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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Monday, March 30, 2009

Shelf Awareness article about CAMEX

Today, Shelf Awareness featured a nice write-up about the efforts of NACS Media Solutions and Mark’s digital content presentation at CAMEX. The article provides good coverage of the presentation and is worth reading especially for those that could not attend however it incorrectly states a few statistics. It explains that “only 38.1% of college stores are selling digital materials” but this statistic is misleading because it only includes independent and private stores and does not represent the industry as a whole. If contract managed stores were added to the statistic, the number would be higher. Additionally, the article explains that at Taylor & Francis, “direct sales to consumers are at a 50/50 ratio of print to digital format.” This statistic actually represents several publishers and not just Taylor & Francis. A correction notice has been submitted to Shelf Awareness.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Barnes & Noble launches free e-reader application for the Blackberry

According to an article from The Wall Street Journal, Barnes & Noble has released a free e-reader application for the Blackberry. As noted in a previous posting, earlier this month, Barnes & Noble acquired Fictionwise, so the new e-reader is an extension of the Fictionwise e-reader application currently available for the iPhone and other mobile devices. The article explains that the decision was initiated by consumer demand and now Blackberry users will be able to access the 60,000 plus titles available on the Fictionwise eReader store. William Lynch, President of Barnes&Noble.com explained the launch, "E-books are a nascent market. We think users will engage with this. We want to be there with the right application and content regardless of the device."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Samsung to launch e-reader in June

A posting from the Wired blog reports that Samsung will launch a new e-reader called Papyrus this June in Korea. It is reported that the device is A5-sized with an E Ink touch screen and 512MB of memory but does not include a memory card option or WiFi capability. Samsung plans to eventually release the e-reader in the U.S. and the U.K. Additionally, the posting provides a great summary of the e-readers currently on the market or soon to be released.

Friday, March 27, 2009

University of Michigan Press goes digital

Earlier this week, the University of Michigan Press announced that they will be moving to digital format. According to an article from Inside Higher Ed, the majority of the monographs published will now be released in digital form but readers will have the option to use print-on-demand if they choose. This announcement differs from other recent news because the University’s decision was not based on a cost saving initiative and no jobs will be eliminated, the shift is purely to take advantage of the ability to publish more books and distribute them to a broader audience. Phil Pochoda, director of Michigan press explained. “I have been increasingly convinced that the business model based on printed monograph was not merely failing but broken. Why try to fight your way through this? Why try to remain in territory you know is doomed? Scholarly presses will be primarily digital in a decade. Why not seize the opportunity to do it now?” As we begin to see more scholarly presses transition to digital for distribution or cost saving purposes, college stores should also consider seizing the opportunity to provide digital content.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thinking the Unthinkable

There is a great posting on Clay Shirky’s blog titled, “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable” that provides an insightful analysis on the past, present, and future of the newspaper industry. All college stores, publishers, and book retailers should read this piece because as one of our members noted, one could easily substitute “textbooks” for “newspapers” in several places. In the posting, Mr. Shirky explains that the problem that the newspaper industry is facing is not due to lack of preparedness for the internet, in fact, in the 90’s, many plans were created to deal with the internet. The real problem is that all the plans were based on the idea that the newspaper just needed a “digital facelift.” He explains:

“Round and round this goes, with the people committed to saving newspapers demanding to know ‘If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?’ To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the internet just broke.

With the old economics destroyed, organizational forms perfected for industrial production have to be replaced with structures optimized for digital data. It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem.”

Mr. Shirky goes on to say that nothing will really replace what we are losing with the demise of news on printed paper but through experimentation we can find a way to preserve journalism. “Now is the time for experiments, lots and lots of experiments, each of which will seem as minor at launch as Craigslist did, as Wikipedia did, as octavo volumes did.” It is in retrospect that these experiments are considered turning points.

Mr.Shirky’s advice can also be applied to the college store industry. As the old publishing models are broken, experimenting with digital initiatives on campus is imperative for defining the future. One experiment may not be the answer but a collection of experiments can help to preserve the important role of the college store on campus.

Clay Shirky's posting is a must read for all college stores.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Interesting digital content article

There is a very interesting article by Len Vlahos posted on the American Booksellers Association site that provides a great overview of the book industry’s history with digital content and the changes that have occurred in recent years as consumers have became more comfortable with digital content through the music industry. Additionally, the article discusses the factors contributing to the recent interest in digital content and the opportunities that lie ahead for the book industry. We encourage you to read the article for general knowledge and understanding.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

GameFly partners with Barnes & Noble to test game rental kiosks in college stores

A recent article explains that Gamefly, an online video game rental service, has partnered with Barnes & Noble to test out game rental kiosks in college stores. The kiosks will provide students with the opportunity to rent hundreds of popular games for various gaming systems without a return date or late fees. The first kiosk was launched last Wednesday at the Texas Tech campus store and GameFly plans to install similar machines in stores across the country.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fujitsu’s color display e-reader

A recent posting on CNET features a close-up look at the color E Ink display on Fujitsu’s e-reader. As mentioned in a prior posting, until recently the e-reader was only available for trial in a Tokyo restaurant but now it is available for pre-order and is scheduled to begin shipping on April 20 in Japan. There is no word yet on when the e-reader might be available for purchase in the U.S. Another posting on the Wired Blog explains that the device appears to be more like a hybrid of a tablet and e-reader because it comes with Window CE5 operating system which supports e-mail, web browsing, and spreadsheets among other functions. With capabilities such as these, the device becomes more than just a color e-reader and consumers may be more likely to purchase it. We look forward to hearing the reviews next month.

Update on 3/26/09:
Here is another recent story on the Fujitsu e-reader:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

E-Book Cartoon

The Penny Arcade recently featured this funny cartoon about e-books. Enjoy!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper moves to digital version only

Earlier this week, there was another signal that the tipping point from print to digital is approaching. According to an article from the Associated Press, on Monday the Seattle P-I became the largest American newspaper to announce that it will move to an online version only and on Tuesday the newspaper produced the final paper edition after 146 years in print. This announcement follows the recent closing of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain News and this Saturday’s scheduled closing of Arizona’s Tucson Citizen. The Seattle P-I’s move to digital will likely be closely watched as other newspapers seek to find a way to survive as the industry struggles. Additionally, this move could put additional pressure on the Seattle Times which had a joint operating agreement with the P-I and will be the only mainstream daily newspaper in the city. Steven Swartz, president of Hearst’s newspaper division explained the move to digital and the hope to capitalize on the P-I’s existing web traffic, “We clearly believe we are in a period of innovation and experimentation, and that’s what this new SeattlePI.com represents. We think we’ll learn a lot, and we think the Seattle market, being so digitally focused, is a great place to try this.” In recent months, other large newspaper companies have sought bankruptcy protection including the owners of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Google and Sony partner to take on Amazon

An article from Forbes explains that Google and Sony have announced that they will partner to make 500,000 of the public domain books from Google's Book Search scanning initiative available for free via the Sony eBook Store in EPUB format. This is interesting news because this is Google’s first move into the e-reader space and they have elected to go with Sony which uses open standard format over Amazon’s proprietary offerings. Until now, Google has only offered the scanned books via PDF format which does not display well on e-readers. With the EPUB files, the text will reflow and adapt to fit various screen sizes. Additionally, consumers do not even need to own a Sony Reader to benefit from this partnership because the files can be used on any device with EPUB software and even on Amazon Kindles with the proper conversion software. This move signifies a step forward for the adoption of the EPUB open format standard for e-book distribution and away from propriety formats which has hindered consumer adoption. In addition, according to another posting on Teleread, Google plans make the additional one million books in their library available in EPUB format as well.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Advice from Peter Osnos

Last week, Shelf Awareness featured a conversation with Peter Osnos, founder and editor-at-large of PublicAffairs and founder of The Caravan Project. In the piece, Osnos explains that he sees a bright future for the book world because as technology advances a book publishing model is developing that will make it possible for readers to buy books in any format they choose – traditional, e-books, print-on-demand, or audio, and he envisions that this could take place in a bricks-and-mortar bookstore. He does however, have concerns about booksellers who, "still have not yet accepted that digital delivery is a good thing and that it can be part of what they do. There isn't any reason any bookseller cannot completely embrace digital delivery." His advice for people in the industry is to "step back and think of themselves as civilians and appreciate the extent to which we always look for convenience and quality. It doesn't mean that 100% of people will read online and that the printed book is doomed. It means that there will be choices and options, and it's essential that publishers and booksellers be a part of that." Embracing digital delivery and recognizing the opportunities and options it provides is especially important advice for college stores. We do not have time to wait because if college stores do not provide content options in the formats that students desire, someone else will.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Future of the News

An interesting posting on the Wired Blog discusses how the New York Times is working to create a digital future for the news through research and development. Recently, Nick Bilton, design integration editor and user interface specialist at the New York Times R&D lab spoke about the efforts at the Emerging Technologies conference. We also had the opportunity to see him present about a month ago at the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference and were intrigued and impressed by the technologies in development. Some of the most interesting technologies include a prototype called "CustomTimes" which is a digital version of the traditional newspaper machine that will allow users to select certain content to be printed via print on demand, “smart content” which keeps track of the stories that users have read across their devices so that when a user picks up their mobile device a story that was read on their computer appears grayed out, and a Times mobile application that can sense when a user is traveling in their car and delivers the news in audio format. While these advanced technologies are likely five to ten years away, the transition to digital is inevitable for the newspaper industry, and as Bilton points out the newspapers and news organizations can still thrive in digital format, “Paper is dying, but it's just a device. Replacing it with pixels is a better experience.” What can other industries, such as course materials, learn from the shift to digital in the newspaper industry?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Video presentation by Richard Baraniuk founder of Connexions

As mentioned in previous postings, the video presentations on the TED website are a great resource for ideas and inspiration. The presentations are given by the world’s leading thinkers and doers at the TED conference each year. Richard Baraniuk founder of Connexions gave a presentation titled, “Goodbye, textbooks; hello, open source learning” that is worth watching. In the presentation, Mr. Baraniuk explains the vision behind Connexions and how through open source learning, ideas from the music industry can be used to reinvent the way books are written, used, and taught from. He explains that in the music industry anyone is free to create new music and use existing music in innovative ways which has created a community where things are kept constantly up-to-date. Connexions is similar to that of the music industry because it will “enable anyone in the world, to be their own educational DJ, creating education materials, sharing them with the world and constantly innovating them.” As we continue to see more interest in open content learning models, it is important to consider the effect that free educational content could have on college stores.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

CAMEX 2009

CAMEX, one of NACS biggest events of the year and the industry’s largest trade show and educational event begins today. Some digital sessions to take note of include, Mark’s presentation this afternoon entitled NACS 2009 Digital Update: Moving Beyond Mousing Around. Mark will be discussing the many recent signals of change occurring in the industry and the choices that college stores are faced with as we prepare for the transition to digital.

On Saturday afternoon there will be a few other digital sessions. The session: Re-defining the Future of Your Health Science Store: Incorporating Digital Content will feature a panel of health science publishers and booksellers to discuss the types of digital content that students in the medical fields are using and how stores can incorporate digital content into selling strategies. Another session entitled Exploring E-books will discuss how some universities are piloting e-book initiatives on campus. The session will be given by college store managers and directors Jennifer Berry (BYU Bookstore), Todd Summer (San Diego State University Aztec Shops), and Jason Katzman (Colorado University Book Store) and will be a great opportunity to gain ideas for how to pilot e-books on your campus.

We look forward to seeing many of you at CAMEX!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

DukeMobile and iStanford applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch

Last week, Duke University unveiled a suite of applications for the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch called “DukeMobile.” According to an article from The Wired Campus, the applications allow users to browse the university’s catalog, search a campus map, and watch Duke related content on YouTube and iTunes. The application was created by Terriblyclever, a company started by Stanford students which recently produced an even more advanced and impressive suite of applications for Stanford University called “iStanford.” The “iStanford” applications are connected to the university’s core computer system which allows students to perform tasks that are normally only accessible over secure campus networks. Students can add and drop courses, find out the exact location of the campus shuttle, and review grades and course history. Additionally, students can use an interactive campus map to find out the locations of other students with iPhones and send them instant messages. For students that do not have an iPhone or iTouch, there is also a website designed for web-capable phones that offers campus services. A recent article in TIME explains that the applications have received great reviews and we are likely to see more universities invest in similar applications in the upcoming months.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Asymmetric Competition

Several months ago, Umair Haque, Director of Havas Media Lab and a blogger for Harvard Business School discussed an interesting concept known as asymmetrical competition on his blog. The concept can be applied to the competition occurring in the corporate world and has some specific relevance to college stores. Haque explains that in years past the majority of competition was symmetrical, meaning that companies typically competed with comparable resources and capabilities. Some examples of these competitors include Ford and General Motors. Today, the competition has become asymmetrical and new companies are emerging and rewriting the rules of strategy to displace the leaders of yesterday. Google is one example of a company that is doing exactly the opposite of what traditional strategy says and yet has become the world’s most powerful brand in record time. Hague explains that while new companies have always produced competition what we are seeing now is different.First, rarely before have new and lateral entrants been able to upset incumbents so decisively - to actually put them out of commission. Second, rarely have they been able to dominate entire industries with such speed. Third, almost never before have so many revolutionaries threatened so many incumbents across a broad sweep of industries. Fourth, in asymmetrical contests, yesterday's sources of advantage become today's sources of disadvantage.” Asymmetric competition is happening across the corporate world and could soon impact college stores. In the last several months, we have seen new companies emerge and existing companies introduce new technologies and solutions for the higher education market. As new companies and technologies are introduced and acquisitions take place, it is hard to predict how quickly things could change for higher education. With radical environmental changes, the incumbents are rarely the victors. That does not mean they do not survive – they just end up with a lesser role to play – like candles compared to light bulbs. The higher education textbook market is under a great deal of pressure to change, and if we are not part of the change, forces of asymmetrical competition could replace us.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How e-readers and e-books could win mass appeal

An interesting article from TWICE explains that some analysts are predicting mass appeal of e-readers and e-books if the technology is adopted by schools. Josh Martin, Yankee Group Senior Analyst commented, “I’m not really bullish that this will be a mass-market product. But if schools adopt the devices, the market could take off.” For universities such as Northwest Missouri State that are piloting e-readers and e-textbooks this semester, there could be a gradual switch to the digital versions this fall. For schools that have yet to experience the technology, the shift to digital could take more time but as more schools begin offering digital options, we could see the transition gain speed. Stores must begin preparing for the transition to digital if or perhaps when e-readers and e-books gain mass appeal.

Read an E-Book Week: March 8-14

Sunday marked the start of Read and E-Book Week, a not-for-profit week designed to inform the public about the pleasures and advantages of reading electronically. Read an E-Book Week was founded in 2004 by author Rita Toews and has since gained many supporters including E-INK, Sony, Stanza, and IDPF among others. During the week, Stanza will be offering a catalog of free e-books for the iPhone and iPod Touch while many other publishers and authors have a variety of free e-book offerings. To show your support for e-books and to find out more about the week and its offerings, refer to the website’s E-Book Supporters page.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Fujitsu’s color display e-reader

A recent article from Fast Company features photos of the first color display e-reader produced by Fujitsu. The e-reader uses Fujitsu’s FLEPia technology and includes a slender design, large touch-screen, Wi-Fi capability, SD card slot for memory expansion, stereo speakers, a battery life of 50 hours, and Windows CE5 operating system. Currently the e-reader is only available for trial in a Tokyo restaurant. Patrons visiting the restaurant can test out the technology by browsing newspapers, train schedules, and weather reports.

Friday, March 6, 2009

University of Pennsylvania Libraries to make 200,000 titles available for on-demand digitization and printing

Another example of the recent increase in the number of libraries offering digitized collections appeared in a recent article from Campus Technology. The article explains that the University of Pennsylvania Libraries have partnered with Kirtas Technologies to make 200,000 public domain titles available for on-demand digitization and printing. This partnership differs from other efforts because the books will be digitized upon user request which will eliminate up-front printing, production, and storage costs and allow the university’s digital collection to grow based on demand. Customers that wish to participate in the offering will search for titles on the Kirtas site and then place a “digitize for me” request. The book will be pulled from the library shelves, digitized, and then either printed or made available for online access depending on the customer’s preference.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Barnes & Noble acquires Fictionwise

There has been some interesting news in the e-book world this week. Yesterday we heard about Amazon’s release of an e-book application for the iPhone and today we learned that Barnes & Noble has acquired Fictionwise, a leading independent eBook publisher and distributor. According to the press release, Fictionwise will operate as a separate business unit under Barnes & Noble and founders Steve and Scott Pendergast will continue to run the business. Barnes & Noble plans to incorporate Fictionwise into its digital strategy which includes the launch of an e-Bookstore later this year. A posting on Teleread explains that the founders shopped the site around to potential buyers and decided on Barnes & Noble because of their support for Fictionwise’s philosophy of “platform neutrality and eReader everywhere,” meaning that customers should still be able to buy non-DRM books from Fictionwise when available.

Hearst Corporation to introduce large screen e-reader

Last week, Hearst Corporation, owner of many popular daily and weekly newspapers as well as magazines, announced that it will launch a large screen e-reader designed to meet the needs of publishers in the declining market. According to an article from The Wall Street Journal, the e-reader initiative is part of the company’s “100 Days of Change” program which seeks to review the longstanding newspaper business practices to define a new cost structure and business model for the future. Another article in Fortune magazine explains that the e-reader is likely to debut later this year in black and white and may even be foldable. The company plans to sell the e-readers to publishers and take a share of the revenue acquired from selling magazines and newspapers on the devices. Additionally, publishers will be able to develop their own branding and payment methods. A third article from Information Week explains that Hearst’s move into the e-reader market is definitely risky but also necessary because even if Hearst is not successful in making money at first, the experiment could eventually lead to a solution to help boost subscriptions and revenues. Michael McGuire, analyst with Gartner’s media consulting business explained, "This is absolutely the kind of thing they have to be doing – experimenting. There are no set answers anymore." The same can be said for college stores. The market is changing with technology and the future is not clearly defined but experimenting with digital initiatives on campus can help lead to a solution for the future.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Amazon releases e-book application for the iPhone and iPod Touch

Earlier today Amazon made a surprising move in an effort to capture more of the e-book market. According to an article from The New York Times, Amazon has released a free application for the iPhone and iPod Touch that allows Apple users to access and purchase the 240,000 e-books currently available for the Kindle. Ian Freed, Vice President in charge of the Kindle explained that Amazon sees the e-reading application as a complement to the Kindle device and believes it could lead to more Kindle sales for its larger screen and longer battery life. Additionally, people that own both Kindle and Apple devices will benefit from the Whispersync technology which allows users to view all of their previously purchased e-books on both devices and place bookmarks on one device and have it display on the other. However, a posting from Gadgetwise explains that the application does lack some important features including widescreen reading capability, touch screen functionality to increase the text size, the ability to add notes, and most importantly the ability to download easily. It seems that the new Kindle application is best suited for customers that have either purchased the book via the Kindle or by using their computer because when users try to purchase e-books from the application a message says, “Get the best shopping experience by visiting www.amazon.com/kindlestore on your Mac or PC.”

iPhone experiment at Houston Community College

A recent article in The Wired Campus discusses an iPhone experiment occurring at Houston Community College. Earlier this semester, students in one section of a combination distance education and in-classroom course were loaned iPhones to supplement their computers while students in another section of the same course were asked to use only their computers to view lecture videos and do online assignments. The students in both sections have been keeping journals to record when and where they logged in to use the course materials and how much time they spent. The preliminary findings from the experiment show that the students with iPhones spend more time studying than those without. This finding can most likely be attributed to the student’s ability to access the material wherever they are although the newness of the technology could also have an effect on the results. Additionally, the professor of the course has noticed a social benefit to using the iPhones because the devices were like an icebreaker for the students, most of which are working adults, and they are now interacting more outside of the classroom and forming study groups. More results from the study will be available at the end of the semester.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Digital textbooks in the news

Recently there have been several articles regarding digital textbooks featured in the college newspapers. Here are the links to a few of the stories:

The articles provide some interesting information about the use of digital textbooks on the respective campuses. The Spartan Daily at San Jose State University reports that the appeal of e-textbooks is increasing and the digital offerings at their bookstore have more than doubled in the past year. At the University of Victoria, a survey was conducted to find out if students would buy e-textbooks when available. The results showed that 7% would always buy e-textbooks, 33% never would, and for the remaining 60% it would depend on the price. The Brown Daily Herald article explained that at Brown University most of the textbooks are from university presses and not yet available in digital format however, students do want the option to buy e-textbooks and could decide to go with the environmentally friendly digital version if given a choice.

In recent months, more and more campuses have begun expanding their offerings to include digital texts. While many students may still prefer the print version over the digital, we are beginning to see an increase in the appeal of e-books.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Digital pilots in the U.K.

A recent article from Russian Today provides a look at how a university in the U.K. is piloting digital technology. Similar to a pilot occurring at The Ohio State University College of Medicine in the U.S., The University of Derby is experimenting with the use of iPods for medical students. Recently, 35 first-year students studying diagnostic radiology were given iPods with video lessons to supplement their lectures in hope that the medical demonstrations would be more useful than a traditional textbook. According to Chris O’Reilly, e-Learning Development Coordinator for Radiography, the university is already realizing the academic and social benefits of the devices. He explains that students find the devices to be a great resource and appreciate the ability to access the material wherever and whenever they want. Additionally, the device provides a social benefit by helping the university develop a relationship with the students from the start of their enrollment. The iPod pilot is likely the first example of additional digital initiatives for the university. Chris O’Reilly explains, “We are always looking for innovative ways to deliver education to students.”

Sunday, March 1, 2009

NPR interview with Northwest Missouri State University

Earlier this week, NPR featured a radio interview and related article with Northwest Missouri State University President, Dean Hubbard and a few students participating in the e-textbook pilot at the university. As mentioned in a previous posting, the university is conducting a pilot with e-textbooks that can be downloaded to laptops as well as testing out Sony PRS 700 e-readers. The interview notes that about half of the students at the school still say they prefer physical textbooks however at least one professor has noticed that the students are more likely to bring their laptops to class than their textbooks and in turn students could be more likely to read the digital text over the printed version. This article also incorrectly cites a statistic from NACS that 18% of college students have purchased an e-book. The actual finding shows that 18.5% of students have either purchased or accessed digital course materials; this includes materials such as digital articles or applications like Pearson’s MyMathLab.