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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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Baker & Taylor partners with R.R. Donnelley for print on demand services

Following the news of a partnership between Baker & Taylor and Overdrive, B&T has entered into another agreement with R.R. Donnelley for print on demand services. According to the press release, R.R. Donnelley will establish and manage a Digital Print on Demand Center at one of B&T’s distribution facilities. The center will open in September and additional R.R. Donnelley print facilities will be utilized to provide print and bind capabilities worldwide. This partnership is the fourth for B&T in recent months and is the final piece to building a digital infrastructure that will offer customers both print and digital content options.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

SharedBook launches Google Book Settlement Discussion forum

This week, custom book publisher, SharedBook Inc., launched a new Google Book Settlement Discussion forum to give policymakers, businesspeople, scholars, journalists, and others, an opportunity to come together to review and discuss the settlement. The site includes all of the relevant documents pertaining to the case and comments by users will be linked to the documents through online footnoting. Users can also purchase a printed copy of the settlement with the discussion comments. As mentioned, the site just launched so it may take a little time for the discussion to get going but within a few weeks it will likely be a great resource.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Baker & Taylor partners with Overdrive

This week Baker & Taylor announced that they will partner with Overdrive to provide their customers with downloadable digital content options such as e-books, audio books, music, and videos. According to the press release, Baker & Taylor will offer its library customers a Digital Media Library with content that can be downloaded to various devices and will provide its retailers with the ability to purchase digital media for customers to download. Steve Potash, CEO of OverDrive commented, “The market timing for this alliance is perfect. The demand for digital media is exploding, and Baker & Taylor is in a prime position to give customers a bundled solution - digital content in multiple formats along with physical media.” Baker & Taylor has also recently formed partnerships with ebrary and LibreDigital to expand its presence in the digital content space.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Second Life graduation to be held at Bryant & Stratton College

According to a posting on the Bryant & Stratton website, the college will be the first to host a graduation ceremony in the Second Life virtual world. The posting notes that approximately 40 graduates in the online degree program will receive their degree right where they earned it – online. A video on the website explains that the graduating students are located all over the country so the virtual graduation will let them take part in a real ceremony. Audio of the commencement will be streamed live to students and will feature a commencement speaker, speeches from students receiving top honors, and each student’s name announced as they accept their virtual diploma. Scott Traylor, director of admissions commented, “This is an exciting event for Bryant & Stratton and its graduates. By starting their new life via Second Life, these graduates are continuing their journey down the path of learning, while experiencing new and interactive technologies that help prepare them for a world driven by innovation." Bryant & Stratton also offers its students a variety of virtual activities via its Second Life campus. Prospective students can even attend a virtual open house to meet with staff from admissions and talk with current students.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New mobile phone e-reader introduced in Japan

According to a recent posting on Electronista, KDDI, a Japanese cell phone provider has introduced a new Toshiba mobile phone that is also an e-reader. The new device is called Biblio and it has 7 GB of storage available to store about 5,000 e-books from KDDI’s EZ Book Service. The device also features a 3.5 inch LCD screen, electronic dictionary, a 5.1 megapixel camera, and wi-fi connection. There is not word yet on pricing but the Bibilo is expected to begin shipping in Japan on June 24th.

Ingram announces creation of Ingram Content Group

Earlier this week, Ingram announced the creation of a new company called Ingram Content Group Inc. According to the news release, Ingram Digital, which includes Ingram Book Group and Lightning Source, will be realigned into the new company in an effort to fully integrate Ingram’s content companies. Together, the companies will provide a suite of print and digital services including: distribution, print on demand, and digital support. Ingram chairman, John Ingram commented, “Over the past decade, we recognized we were moving to a ‘P+D’ world – print plus digital – and that our customers wanted P+D solutions without having to contact multiple people in our organization. So, we’re organizing to make that happen – to provide these solutions better, faster and more effectively than anybody.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

University of Michigan expands Google Book Search agreement

Last week, the University of Michigan announced an expansion to their current Google Book Search scanning agreement. An article from Inside Higher Ed provides the following summary of the new agreement:
  • Universities that have made parts of their collections available for digitization will receive deep discounts on access to the collection, or -- in Michigan's case and perhaps those of others -- will pay nothing for access to the collection, which currently has about 10 million volumes and could easily double in size. Every participating library will have full free access to digitized copies of all of the books it contributed.
  • For people at other institutions, a free "preview" of a book -- with about 20 percent of content -- will be available online.
  • Individuals will be able to purchase full access (but not download a copy) at prices that Google said would be inexpensive compared to regular purchase prices.
  • Colleges and university libraries could buy site licenses, with pricing based on Carnegie classification. While no scale was released, Google officials said that the goal of pricing would be both to provide appropriate recognition to copyright holders but also to ensure wide access to the collections.
  • Any of the universities that have provided volumes for the project will have the right to seek arbitration if they feel that the pricing does not reflect both of those principles.

While the new agreement addresses the pricing issue, some of the pricing details have not been released so it is not certain that the agreement is enough to keep Google from overcharging. Corey Williams, associate director for the American Library Association’s Washington office commented that the agreement is a “step in the right direction with regard to pricing” but notes that “we think any library should have the ability to review pricing.” It is expected that the other universities participating in the digitization effort could sign similar agreements.

Monday, May 25, 2009

“Talking Gadget Theater” videos

If you are looking for something fun, the DVICE website has a couple of humorous Talking Gadget Theater videos starring the Kindle 2 and iPod Shuffle. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

March 2009 e-book sales statistics

E-book sales statistics for March 2009 have been released by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) via IDPF. Trade e-book sales were $10 million for March 2009, a 110.4% increase over March 2008. IDPF reports calendar year to date revenue is up 131% for the year. Note that these figures represent the 13 trade book publishers who have been willing to supply their data to IDPF.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Phillips develops new e-paper technology that is closer to printed paper

An article from Technology Review says that Phillips Research has developed a new method for creating color e-paper displays that will be three times brighter than the current color displays. The method is known as in-plane electrophoretics, and it uses colored particles rather than color filters which are used in E Ink. The display is brighter with colored particles because color filters require four subpixels for each full-color pixel which reduces the resolution and the brightness of the display. The technology is still very new and Sri Peruvemba, vice president of marketing at E-Ink, predicts that it will take at least three years for it to hit the market. When the technology is available, it will offer some distinct advantages over color filters because it relies on cheaper and simpler electronics and it is more suitable for creating flexible displays.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Bowker report says on-demand publishing more than doubled in 2008

This week, Bowker, a leading source for bibliographic information, released statistics on the U.S. book publishing industry for 2008. The report shows that in 2008, the number of books printed using print-on-demand and short-run more than doubled over 2007 with an increase of 132 percent. Last year marked the second year of triple-digit growth for the print-on-demand segment, which increased 462 percent since 2006. In addition, the number of on-demand and short-run books surpassed the number of traditional books in the market. Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publisher services for Bowker commented, “Our statistics for 2008 benchmark a historic development in the U.S. book publishing industry as we crossed a point last year in which On Demand and short-run books exceeded the number of traditional books entering the marketplace. It remains to be seen how this trend will unfold in the coming years before we know if we just experienced a watershed year in the book publishing industry, fueled by the changing dynamics of the marketplace and the proliferation of sophisticated publishing technologies, or an anomaly that caused the major industry trade publishers to retrench.” In the past few months there has also been an increase in the number of college stores, scholarly presses, and libraries offering print-on-demand options. We can expect that more experimentation will continue this year, as the industry seeks to find a more profitable business model.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

iPhone app programming course from Stanford U reaches 1 million downloads in 7 weeks

Seven weeks ago, Stanford University began offering a free iTunes video of its popular iPhone Application Programming course and since then, the video has already been downloaded over 1 million times. According to an article on the university’s website, the video reached the milestone quicker than any course in iTunes University history. The course is taught by Apple engineers, and now students and entrepreneurs outside of the university can use the instruction to develop their own apps. Troy Brant, Stanford teaching assistant for the course, commented that the App Store offers a unique business opportunity “for the little guy” because it provides instant access to millions of people and their opinions. Students enrolled in the class at Stanford are working to develop games, productivity apps, billing software, and Stanford specific apps, all with the hope that they might develop an app that hits it big.

California first state to offer open-source digital textbooks for high school students

Earlier this month, California became the first state in the U.S. to launch an initiative that will offer high school students free, open-source digital textbooks. According to the press release, content developers across the country will be asked to submit digital content for review and then a list of standards-aligned, open-source digital textbooks for high school math and science will be developed. The resources will be available for use in California high schools beginning this fall. If this initiative is successful, we could begin to see other states follow California’s lead in the K-12 space or even higher education.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Amazon in the news

Since the Kindle DX was introduced, Amazon has been all over the news. Here is a round-up of some of the stories:

What effect will the Kindle DX have on the education market?
There have been many articles speculating on the effect that the Kindle DX could have on the education market. An article on The Bookseller, features commentary by Evan Schnittman, vice-president of global business development at Oxford University Press, who believes that the Kindle DX preview was “a smart tactical maneuver” to help Amazon stake out its territory in the academic market before the “textbook e-reader wars” begin. A posting on the Brave New World blog comments on the article, pointing out that the device and e-books are only part of the solution. “Students require connectivity, reference, to be able to capture notes, bookmark, diaries, collate files, create documents, will probably not be restricted to text, or even greyscale. Therefore ask yourself as a student with limited disposable income, would you rather invest in a Kindle DX at $489 (£325) or more suitable devices that are not tied to content and a single business model and that can’t connect to all resources and can do more than download and store mere documents.”

Kindle DX’s chances of succeeding
A posting on the Kindle 2 Review blog features a listing of the positive and negative indicators contributing to the Kindle DX’s chances for success. The posting notes, “Amazon has indicated, and the success of the Kindle 2 makes it likelier, that they intend to have Kindles around for 10 or more years. The Kindle DX becomes the first iteration of their attempt to capture the college textbook market and expand the Kindle family. I feel the DX family of Kindles will be a huge success – perhaps with the current version at a slightly lower price point, perhaps with dx 2.”

Kindle DX pilots
In regards to the Kindle DX pilots, the universities are still working out the details but Case Western Reserve University and Princeton University have provided some information. At Case Western Reserve, Kindle DX devices will be distributed to about 50 students enrolled in first-year chemistry, computer science, and electrical engineering courses. The student reactions to using the Kindle DX for reading textbooks will be compared to a control group using traditional textbooks. The university will also launch a project to evaluate the impact of the device on the learning experience, determine if faculty delivered the information in new ways, and determine if students approach their reading and assignments differently. At Princeton, students and faculty in three courses will receive the Kindle DX devices. The Princeton pilot will differ from the other pilots because it will be part of a sustainability initiative that focuses on reducing the amount of electronic reserve course materials that are printed by students.

Amazon offers subscription model for blogs
This week Amazon made another surprising announcement and said that it will let bloggers offer their posts via subscriptions in the Kindle store. According to an article from E-Commerce Times, Amazon will set the price for the blogs and keep 70% of the revenue with the remaining 30% going back to the blog publisher. The article notes that the model is questionable given that users can simply access the blogs for free in the Kindle’s browser but if Amazon is able to persuade consumers to pay for online content and “budge the ‘free content’ paradigm even slightly, it could be a game changer.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

University of Pittsburgh Press to make 500 out-of-print titles available

According to a recent press release, the University of Pittsburgh Press along with the University of Pittsburgh Library System and the Chicago Digital Distribution Center (CDDC) will make 500 of their out-of-print titles available through the University of Pittsburgh Library System’s D-Scribe Digital Publishing Program. The out-of print titles were added to the program after sufficient interest from scholars and students. The program will allow users to access the library system to read and search the full text of the titles online. Printed copies can also be purchased and within the year, the CDDC will offer paperback editions of the titles.

New, cheaper e-reader to compete with Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader

A few recent reports indicate that another new e-reader, known as the Cool-er, will hit the market within the next few weeks. The e-reader was developed by UK start-up Interead, and is the first new e-reader to offer an e-book online store like Amazon and Sony. According to the Financial Times blog, the reader is being pitched as “cheaper, lighter, and more open than Amazon’s Kindle or Sony’s Reader, and with a larger selection of titles.” The Cool-er has a 6-inch E-Ink screen, 1 GB of storage, SD Card slot, and removable/rechargeable battery. It also comes in eight colors, is available in eight languages, and can handle EPUB formatted books, Adobe PDF files, text files, and JPEG files. The Cool-er does lack some features available on the Kindle including: internet connection, built in dictionary, and a keyboard. However, the Coolerbooks online store will offer over 260,000 titles compared to Amazon's 250,000 titles and Sony’s 160,000 titles. Neil Jones, creator of the e-reader commented, “My own view is that in the next 12 months we will be the number-three player in the e-reader marketplace." He went on to say, “I would sincerely hope to be giving either of the other two a good run for their money.”

Sunday, May 17, 2009

University of Tokyo researchers develop flexible OLED prototype

A team of researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed a stretchable, rubber-like OLED display that will not break or tear. According to posting on Slash Gear, the prototype is composed of fluoro-rubber compound sprayed with carbon nanotubes which can be folded about 1,000 times without any damage. The team is now working to increase the prototype’s 256 pixel resolution and to add color. In the future, we could see this technology used to create body-shaped medical systems that would help medical students learn.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Digital initiatives on campus

This week there were a few articles about new digital initiatives occurring at universities. An article from Campus Technology says that Anaheim University plans to go paperless by 2010 in an effort to “go green”. The University is currently working with publishers to convert its textbooks to e-books for use on the Sony Reader or Amazon Kindle. University spokesman David Bracey commented, "It is not our goal to be the first paperless university. It is our goal to be one of many paperless universities and we hope by setting an example, many universities around the world will join us in becoming sustainable and socially responsible institutions that put people and planet before profit."

Another article indicates that the University of Missouri’s journalism school now requires incoming freshman to purchase an iPhone or iPod Touch to replay lectures. According to Brian Brooks, Associate Dean, “Lectures are the worst possible learning format. There’s been some research done that shows if a student can hear that lecture a second time, they retain three times as much of that lecture.” Other MP3 players could also be used but the Apple devices were chosen because of the number of students that already own the devices and the ability to download the lectures for free via the iTunes Store.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Apple files patent for an iTunes kiosk

It seems that Apple also has plans to enter the entertainment kiosk space. A recent posting on AppleInsider says that Apple has filed a patent for a kiosk that will enable iPod and iPhone users to download content to their devices while traveling or in locations where there is no Wi-Fi connectivity. The patent indicates that unlike other entertainment kiosks, the iTunes kiosk will not require users to pair their media devices to the kiosk which can cause excessive wear on the media device connector. Instead the kiosk will be able to detect the presence of the media device and will establish a wireless data channel with the device. Apple plans to place these kiosks in “virtually any location such as an airport, hotel, stadium, train station, shopping mall, stores, planes, ships, public transportation vehicles, and the like." Consumers will be able to download the latest hit songs and movie releases as well as, any audio and video available in the iTunes store.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Amazon and the Kindle Vision

At the press conference last week, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon noted that the vision for Amazon was to allow customers to get any book ever printed in under 60 seconds. To support that vision, this week Amazon released a new version of its Kindle app for the iPhone in its continued effort to capture more of the e-book market. According to a posting on the Bits blog, the new app is optimized for the iPhone and more user-friendly. The first generation app required users to open Safari Web separately to buy the book while the new app lets users click once within the app to initiate the purchase. The posting also features interesting commentary from Bezos, which gives some further insight into the direction that Amazon is heading and suggests that Amazon is more concerned with selling the content than they are with selling the devices.
“We are committed to making Kindle books available on a vast array of devices. Whether you own a Kindle or not, we want you to buy Kindle books from us. With the Kindle device, we succeed in business only on the merits of how good the device is. If we can build the best reading device, then that is how we will succeed.

“But if you like to read books on the iPhone we want to support that too. We want to see Kindle books read anywhere. We have high standards, making sure Whispersync works. It is the seamlessness of what we are trying to achieve that we don’t want to jeopardize. Those are the things we want to do, and we will roll out Kindle applications as broadly as we can.”

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Students at Ball State University make their own digital supplements for textbooks

An article on the Ball State University website discusses a program at the university known as Institute for Digital Entertainment and Education (IDEE) that lets students film, edit, and produce educational videos and digital supplements for textbooks. The program is proving to be a success for both the students and university because the students are benefiting from the ability to learn technology skills and gain real world experience, while the university is generating profits that will continue to help fund the experience. The students involved in the project have produced a wide range of material and some have even been able to benefit from unique opportunities to film behind closed doors.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Case Western Reserve University first to host private version of Second Life

Last week, Case Western Reserve University announced that they will be the first to host a private version of Second Life, an online virtual world that is imagined and created by its users. An article from The Chronicle of Higher Education says that the university will work with Linden Lab, the company that runs Second Life, to develop the private version that will be installed on the universities’ servers and behind their security systems which will eliminate the security, privacy, and intellectual property concerns often associated with virtual worlds. Larry Johnson, chief executive of New Media Consortium commented, “I think that it’s going to solve a lot of issues that many institutions have with using virtual worlds in general. It’s the first step in allowing universities to begin to build their own grids.” The private version of Second Life will be accessible to the university’s students, faculty, and staff members and will provide its users with many different opportunities including: an environment for medical students to perform research of personal medical histories and a place for mentors and public school students to interact.

Monday, May 11, 2009

News Corp to offer an e-reader and begin charging to access the news

A few recent reports indicate that News Corp, owner of The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and many newspapers across the world, is looking to offer its own e-reader and begin charging to access the news, in an effort to fix the “flawed” business model which lets consumers access content for free online. According to Electronista, last month, Chairman and CEO of News Corp, Rupert Murdoch commented, “We’re investing in a new device that has a bigger screen, four-color, and you can get everything there.” Another report says that Murdoch has set up a global team that is “looking at hardware” that will deliver the content in a “user-friendly way.” The team is said to be in discussions with publishers and content providers outside of News Corp. In addition, the team is looking to develop a model to charge for access to their newspapers. An article from Guardian says that Murdoch believes that the online subscription model will work given its success with the Wall Street Journal and in a recent interview he commented that News Corp could begin charging for access to newspapers within the next 12 months noting that “the current days of the internet will soon be over."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Coming Coaster Ride for College Stores…

You know that feeling where the roller coaster comes to the top of the first big incline and is about to drop, but you can’t quite see over the edge yet? The fear? The anticipation? That feeling in your stomach? Well, I am having one of those feelings today about what the next year will look like on the digital side for college stores. An early indication of change is the collection of fall textbook adoptions, which is a process that is going on now for many campuses. From individual e-mails, and internal discussion lists I am seeing a strong uptake in interest in the adoption of digital textbooks by faculty. While many college stores still do not support the delivery of digital textbooks, the time has come for stores to either commit to a future that includes a growing percentage of digital sales, many of which will occur via stores’ websites, or accept that their current and future customers will migrate elsewhere as they become obsolete. The messages and signals in the marketplace have become so loud and clear that the only people who cannot tell that a change is coming are those who are choosing not to listen. We and others anticipate that 2009-2010 will be the start of the real shift to digital course materials. Expect some more big announcements between now and the start of the fall semester. Amazon's new Kindle is just the start. All stores must increase their experimentation, innovation, and knowledge sharing if they are to remain a viable and vibrant part of the academic landscape. I hope the safety bar on our roller coaster is working! This ride is looking like it will be a real thriller!

Movie rental kiosks on the rise

An article from The Dallas Morning News reports that Blockbuster plans to roll out 10,000 Blockbuster Express video machines nationwide by the end of the year. This move will put Blockbuster in direct competition with industry leader, Redbox, which currently operates more than 14,000 DVD rental kiosks at major chain stores. Blockbuster chief executive, Jim Keyes hopes that the business evolves into digital download kiosks rather than dispensing physical copies stored in the machine. Additionally, although Netflix posted positive profits for its first quarter, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is concerned about the competition from kiosks. Hastings said that many customers cite the kiosks $1 a day new releases as their reason for canceling their subscriptions. However, new releases only account for one third of Netflix’s total rentals so kiosks can only compete to that extent for the time being.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

First E-reader for Textbooks has Arrived

The rumors were true. This morning, at a press event in NYC, Amazon introduced its large screen e-reader device, the Kindle DX, and announced partnerships with higher education textbook publishers, newspapers, and universities. According to the news release and video, the new device is 2.5 times larger than the Kindle 2 with a 9.7 inch E Ink display. In addition to wireless, highlighting capabilities, and all of the features of the Kindle 2, it has a built in PDF reader, auto-rotate capability, and 3.3 GB of storage that can hold up to 3,500 books. In regards to the available content, The New York Times, Washington Post, and the Boston Globe will offer reduced rates for long term subscriptions. But more importantly, three textbook publishers, Pearson, Cengage, and Wiley will make their higher education textbooks available. In the press conference it was noted that the device would have 60% of the titles making up the higher education textbook market. The textbooks will be available in the Kindle Store this summer and in the fall, five universities will participate in a textbook pilot. The press release explains:

“Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Princeton University, Reed College, and Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia will launch trial programs to make Kindle DX devices available to students this fall. The schools will distribute hundreds of Kindle DX devices to students spread across a broad range of academic disciplines. In addition to reading on a considerably larger screen, students will be able to take advantage of popular Kindle features such as the ability to take notes and highlight, search across their library, look up words in a built-in dictionary, and carry all of their books in a lightweight device.”

A posting on Wired features a comment from Jeff Bezos who said, “A particular class of book that shines with this display is textbooks. We’re going to get students with smaller backpacks, less load.” What is not so light, though is the price – announced at $489. It is not clear what price textbooks for the device will sell at compared to traditional textbooks, or whether those textbooks will expire after a certain period of time like many other current digital textbook options. While students may be interested in the Kindle DX, we will have to wait and see if they are really willing to purchase a black and white single-purpose device for their textbooks when they already own a computer. But whether they purchase this exact device or wait for something with more capabilities, we can expect that eventually the large screen devices will offer enough to make the price tag worth it.

Podcasts vs. Classroom Lectures

This month’s edition of eSchool News has an interesting article about a study entitled “iTunes University and the Classroom: Can Podcasts Replace Professors?” The study was conducted at the State University of New York Fredonia and compared the performance of college students who attended a lecture in person to those who viewed the lecture via a podcast from iTunes. The students participating in the study were competing for an iTunes gift card so the actual scores were not as high as they might have been if they were graded however, the study found that students who watched the podcast scored an average of 71% while those who attended the classroom lecture scored an average of 62%. The largest factor affecting these scores was note taking and students that took notes while watching the podcasts scored an average of 15 points higher than the students in the classroom lecture. Researchers for the study explained that note taking is a key factor in both learning environments and students that do not pay attention during podcasts will be just as unprepared as if they did not focus in the classroom. However, podcasts do give students an advantage because they can pause and rewind the lecture to capture more notes than they could in a classroom. The study also found that combining the two learning methods may be the most beneficial option with more than 90 percent of students saying that they would prefer “traditional lectures with computer-based learning as a supplement for revising” their notes.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Amazon Kindle and Textbooks

The industry is buzzing about the possible debut of a large screen Kindle this week. Sources such as Computerworld and All Things Digital are reporting that Amazon has scheduled a press event for Wednesday at Pace University in New York City to announce the launch of the new device. At this point, the exact intentions for the large screen Kindle are somewhat unclear. The New York Times says that the device will be “tailored for displaying newspapers, magazines and perhaps textbooks” while The Wall Street Journal says it was “designed to appeal to periodical and academic textbook publishers.” The WSJ article goes on to say that Amazon has worked out agreements with several textbook publishers as well as six universities that will participate in a Kindle pilot beginning this fall. The universities include: Case Western Reserve University, Pace, Princeton, Reed, Darden School at the University of Virginia, and Arizona State. In an article out on Engadget, we see that the new Kindle device, to be named the Kindle DX, will have a 9.7” display. The site has several pictures of the device expected to be announced tomorrow.

Many sources are also speculating about how this device could affect the publishing industry and if it could really help save struggling newspapers and magazines. An article from Computerworld points out that while publishers could benefit from the ability to charge for subscriptions, it is unclear how a subscription model will succeed when content is available for free via the internet. The Silicon Alley Insider adds, “no matter how big the Kindle screen is, electronic subscriptions are not going to save the likes of the New York Times.” Additionally, due to the black and white screen, the device can really only display newspapers and some periodicals because replicating any glossy magazine would require a color screen. In terms of educational material, coursepacks and some textbooks may display reasonably well but the majority of textbooks require color for illustrations and diagrams. It is questionable if students will really be willing to purchase a black and white device such as this. A posting on Thad Mcilroy’s blog comments, “who really believes that students are going to carry into their classes a notebook computer (or smaller) that allows them to surf the web, Twitter, provide online messaging, save their personal files and photos and a hundred other features — a device which they already own — and then purchase an additional black & white only device, albeit with a web browser, and be thankful they can leave books at home and read them instead on a device clearly inferior to their notebook or netbook (which can easily display the same material)?” It will be interesting to see what the large screen Kindle is intended for and the agreements that have been worked out. A posting on ZDNet uses NACS data to talk about how this is more about textbooks than newspapers or magazines. However, regardless of the exact intentions, it looks as though Amazon will be among the first to release a large screen device targeted to academic purposes, anyone willing to take bets on the impact to college stores over the next two academic years?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bookshare partners with publishers and universities to make more books available to students with disabilities

Last week, Bookshare, a nonprofit company that makes books available to people with visual disabilities announced that they will be partnering with leading U.S. trade publishers, K-12 publishers, and 11 universities to make more books available to students. Contributions from publishers will include digital trade and textbooks, while the universities will provide access to the books that they scanned and formatted for students. Universities are able to scan the books because of an exemption to the U.S. copyright law which makes it legal for books to be scanned for those that have print disabilities. In the past, many scanning efforts have been duplicated across universities but with the new partnership all of the scanned and digital books will be available for access via the Bookshare online library. Bookshare will also handle the conversion of the digital files into accessible formats such as DAISY 3.0 (Digital Accessible Information System) and BRF (Braille Ready File). Bookshare’s library collection currently includes over 46,000 titles and is expected to increase to over 100,000 books by 2012.

In regards to working with the publishers to obtain the digital version of the books, Jim Fruchterman, CEO of Benetech, the nonprofit organization that operates Bookshare commented, Digital media is the future for learners and individuals with print disabilities. Fewer than five percent of books are available in accessible formats today. Working directly with book publishers, we have an extraordinary opportunity to knock down the barriers and raise the floor of access to ensure all individuals have access to print publications at the same time.”

Sunday, May 3, 2009

How do you spend your commute?

For two years, Peter Brett, a novelist from Brooklyn spent his daily commute to NYC writing a novel. However, he wasn’t writing the book on paper or even typing it on his computer; he wrote the book on his smartphone. An article from Daily News says that Brett wrote over 100,000 words for his 400 page novel while on the subway. His novel was released last year in Poland and England where it hit best seller lists and just last month it was released in U.S. Brett has stopped commuting to pursue writing full time but comments that his word per minute count was higher when he was typing on his smartphone.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

E-readers in the news

There were some new developments in the e-reader space this week. Here are few of the stories:

New e-paper competitor – Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have created a new display that looks more like actual paper. The display is much brighter than the current E INK technology because it reflects 55% of ambient light as compared to 35-40%. The researchers say that the technology could eventually reflect more than 60%, making the display almost as bright as white paper. The researchers have developed partnerships with other companies and will soon begin commercializing the technology.

Braille e-book reader – Although it is likely still a concept at this point, four designers have created a Braille e-book reader that would use electromagnetic signals to change the surface pattern of the device to simulate Braille text. The technology to create the device is already available so we could see this device in the near future.

BeBook e-reader – A smaller, cheaper version of the original BeBook e-reader will soon launch in Europe. The reader has an E Ink display and runs on the Linux operating system but it does not offer wireless capability. There is no word yet if the reader will launch in the U.S.

Sony to do away with proprietary format in UK - At the London Book Fair, Richard Palk, Sony’s new business content and services manager announced that they will move away from their propriety format in favor of ePub in the UK. Palk commented, “ePub has become the de facto UK consumers' format of choice." He also added that Reader and ebook sales have exceeded expectations, "We see demand for ebooks and digital readers growing in the UK. It's clear that a reading revolution is beginning." There is no word yet, if a similar decision will occur for the US market.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Disrupting Class

Several months ago we had a blog posting that mentioned the book “Disrupting Class” by Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn, and Curtis Johnson. There was another story on the piece in eSchool News this week. The thrust of the story in eSchool News is a perfect descriptor for the forces facing college stores today with digital textbooks. It contains exactly the messages I have been trying to send to stores over the past few years, and especially the past several months. The current issue is only available to subscribers online at the moment, but the article is worth getting the free access. (BTW – eSchoolNews is often a good source of information on educational technology. Here are some extended excerpts from the article to encourage you to read more, and to read the book:

Disruptive innovation is the business idea that every so often a new innovation comes along that completely changes the marketplace, knocking the old market leaders from their perch and giving rise to new ones. […] Because they take advantage of these radical innovations, new entrants to the marketplace are essentially competing against “non-consumption” while the innovation continues to improve. Once the new innovation has matured, these companies are in a great position to compete with the established market leaders, and therefore they nearly always win.

They then use the story of Digital Equipment Corp and perceptions of how they thrived and then suddenly failed due to management practices that were once seen as sound, but later seen as poor. The article comments:

“How can smart people suddenly get so stupid?” Christensen asked. His answer: It wasn’t management’s fault; it was disruptive innovation. […] The early PCS weren’t very good, which is typical of the first wave of products to take advantage of any innovation. And as all good companies do, Digital listened to its customers, who were saying this very thing. As a result, Digital decided it wasn’t worth changing its business model. In effect, the company’s managers had to choose between making good products with a high profit margin, using a well-established business model; or scrapping that model – an extremely risky move – and making flawed products with a much smaller profit margin. Of course, sound business management practices said they should choose the first option … and the rest, as they say, is history.

Does this sound familiar to anyone? E-textbooks? E-readers? The future of the college store??? Hello, McFly? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Bueller?

Finally, he talks about the innovation S-curve – one of my favorite concepts in innovation:

Whenever a disruptive innovation occurs, the pattern in which the new model replaces the old one follows an S-curve that can be calculated mathematically. At first, as suppliers of a new innovation work out its flaws, adoption is fairly flat. But then, as the innovation improves to the point where it’s widely accessible and delivers a satisfactory experience, adoption spikes rapidly. This mathematical model has proven to be remarkably consistent throughout history.

And to paraphrase or reword in our context: if that historical patterns holds true, then the latest disruptive innovation affecting college stores – digital course materials – is set to take off dramatically.

The article is a good read, and the book an even better one. Disrupting class also has a blog with some provocative ideas. It should be a must-read for stores.