that digital books and digital fiction and the like are already here. The die is, by and large, cast, and if we are still talking about the future it’s either because the new forms so little resemble the old we can’t recognise them or they are so familiar as to have slipped under the radar.

A couple of examples. A few years ago we had these things in our cars and houses called maps. They were, if you recall, like large books with lots of pictures of how to get from A to B. Often they were quite confusing and the source of many arguments but they pretty much worked. People had a nice sideline in publishing them. Likewise we had these big books known as Encyclopedias, great Enlightenment projects to capture the totality of man kinds knowledge, preferably in expensively produced multi-volume hardback editions.

Now we have Google Maps and sat nav, Wikipedia and, ahem, Google Knols. There is a reasonably obvious equivalence between the products. They resemble one another albeit with crucial evolutionary differences, but perform the same function. The content is roughly the same, the generation of that content and the interface is radically different. The point is no one is talking about what maps and encyclopedias will be like in the future. We know that already.

Yet digital fiction and the book is still surrounded by rampant speculation. However I think all the elements are already here, as with maps and encyclopedias. Firstly we have the ebook. Digital is meant to be good precisely because it breaks with print; however I believe the success of the ebook is because it resembles print. People don’t necessarily want a radical break. They want the same but easier.

For the full posting, check out the blog. Interesting stuff there.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A question...

I had a conversation recently which bothered me on several levels. One of those levels will be the punchline to a talk I am giving later this week for ICBA. But at the moment, I am thinking about another question that has been rolling around in that apparently empty head of mine... I was recently asked if ebooks are a marketing solution to a problem for which there is no demand?

After giving this quite a bit of thought, I think this is in fact the wrong question. I think the question should be more something along the lines of "are current e-book solutions a poor substitute for what is really wanted?" After Henry Ford created the automobile, he reportedly quipped that if he had asked people what they really wanted, they would have said faster horses. There is another quote, who's author I do not know, that goes something like, lightbulbs did not result from the continuous improvement of candles. In other words, sometimes breakthrough advances or radical changes in a space result in new technologies that are so different from what we remember, that they are hard to predict. But, when the right technology comes onto the scene, there can be a more or less rapid transition from the old technology to the new.

People may be skeptical of e-books, arguing that there is no market demand for such content or devices, yet look at the success of Stanza -- an e-reader application for the iPhone. At the TOC conference last week they reported that in less than seven months after their creation they had over 1.3 million downloads of their reader across 60 countries and had downloaded more than 5 million books in twelve languages. Not bad for a platform where the CEO of the company said not long ago that no one reads anymore. Maybe reading the "old way" has become like using candles before the lightbulb.

Any thoughts?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lessons from the music industry...

This is a reference to an old post on a good blog -- Seth Godin's. Seth's site has a lot of useful material, including a fair number of posts about digital content. The post referenced here is one Seth did just over a year ago on lessons learned from the music industry's shift to digital.

The most important lesson he notes (lesson 0, because it is so important) is:

0. The new thing is never as good as the old thing, at least right now.Soon, the new thing will be better than the old thing will be. But if you wait until then, it’s going to be too late. Feel free to wax nostalgic about the old thing, but don’t fool yourself into believing it’s going to be here forever. It won’t.

Given some of the new data from a survey we just completed in the college store industry and the transition to digital, more stores might want to pay heed to Seth's message.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

SONY markets notebooks with mannequins

This posting is a bit of a deviation from the traditional posting here, but marketing of new technologies is part of the innovation and adoption process, and this one is quite different, so I thought it would make a good weekend posting.

There was a piece in the Event Marketer this week on a new Sony campaign for the latest Sony notebook. The goal is to mix style with technology -- or technology with fashion. It continues the stream of observation by Sony that if people experience a well-designed technology they are more likely to adopt it -- and this is true of the Sony reader as much as their other devices.

In the marketing event, people had three opportunities to interact with the live mannequins. First, the mannequins walked through the event location presenting the device in a passive way. Second, they paused and revealed the product in action. Third, the mannequins froze in place, allowing consumers to explore the capabilities by taking the devices into their own hands.

Interesting approach to experiential and event marketing.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

How The New York Times could cut their printing costs in half

The folks at the Silicon Alley Insider came up with a very interesting comparison to show just how expensive printing the newspaper can be. The posting notes that it currently costs twice as much to print and deliver The New York Times as it would to send each subscriber a brand new Amazon Kindle. The posting describes the calculation and explains that the printing costs could actually be even higher than the numbers used in the comparison. When you consider this comparison along with relevant factors such as the economy and environmental concerns, its makes you wonder how far off the tipping point for e-readers really is.

BTW -- Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Kindle2

Okay, everyone else is posting on the Kindle2, so we might as well too. As anticipated, Amazon introduced the second generation Kindle at a news conference in NYC on Monday. According to the news release, the Kindle 2 has several enhancements over the first generation Kindle including: slimmer design, 25% longer battery life, faster display with 16 shades of gray, seven times more storage, instant dictionary lookup, and a text-to-speech feature that converts words on the page to spoken words.

There have been mixed reactions to the text-to-speech feature and the Authors Guild among others are questioning if the feature is legal. In an article appearing in the Wall Street Journal, Paul Aiken, Authors Guild executive director explained, "They don't have the right to read a book out loud. That's an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law.” While Drew Herdener Amazon spokesman said, “These are not audiobooks. Text to speech is simply software that runs on devices and reads content.” Most other postings out there appear to agree with Amazon on this one. I think a pair of postings on Techdirt capture the perspective well, and with some humor. Although, once computers get good enough to read in a lifelike way, with proper intonation and interpretation, there could be an issue -- at that point, what is an audiobook? Maybe there is something of a true legal question here that should be addressed before the e-audiobook industry of the future is replaced. (Not saying that it should or shouldn't be replaced, only that if that industry wants to survive future technologies, it would be logical for it to take this development a little more seriously).

As for the future, Jeff Bezos commented on the ultimate goal for the Kindle and its library saying, “Our vision is every book ever printed in any language in under 60 seconds." Hmm... I wonder if instant translation to different languages by the device in the future is also a violation the Author's Guild will be concerned about?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cornell University Library to offer more than 80,000 titles via POD

According to a recent press release, Cornell University Library plans to increase its print-on-demand offerings to more than 80,000 titles by the end of 2009. The additional titles will be added to the roughly 6,000 items currently available on Amazon.com. For the past two years, the library has been working with Microsoft to digitize the books which include many out of print titles.

Oya Rieger, Associate University Librarian for Information Technologies explained the initiative, "Although demand for online access to digital books has been growing, books as artifacts continue to have a real value. This initiative supports the reading and research patterns of users who prefer the affordances provided by physical books - they support deep reading, underlining and writing comments in the margins. The Web is great for easy access and browsing, but because digital content can sometimes be ephemeral, physical books continue to serve as valuable reference sources on your shelf."

This announcement provides another example of the recent increase in the number of libraries offering digitized collections. As discussed in a previous posting, the movement to digital creates some new opportunities for libraries and college stores to work together. The creation of on campus partnerships could provide print-on-demand opportunities for the universities rather than Amazon.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How literature is evolving in the digital age

An interesting article from Time magazine takes a look at how literature is evolving in the digital age. The article discusses a number of topics that factor into the change including the outdated business models that have guided the industry for years, the increasing popularity of self-publishing, and how for the first time in history, novels are becoming detached from the dollar with the rise of fan fiction websites that carry free novels written by amateurs. Additionally, the author provides his take on what the publishing future will look like. He explains,
"More books, written and read by more people, often for little or no money, circulating in a wild diversity of forms, both physical and electronic... If readers want to pay for the old-school premium package, they can get their literature the old-fashioned way: carefully selected and edited, and presented in a bespoke, art-directed paper package. But below that there will be a vast continuum of other options: quickie print-on-demand editions and electronic editions for digital devices, with a corresponding hierarchy of professional and amateur editorial selectiveness. (Unpaid amateur editors have already hit the world of fan fiction, where they're called beta readers.) The wide bottom of the pyramid will consist of a vast loamy layer of free, unedited, Web-only fiction, rated and ranked YouTube-style by the anonymous reading masses." He goes on to add that fiction will be, "Like fan fiction, it will be ravenously referential and intertextual in ways that will strain copyright law to the breaking point. Novels will get longer--electronic books aren't bound by physical constraints--and they'll be patchable and updatable, like software.

Recently we have begun to see some examples of publishers moving to pure e-formats for selected content and finding ways to monetize the new way of releasing fiction. In the future, we could see consumers shift away from content abundance and rely on respectable publishers to do the editing and presentation. In turn, this could drive publishers back to their core competence of editing and compiling information - leaving the delivery, formatting, and consumer choice of access to other companies and technologies.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Google, and Amazon, and Apple -- OH MY!

There were several interesting articles in the New York Times in the past week of interest to content producers and retailers. Three large companies -- Google, Amazon, and Apple -- are shaping up to be top competitors in the future e-book marketplace. Here is a synopsis of the articles from the past week:

Both Google and Amazon announced increases in their digital offerings to include e-books formatted for mobile phones. According to the article from the New York Times, Amazon is currently working to make Kindle titles available for mobile use while Google has just introduced a new mobile version of the Google Book Search initiative. A posting from the Inside Google Book Search blog explains that over 1.5 million of the public domain books that were scanned for Google Book Search have been made into a mobile version for viewing on iPhones or phones that use Google’s Android operating system. Additionally, the New York Times article provides some commentary from analysts on whether mobile phones will take the place of dedicated e-Readers. The analysts note that they do not see this occurring in the near future due to the small size of the screen, the backlighting present while reading, and the shorter battery life, however, as mobile devices become more advanced, consumers may be willing to give up some quality in exchange for convenience and cost.

There were two other articles in The New York Times this week, one about Google and the other about Apple but both about a similar topic – these companies are changing content production (and potentially retail) as we know it. By digitizing library collections across the world, Google is gaining the ability to offer books that no one else can thereby solidifying its dominant position in the market. Meanwhile, Apple continues to dominate the music industry having just reached an agreement with the labels to allow flexible pricing in exchange for DRM free music. So what does this mean for the future?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Color and Flexible e-book displays

The Economist recently had an interesting story that is a must-read for those interested in e-reader technology. They report that HP Labs, Arizona State, and E Ink have been successful at producing flexible electronic paper in long rolls -- bendy electronic paper, that can display words and images, and perhaps eventually replace paper books, newspapers and magazines. The new screens are both low-weight and have low power consumption. Early uses are expected to be in the military, who funded the project -- for purposes such as maps and receiving information. Consumer applications are likely a few years away.

The article goes on to talk about the two key barriers to the technology being successful -- a lack of color, and a refresh rate that enables moving images. But the new technology is substantively lighter, more reliable in production and use, and consumes less power -- all factors that will lead to the new technology surplanting the old. The breakthrough reported in the Economist article, though, is the ability to mass-produce flexible displays -- greatly reducing the cost. The article concludes with comments on different technologies that are emerging that may make color displays possible in the future.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

More news on e-books

We are at TOC this week... so here are some other postings and articles of note in the news...

A British blog's take on the coming of e-books.

An early view of the Kindle 2 -- to be released tomorrow.

Another sign of change -- article reports that searches for e-books up by 100%.

More news is likely to follow in the week ahead.

Publishing industry in 2009

After conducting a year long study on digital publishing, industry analyst Steve Paxhia of The Gilbane Group has identified the top five trends that could affect the publishing industry in 2009. His predictions are in line with the trends that we have seen gaining ground in recent months. He predicts: an increase in custom product offerings especially in the educational textbook segment, an increase in print-on-demand capabilities due to cost effectiveness and progressing production quality, and an increase in the premium digital products offered by traditional publishers.

We look forward to the full report due out later this month titled, “Digital Platforms and Technologies for Book Publishers: Implementations Beyond eBook.”

Saturday, February 7, 2009

HarperCollins introduces video books for download

Innovation surrounding books, and particularly e-books, continues. An interesting twist on this innovation comes from an article in this week’s Wall Street Journal. On Tuesday, HarperCollins introduced their first video book for download and plans to introduce more if consumers show interest. The video book is Jeff Jarvis’ “What Would Google Do?” and features the author, speaking about concepts from the book. The video is available through Amazon’s digital store for download to computers and mobile devices. Brian Murray, Chief Executive of HarperCollins explained the initiative, "We’re looking to create new revenue streams. There is a tremendous amount of search and discovery of video on the Web. Some consumers won't spend the money or invest hours in reading a book, but they will watch a 23-minute video." Jeff Jarvis is a scheduled speaker at next week’s TOC conference, where we expect he will talk more about this experiment in video books.

On a semi-related note, HarperStudio, a newer division of HarperCollins that experiments with new publishing models and technology, recently launched a new website and has moved their 26th Story blog over to the site.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Wiley e-Textbook pilot at the University of Texas at Austin kicks off

According to a recent article, the Wiley e-textbook pilot at the University of Texas at Austin began on January 20. The pilot includes free e-textbooks for 1300 students enrolled in six different classes, in an effort to test how useful e-textbooks are for faculty and students. Additionally, for students that prefer a physical copy of the text, the campus store will print any textbook at a cost of 1.5 cents per page. As noted in a previous posting, the university is providing the content via an institutional licensing model and therefore the content will only be free initially. If the program is successful, students could pay $25-45 a book in licensing fees.

The article also provides some commentary from Michael Granof, chairman of the University Co-op, who fears that if the program continues after the pilot and the university takes responsibility for supplying the e-textbooks, it could undermine the viability of the co-op bookstore. He explains, “There's no reason for a university to get involved with licensing. If a publisher has an e-book available, the instructor can put the link to the book on the course Web site and the student can click the link and buy the book from the Co-op, just as they would for any other book they bought.”

For institutions that decide to digitally license content and provide e-textbooks via this method, the impact to campus stores and institutions could be significant. Since profit earned by many stores goes back into the institution to support things like financial aid or student services, licensing models could have a double financial impact for institutions (and students) – creating new costs on one side, while reducing the revenue available to cover those costs and others on the flip side. If the rising cost of content licensing in the library is any indicator, licensing solutions for institutions on the textbook side are likely to only yield a short-term cost savings for students.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Higher Education, Technology, E-books, and Hype

One of the most widely read technology publications in higher education, the EDUCAUSE Review, announced the 10 most read articles of 2008 recently. The collection show an interesting focus on the future of technology in education. The #1 ranked piece, Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0 by John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler is a definite read.

Of course, a little self-horn-tooting is also on call for E-Books in Higher Education: Nearing the End of the Era of Hype? which came it at #5 on the list. That article was actually written over a year ago -- and how much things have changed in a year's time. The evidence seems to suggest that we are getting closer to the end of that era of hype, but the "tipping point" is still elusive. Open access course materials are on the rise -- as is the inexorable increase in the cost of traditional printed course materials. We are anticipating several new innovations to hit the market this year, and expect collegiate retailers and academic institutions to take another step (or two) forward in making digital options available for students.

It would be interesting to see some analysis on where the e-book industry currently lies along the Gartner Hype Cycle. In one report from late December, entitled "Emerging Trend: The E-Book's Day Is Finally Ready to Dawn" the executive summary notes that E-book readers and other digital replacements for paper publications have been in experimental development for 15 years. However, given key differences in the latest e-book generation, we expect it will, at last, gradually enter the mainstream.

At the same time, a couple weeks ago Gartner issued another report, Contrasting Findings on the Digital Native, which suggests that the digital native concept deserves critical scrutiny. A far more skeptical approach to assumptions about digital natives is recommended before reorganizing service delivery to accommodate this cohort of next-generation consumers. This conclusion is not new, but it is reassuring to hear someone else say it as well. The data from the ECAR annual student study, now in its fifth year of longitudinal data collection, continues to convince me that while student patterns are changing, most students may be more adept in using technology for communication and collaboration than they are in using technology for productivity or learning. It may be that the current set of college students are digital immigrants like the rest of us.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine selects VitalSource to deliver digital curriculum

Recently, Ingram Digital announced an agreement with the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine to offer a complete medical program curriculum via the VitalSource e-book platform. According to the press release, beginning with the incoming class of 2012, students will receive a university issued laptop that contains 30 pre-loaded e-textbooks for use during their first two years of classes. During the third and fourth years, students will purchase the e-textbooks from the University’s online store. Unlike other e-textbook rentals where the material can only be accessed for one semester, students will also be able to access their materials as long as they retain student status and can transfer their license if they upgrade their computer. The University’s decision to offer a completely digital curriculum provides yet another example that e-textbooks are gaining ground. Medical and dental schools, which have fairly standardized curriculums within a school, have been more likely to move more completely to digital collections than other disciplines or academic areas.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pearson CEO speaks at SIIA

There was an interesting blog post on Personanondata last week capturing her notes from Marjorie Scardino's (the CEO of Pearson) talk at the Software Information Industry Association (SIIA) meeting.

What I found interesting in the notes is Pearson's view, as one of the largest educational publishers, on their role in developing the skills needed for the 21st century. The blog notes that,
In her opinion, (and this follows how Pearson is expanding) companies have to take a long term view: change the way teachers teach, the way readers interact with news, information and content. Additionally, the long term view or approach to investment has to be consistent. She says, sustained investment is difficult in a public company. The key to success is to involve your customers. Release your software early and enable a culture that allows ‘do-overs’ assuming they are corrected or improved rapidly.

The posting notes some other comments that are relevant to college stores and those interested in the future of course materials as well. Ideas like the "need to try everything," "generating new ideas from all levels as a cultural shift," and the "inextricable binding of content and technology" are just a couple examples. One interesting remark in the notes is the comment that Pearson:
... as a company long ago realized that content was becoming a commodity in news and other segments like education. “There is only a few ways to describe photosynthesis” or describe history. Technology however can be a differentiator if used in an appropriate manner so the company attempts to understand how the reader interacts with the content. This approach is used in news, where there is more attention paid to analysis than news reporting, and also in education.

An interesting perspective. for a publishing company -- particularly given the radical transformation hitting the newspaper publishing industry these days. Perhaps there are additional lessons for college stores and textbook publishers to learn from these sister industries. Thoughts?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Second Generation Amazon Kindle expected to be introduced next week

According to a posting on The New York Times Bits blog, the second generation Amazon Kindle could be introduced at a news conference hosted by Jeff Bezos on February 9. The Amazon Kindle webpage has also been updated and now explains that new purchases are “Expected to ship in 4 to 6 weeks.” As noted in a previous posting, when the first generation Kindle sold out before Christmas, the expected ship date was 11 to 13 weeks. Some speculate that those who purchased Kindles over the holidays or put their name on the waiting list for the first generation Kindle will actually receive the new model. If the leaked photos that appeared on the Boy Genius Report website are accurate, the new model will have a similar look but will include round buttons and smaller side buttons to correct the design flaws of the first model. The new model is also expected to use the Broadsheet microchip from Epson and E-Ink which is currently used in the Sony Reader 700. The technology provides a more responsive screen with faster screen refreshes.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

“Should technology change the way we read?”

The Harper Studio blog had a thought provoking post recently asking the question, Should technology change the way we read? The posting references a site created by a faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin to help students interact with Dante’s Divine Comedy. The professor’s site is designed to complement the original work and enhance the student’s reading experience. The posting also references another book created by a German author that incorporates Google Earth illustrations. It is considered a “geo novel”, with pages accompanied by a satellite view of the current location of the story. Such evolutions of technology and reading raise some interesting questions on what the future of reading (and course materials) might be in the future as e-book technologies evolve.