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, June 28, 2009

CrunchPad tablet

A recent posting on TechCrunch features some interesting pictures of a new tablet in development. The device is known as the CrunchPad and the idea for it came about because Michael Arrington of TechCrunch wanted a device that he couldn’t buy – a simple, cheap, touch screen LCD tablet for reading and surfing the web.

In a prior posting, Arrington explains the device, “This machine isn’t for data entry. But it is for reading emails and the news, watching videos on Hulu, YouTube, etc., listening to streaming music on MySpace Music and imeem, and doing video chat via tokbox. The hardware would consist of netbook appropriate chipsets (Intel Atom or Via Nano), at least a 12 inch screen, a camera for photos and video, speakers and a microphone. Add a single USB port, power in and sound out, and you’re done. If you want more features, this ain’t for you.”

TechCrunch is currently working to bring the device to market and plans to discuss the CrunchPad next month at a press event in Silicon Valley.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Indiana University Press launches IU Press Online

Last week, Indiana University Press launched IU Press Online to allow users to read portions of their books and journals for free and to purchase the full texts at a discounted rate. The site currently includes 200 back, mid, and front-list books and 75 themed journals. Initially only single-title pricing is available but the university plans to add timed subscriptions of varying lengths for individual libraries, any combination of libraries, and to the entire database. The site is also accessible via mobile devices.

Friday, June 26, 2009

ScrollMotion partners with LibreDigital and several publishers, including textbook publishers, to bring digital content to the iPhone

Earlier this month, ScrollMotion introduced the upgraded Iceberg e-reader iPhone app and it was reported that the app could feature access to over a million books, 50 major magazines, 170 daily newspapers, as well as, film, television, and educational content. This week, ScrollMotion formally announced digital content agreements with LibreDigital and several major publishers. According to the press release, LibreDigital, a provider of digital content platforms for publishers, will make its entire library of books, newspapers, and magazines available. The library includes content from publishers such as: HarperCollins, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Baker & Taylor, and Wiley. ScrollMotion has also announced individual agreements with several publishers including: Houghton Mifflin, Harcourt, Simon & Schuster, Random House, Tribune Company, and Wiley. There is no word yet on the amount of textbook content that will be available.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

BYU library discontinues Kindle pilot program

According to an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University has discontinued its Kindle loaning program for university faculty because written consent from Amazon has not been received. University spokesman, Rogen Layton commented, “I understand the Inter-Library Loan Department had a few Kindles, and they set up a system to check them out as a test. Being a library, we will follow the rules and until the rules are clear we will wait.”

As mentioned in a previous posting, the library recently purchased three Kindles to loan to faculty after realizing that an additional 10% of cancelled requests could be filled with just one Kindle. In April, the library received verbal consent from an Amazon rep noting that the Amazon Kindle: License Agreement and Terms of Use was sufficient but a response to their request for written consent has not been received.

In the past, Amazon has provided mixed responses when asked if libraries can loan the devices. According to an article from the Library Journal, Amazon's official position on the issue is that lending Kindles is a violation of its terms of use. However, other libraries including the Criss Library at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, have been lending Kindles for several months without incident. Director of patron services at the Criss Library, Joyce Neujahr, said that the library has not sought approval from Amazon but has consulted law professors who say that the License Agreement and Terms of Use statement is sufficient and only prohibits profiting from the distribution of content to a third party. Neujahr commented, We do not see a violation of the terms of service agreement. We have purchased the content on the Kindle, and loan the Kindle just like we loan a hardcover, print book. The difference is where that purchased book resides. Whether it is on a shelf, or on a Kindle, we have still purchased the title.” Neujahr added that the devices are nearly always on hold and many patrons have purchased Kindles themselves after borrowing one from the library.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Simon & Schuster partners with Scribd to sell e-books and launches social networking site for teens

In an effort to make its e-books available via new distribution channels, Simon & Schuster has announced a partnership with social publishing company, Scribd. In recent months, the Scribd website has become known as the YouTube for text because it allows users to share and read original written works. Last month a publishing marketplace was added to the site and independent publishers O’Reilly Media and Berrett-Koehler signed on to make their e-books available. Simon & Schuster is the first major publisher to sign on and at launch 5,000 titles will be available for purchase via a Simon & Schuster storefront on the site. The titles can be purchased in Adobe PDF and ePub formats to be read on computers and mobile devices. The files will work on certain e-readers such as the Sony Reader but not on the Amazon Kindle because it currently does not support the formats. According to an article from The New York Times, publishers will likely favor Scribd’s pricing policy over Amazon’s. Scribd gives publishers control over e-book pricing and allows them to keep 80 percent of the revenue while Amazon sets the prices and reportedly keeps half of the revenue. Scribd is also working on an iPhone app and plans to release it within the coming weeks.

In other news, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing has just launched a book focused social networking site for teens called Pulse It. According to the press release, the website will give teens the opportunity to read entire books online, create personal profiles, communicate with authors, write reviews and rank books, create blog posts, participate in message board discussions, watch video book trailers and author interviews, and share reviews with friends on Facebook. Simon & Schuster will make two books available each month and members can choose to access one title for 60 days. Pulse It members will also be rewarded for their involvement on the site. Jon Anderson, Executive Vice President and Publisher, Simon & Schuster Children’s Division commented, “The new Pulse It provides its teen members an instantaneous, shared reading experience. We have also made it very easy for them to buzz our books by spreading the word to their peers on other networks and sites.”

Monday, June 22, 2009

Questions we all want answered about the Kindle DX textbook pilots

While the colleges and universities participating in the Kindle DX textbook pilots have provided some information about the initiative, we are left wondering how all of the details will be worked out. The answers will be revealed in the coming months but in the meantime, here is a list of questions that we would like to know the answers to.

  • Has the number of students involved in the pilot been determined? (Some reports say that each school will have about 50 participants while Laura Porco, director of Kindle Books, commented that the pilot would include “hundreds to thousands” of students and “hundreds to thousands of books.”)

  • Were students aware of the courses participating in the pilot prior to registration? If so, was there an increase in the number of students that signed up for the course?

  • For schools that plan to compare Kindle DX participants to a control group, how will the participants be chosen?

  • What happens if one of those students drops the class?

  • Will students be: charged for the device, given the device, or loaned the device? If the devices are on loan, will they be loaned from the university or Amazon?

  • Will the devices come pre-loaded with content? If not, how will the content be downloaded? Will the rumored Kindle DX textbook store play a role?

  • Who will pay for the content? If students are required to pay, will they be able to pay via financial aid?

  • What will the content prices be like? (It has been reported that Amazon does not plan to discount the e-textbooks used in the pilot.)

  • How much content will each of the publishers make available? Will only the content for the specific courses in the pilot be available?

  • Can university content be downloaded to the devices?

  • Has the college store been involved in the pilot discussions?

Thoughts? What questions are you thinking about?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The future of cell phones

Here is something fun! This week Fast Company featured an article entitled – “What will cell phones look like 10 years from now?” Check out the interesting designs.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Reading a book via four formats: paperback, Kindle, audiobook, and iPhone

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently featured an article about Ann Kirschner’s experience reading a book via four formats: paperback, Kindle, audiobook, and iPhone. Kirschner, university dean of William E. Macaulay Honors College at the City University of New York and resident of NYC, decided to switch amongst the four reading options as she went about her daily routine. She notes, “It was often maddening to keep finding and losing my place as I switched from format to format. But as an experiment, it taught me a great deal about my reading habits, and about how a text reveals itself differently as the reading context changes. Along the way, I also began to make some predictions about winners and losers in the evolution of books.” She went on to say, “I’ve been dreading this, but let me get my prediction out now: The iPhone is a Kindle killer…I abandoned the Kindle edition of Little Dorrit almost as soon as I read one chapter on my iPhone. Kindle, shmindle. It does almost nothing that an iPhone can’t do better — and most important, the iPhone is always with me.” The article is very interesting and worth a read.

Friday, June 19, 2009

University of California at San Diego and Texas A&M create campus iPhone apps

The University of California at San Diego and Texas A&M have joined Duke and Stanford and introduced their own campus iPhone apps. The app for UC San Diego offers an interactive campus map; a directory of students, faculty, and staff with the option to e-mail, call, and text; campus sports news and schedules; videos from the university’s YouTube channel; and the ability to browse and search classes and view the locations on the map. The university is also creating an application for the Blackberry. The Texas A&M app offers similar capabilities and the university is already working on future applications that will be accessible via other mobile devices. One of the applications in development will let users locate former students still connected to the university’s “Aggie Network.”

Jeff Bezos reveals some Kindle enhancements and comments on Google Book Search

On Monday, at Wired Magazine’s Disruptive by Design Conference, Jeff Bezos revealed some interesting information about the Kindle, its e-book store, as well as Amazon's opinion of Google Book Search. According to a posting on the Bits Blog, Amazon is planning to expand its reach by making Kindle books available for more mobile and computing devices. Currently, the books are only available via the Kindle device or the Kindle iPhone app. Bezos also implied that support for other reading formats will be added to the Kindle but did not elaborate on what that might include. In addition, Bezos explained the rational for the price of Kindles. He said that Amazon considered offering a lower upfront cost for the device with a subscription type commitment but prefers that the two sides of the business operate independently so that neither one is subsidizing the other. Bezos commented, “My opinion, and so far the market has responded to our approach, is very simple. Instead of driving the cogitative complexity of a two-year commitment, tell people, ‘This is the actual cost of the device.’” Bezos noted that if customers prefer a lower priced device with higher operating fees he will consider the approach.

According to another posting on The Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog, Bezos said that of the 300,000 books that are available for the Kindle and in traditional format via Amazon.com, Kindle unit sales represent 35% of total Amazon book sales. Bezos commented, “Internally, we are startled and astonished by that statistic.” He went on to say, “I didn’t understand all of the failings of a physical book, because I’m inured to them. But you can’t turn the page with one hand. The book is always flopping itself shut at the wrong moment. They’re heavy. It’s had a great 500-year run. It’s an unbelievably successful technology. But it’s time to change.”

An article from CNET says that when asked about Google Book Search, Bezos commented, “We have strong opinions about that issue which I’m not going to share. But clearly, that settlement in our opinion needs to be revisited and it is being revisited.” He added, “There are many forces of work looking at that and saying it doesn’t seem right that you should do something, kind of get a prize for violating a large series of copyright.” Google responded to Bezos’ comments via a posting on their Public Policy Blog that suggests that the comments were likely motivated by its Google Edition initiative. The new initiative will let publishers sell in-print e-books direct to consumers and therefore put Amazon in direct competition with Google for control of the e-book market. Note - Some sources have referred to this initiative as “Google Edition” but it is referred to as “Google Books” in the posting.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Seth Godin's Textbook Rant

Well known and widely respected marketing guru Seth Godin published an entry on his blog this week entitled “Textbook Rant." He notes that he received more comments on this post than any other he has ever made. Since he got such a reaction, we can probably expect him to start publishing more on the topic, or being more vocal on it elsewhere. Here are a few of the “quotable quotes” from the piece:

  • This industry deserves to die. It has extracted too much time and too much money and wasted too much potential. We can do better. A lot better.
  • As far as I can tell, assigning a textbook to your college class is academic malpractice.
  • Any professor of intro marketing who is assigning a basic old-school textbook is guilty of theft or laziness.
  • The solution seems simple to me. Professors should be spending their time devising pages or chapterettes or even entire chapters on topics that matter to them, then publishing them for free online. (it's part of their job, remember?) When you have a class to teach, assemble 100 of the best pieces, put them in a pdf or on a kindle or a website (or even in a looseleaf notebook) and there, you're done. You just saved your intro marketing class about $15,000. Every semester.

Among the responses, I thought this comment related to stores was interesting: The textbook industry does need to die. Especially the privatization of textbook and textbook resale stores...

Rants like these are not uncommon. It would be pretty difficult for anyone involved with the textbook industry to deny that as an industry we have problems. Like health care, autos, or banking. As a colleague of mine observed in response to Seth's "simple solution":

While in theory this all sounds great, but do all professors (or adjunct professors) really have the expertise, time, desire, etc... to "devise" pages or chaperettes and for that matter, who ensures the validity and accuracy of the content? While technology will certainly allow for "anything goes" it would seem like there still needs to be some "control and validation" of content to be taught and that a college or university would not want to create an environment of the "wild wild west".

My opinion is similar to this articulation. I believe Seth's comment is a fairly over-simplified interpretation of what faculty are “paid to do” as part of their jobs. Many faculty do not have the expertise to write a textbook in the style he is asking for – or even if they do, there is little or no reward for most faculty to spend their time in the way he asks. The example of the faculty member who made over $20M – I am pretty sure that is the very rare exception. If they want tenure or promotion, or recognition within their field, that time is better spent on research related publication, or grant work, or even working directly with students in the class.

I always viewed the textbook more as a reference supplement. I typically made it optional. I then usually picked a set of more up-to-date articles or a professional book (depending on the course) which were the required readings. Some students really like having the reference textbook – and it can often cover topics I do not have time to cover in class, or provide additional examples or an alternative perspective. If I did have time to work on improving a course, I much preferred to spend that time finding better ways to use in-class time to maximum benefit, such as creating new active-learning approaches and exercises that would reinforce core concepts.

Writing chapterettes or entire chapters well takes time and research and is a very different skill set that many of us do not have. And frankly, that is not part of the faculty member’s job per se (and certainly not before one is tenured). The accrediting process also typically looks at what books or readings faculty assign in different courses as one means of ensuring that the curriculum is delivering on what is expected. If 20 of us are teaching different sections of the same course, it also helps to ensure some standardization among courses. Or, if I am teaching a course that builds on a prior course, or have to approve a course a student took at another institution, knowing what textbook was used in the prior course gives me some understanding of the approach and content the faculty member in the course was likely to have followed.

I also share the concern about the control and validation process. Faculty already get in trouble for inserting their biases into classes. Without the editorial checks and balances, or review process, how are standards of quality monitored? “Free” does not necessarily mean “equal” or “better.” I think there are some good approaches emerging out there, but worry that we might “throw the baby out with the bathwater” in an over-fixation on price.

As a former student (with 11 years of college education), a former faculty member, a former administrator, and now as someone in the textbook industry more directly, I think we would all agree that the textbook industry has some significant problems when it comes to price, and perhaps some additional issues related to value. It is a tough challenge. Yes, many textbooks are out of date because fields are developing far more rapidly today and the old processes do not work so well. Yes, there are faculty who do not do their job, or their students, justice when it comes to selecting course materials. Yes, the industry needs to change – die? I don’t think so. But change? Yes. There are a number of creative ways in which educational publishing could reinvent itself to continue to produce relevant and current texts, and perhaps at lower cost – but such change will not come quickly or easily. It may be outside organizations and influencers who drive a new generation of course material content. That will likely start with open educational resources (OER), and eventually evolve into new revenue-based models as products mature and the value of having enterprises to assist with the process resurfaces – since there are limitations to true OER as well. Organizations like Flat World Knowledge, Connexions, MERLOT, and others are examples of how such organizations are needed if OER is to be successful. As such organizations emerge there is an eventual need to support the organization, which means revenue. That could come directly or indirectly, but eventually it must come or the organizations are unlikely to be sustainable for the long term.

Okay – I will stop my textbook rebuttal rant there.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Update on the Kindle DX Pilots

The six colleges and universities involved in the Kindle DX pilots have yet to announce the full details of the pilot but some information has been provided. Here is a round-up of what we know so far:

  • Arizona State University: Selected first year students in ASU’s Barrett Honors College two semester Human Events course will use Kindle DX devices, while a control group of students will use traditional paper textbooks. An article from ASU’s The State Press says that the course requires approximately 50 books and Ted Humphrey, professor of the course, proposed the use of the Kindle for reduced textbook costs and paper consumption. According to Humphrey, when it was announced that his course would use the Kindle, the course roster filled up very quickly. In regards to the pricing details, Kari Barlow, assistant vice president for the University Technology Office says that students will not be required to buy the Kindle but the details have not been worked out. As for the future, Barlow added, “The goal is to offer the Kindle to the whole ASU community.”
  • Case Western Reserve University: 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.
  • Pace University: According to an article from the New York Times, Pace will distribute new Kindles to about 50 students and compare them with 50 students studying from traditional textbooks, to determine if there is a difference between how the two groups learn. The provost of Pace, Geoffrey Brackett, expects that the university will split the cost of the Kindles with Amazon but it has not been determined if the students will keep the device or if they will be borrowed. In another article Brackett noted, We are excited to be participating with Amazon and other universities in this endeavor. We will be fielding discrete groups of students in different disciplines to use the Kindle this fall, working with Amazon to test the market and viability of this enterprise. It fits perfectly with our commitment to technology and pedagogy, convenience and support for our students, and important issues of sustainability. Our world-class master’s program in Publishing, known for its success in digital media, will be a key part of our team."
  • Princeton University: Students and faculty in three courses will receive the Kindle DX devices. The Princeton pilot, known as “Toward Print-Less and Paper-Less Courses: Pilot Amazon Kindle Program" 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. It is reported by Serge Goldstein, OIT director of academic services, that over 10 million pages were printed at the university last year. According to an article, the Princeton University library is working to scan material in Optical Character Recognition form so that students can search and annotate their readings on the Kindle DX. Princeton has also setup an E-reader Pilot Program website that provides more information about the initiative.
  • Reed College: Students in three or four humanities and social science classes will be given the option to use Kindles or traditional textbooks. According to a discussion list posting, all students participating in the pilot will receive the Kindle free of charge but it has not been determined if the students will be able to keep the device at the end of the term. It has also not been determined if the students will be required to pay for the course materials and how the materials will be loaded to the device. Some of the possible options for acquiring the content include: the Kindles are shipped to the university preloaded with all course materials, students download all the course materials including Reed-owned course packs and third-party journal articles from Amazon.com, or Amazon controlled materials are downloaded from Amazon.com. In an article from Oregon Business News, Marty Ringle, Chief Technology Officer at Reed commented on the reason for doing the pilot, "We see a lot of upside to this. We're doing the pilot to see if the upside is true and whether there are downsides we aren't aware of."
  • Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia: The business school plans to make the device available to a group of students in its MBA program and another group of students in its MBA for Executives program. According to Michael Koenig, Darden’s director of MBA operations, “A neutral, third-party will develop and administer survey and online research throughout the program to determine effectiveness. The Darden School will also conduct its own research. There will be much to learn in the next academic year.”

The universities still have many details to determine, with one of the major questions relating to how the content will be acquired. One answer to that question might be a Kindle DX textbook store. According to a posting on the KindleBoards blog, a KindleBoards member learned that Amazon could launch a Kindle DX textbook store by July. This information has not been confirmed by Amazon and there is no word yet on which textbooks will be available.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

BYU library lends Kindles to university faculty

Recently, the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University initiated a Kindle loaning pilot program for university faculty. According to a posting on the Shaping Libraries blog, the program began because the library had to frequently cancel faculty requests for books that were new or popular and could not be borrowed from another library. The library personnel realized that they could fill an additional 10% of these requests by purchasing a Kindle. The library has since purchased three Kindles and has found that the faculty enjoy the device for leisure reading but not for scholarly work. Gerrit van Dyk, the library’s document delivery services manager commented, "Scholarly work is complicated by the lack of pagination and the difficulty in archiving annotations for personal use." He went on to say, “Those who have used the device say they would check out another title through the Kindle if available in the future.” If the pilot is successful, the university plans to buy more devices and expand the offering to students and staff.

For other libraries considering Kindle pilots, BYU recommends contacting Amazon directly for loaning permission. According to an article from the Library Journal, there have been mixed responses from Amazon when asked if libraries can loan the devices. In April, Amazon told the Library Journal that lending is impermissible but BYU did receive a verbal OK from an Amazon rep noting that the Amazon Kindle: License Agreement and Terms of Use was sufficient. However, Amazon would not provide a written response at BYU’s request.

Monday, June 15, 2009

California’s digital textbook initiative

Last month, Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, announced plans to begin replacing textbooks with free online digital e-books and earlier this week he spoke about the initiative at a press conference. The governor’s plans include a first phase that will give high school students access to science and math digital textbooks beginning this fall. Content developers across the country can submit materials for review up until June 15, 2009 and then a list of standards-aligned digital textbooks for subjects such as geometry, algebra II, trigonometry, calculus, physics, chemistry, biology/life science and earth science courses will be released in August.
The second phase of the initiative is still in development but aims to incorporate interactive content and make digital textbooks available for all grades. A statewide website with all of the available books will also be created.

The webpage notes that the initiative has the potential to save California schools millions of dollars which would free up funds for other spending priorities. In addition, it will give students the opportunity to learn about technological advances as they happen because digital textbooks can be updated more often. Other articles and postings point out that while this initiative could help reduce costs, there are still costs associated with the on-going production of e-books. Additionally, California has a very thorough selection process for educational materials and it is questionable if the materials will be approved by August.

A video of the conference is available on the governor’s webpage.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Interview with E Ink’s VP of Marketing

A posting on E-Ink-Info’s website, features an interview with E Ink’s VP of Marketing, Siram Peruvembra. The interview discusses E Ink’s current offerings, the recent acquisition by PVI, and the future of E Ink. Of particular interest is Mr. Peruvembra’s response to the question: What should we expect from readers in 2-3 years? What will the displays look like? Mr. Peruvembra commented, “In 2-3 years, there will be more content available in eReaders, they will be available in more countries around the world, in more designs and price ranges, they will be more robust and give you better user experience overall. E Ink and its partners and customers will drive this trend. Our displays will be more rugged to suit devices made for school children, our displays will be available in various sizes to suit different applications that can generate additional revenues from advertisements, our displays will depict monochrome and color images and our displays will bend so that the customer’s device won’t break.”

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Campus Store Central blog

We have added a new blog to our blogroll called Campus Store Central. The blog is managed by Campus Stores Canada and provides news, views, trends, and practices that are of interest to college stores. The blog also features some digital postings.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Trouble for Google Book Search?

In April, the Google Book Search settlement was postponed until September to give authors more time to participate in the settlement or opt out. At the time, John Simpson, a consumer advocate for Consumer Watchdog, commented, “The four-month extension is a big victory for those who oppose the Google Books settlement. It's a clear recognition by the judge that there are problems with the proposed deal. The extension also gives the Justice Department more time to consider the antitrust issues that we and others have raised and discussed with them."

According to an article from The New York Times, the Justice Department is in fact investigating the antitrust issues and has now issued civil investigative demands to Google, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild, and individual publishers. Michael J. Boni, a partner at Boni & Zack, who represented the Authors Guild in negotiations with Google commented, “They are asking for a lot of information. It signals that they are serious about the antitrust implications of the settlement.” The article notes that the formal requests for information do not necessarily indicate that the government will oppose the settlement but it could delay the approval because the judge is no likely to approve while an investigation is pending. While several prominent library associations have already commented on the settlement, for the retail community there is still uncertainty regarding how to respond.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

ScrollMotion introduces upgraded Iceberg e-reader iPhone app

On Monday, at one Apple’s biggest events of the year, the WorldWide Developers Conference, Apple demonstrated just how popular e-reading has become by featuring a new e-reader app during the keynote. The new app is an upgraded version of ScrollMotion’s original Iceberg e-reader. Previously about 500 Iceberg titles could be downloaded as standalone apps but now the new centralized app will offer in-app purchasing and much more content. With in-app purchasing, users can make their content purchases within the app and are not directed to external content providers to complete the transaction. According to a posting on the Kindle 2 Review blog, the Iceberg app will soon feature:

  • Over a million books from popular publishers but more importantly textbooks from: Houghton Mifflin, Harcourt, and McGraw Hill
  • 50 major magazines including those from: Harvard Business Review, Conde Nast, Hearst Publications, and Time Inc.
  • 170 daily newspapers
  • Film, television, and educational content

The new app will also have a copy/paste function and in-app e-mail to allow users to e-mail notes or passages of text. These features give the Iceberg app several advantages over competitor apps such as the Kindle iPhone app. Currently, the Kindle app does not offer these functions or the convenience of in-app purchasing. It is unlikely that in-app purchasing will be added because then Apple would receive a portion of Amazon’s book purchasing revenue.

Another posting from the Fiction Matters blog points out the great position that Apple is now in. Apple will become a partner for one of the largest e-book stores, receive 30% of the revenue from Iceberg Reader purchases, and be able to collect great purchasing data. The posting notes “It’s the kind of data that anyone making a large business decision would love to have, and Apple is getting paid to collect it. This data puts Apple in a terrifically advantageous bargaining position. If they do decide to become a first party eBook distributor, they know what works and what doesn’t in an ecosystem they already have invested in. If they don’t, they will continue to make money from eBooks.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

JISC to make 3,000 e-books freely available to college students in the UK

Since 2007, the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) national e-books observatory project has been working to explore the impacts, observe the behaviors, and develop new models to stimulate the e-book market. Throughout the project, more than 40,000 students from across the UK have been observed to determine how they access, use, and download e-books.

Recently the JISC released the initial results from their first user survey. The results suggest that giving students access to e-books does not affect print sales and e-books actually supplement traditional textbooks. In addition, e-books improve the way students learn by broadening their analytical and evaluation skills. The JISC has also released an analysis of two open ended questions from the survey. The analysis shows that accessibility is the main attraction for e-books and students enjoy the ability to access the books at any time, wherever they are.

In addition to the surveys, the JISC has also announced that they will partner with the Learning Skills Council (LSC) to fund an e-books for further education project. For the next five years, the project will make 3,000 e-books freely available to every college in the UK. The titles will cover a variety of subjects including: Heath and Social Care, Engineering, Fashion Design, and Automobile Electronics. The students will be able to access the e-books at any time through an ebrary e-books platform. Colleges will also be able to purchase additional e-books at discounted rates to build their digital libraries to meet the specific needs of students on their campus.

April 2009 e-book sales statistics

E-book sales statistics for April 2009 have been released by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) via IDPF. Trade e-book sales were $12.1 million for April 2009, a 228.3% increase over April 2008. IDPF reports calendar year to date revenue is up 154.8% for the year. Note that these figures represent the 13 trade book publishers who have been willing to supply their data to IDPF.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lessoned learned from Northwest Missouri State University’s e-textbook pilot

An article from The Chronicle of Higher Education discusses some lessons learned from Northwest Missouri State University’s e-textbook pilot program which tested e-textbooks downloaded to Sony e-readers and laptops. The lessons learned and a summary of each include:
  • Judge e-books by their covers – The various device options and software used to display e-books should be considered because the ability to highlight and easily flip pages affects user satisfaction.
  • Learning curves ahead – Students need time to adjust their reading and note taking to digital reading.
  • Professors are eager students – Professors were eager to participate in the pilots. The university hoped to have five or six professors but instead had 54 volunteers.
  • Long live batteries – Battery life was an issue for some students who forgot to charge their laptops or had several classes in a row and the battery did not last.
  • Subjects are not equally e-friendly – Some subjects display better in digital format than others. Science and medical books are full of illustrations and do not display well on black and white e-reader devices.
  • Environmental impact matters – Students reported that they would choose e-books over printed books because of environmental concerns. Administrators were surprised at the degree to which these concerns affected students’ opinions.

The university reports that they are continuing to conduct several experiments with different types of e-books and all four major textbook publishers are interested in participating in the university’s experiments. The university’s president, Dean Hubbard noted that campus adoption is “going to come fast” once user-friendly books and readers are introduced.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Report from Forrester predicts explosion of e-reader textbook market within five years

An article from Seeking Alpha discusses a new report by Sarah Rotman Epps of Forrester Research entitled, “How Big is the eReader Opportunity?” The report has some very interesting findings and predictions about e-readers, the textbook market, and the addition of social networking capabilities to e-readers. In regards to the e-reader textbook market, Rotman Epps predicts that it will have modest sales this year but within five years we will see an explosion. Rotman Epps comments, “The textbook tipping point won’t come from Harvard, MIT, or even Stanford: We think it will come from developing nations like China and India, whose universities will use technology to leapfrog ahead of Western counterparts. China especially is already a fast-growing market for eReaders like Jinke Electronics’ HanLin eBook, which sells for US$299 and includes 600 free books. We expect the textbook eReader market to start this year with modest sales of content through the Kindle DX, with greater adoption starting in 2011 and reaching more sizable numbers by 2013.” The article also features an interesting graphic to show how crowded the e-reader market has already become. We can expect that this graphic will become even more complex within the coming months as more and more new players enter the market.

Another posting on Wired, features more information from the report in regards to the addition of social networking capabilities to e-readers. Rotman Epps predicts that within the next few months, e-reading will become more of a collaborative experience when social networking is added to e-readers. Rotman Epps commented, “Buying and reading books is an inherently social process and the lack of robust sharing capabilities on the (Amazon) Kindle is an obvious weakness that competitors will address.” E-readers will need to give users the ability to view others recommendations and ratings through social networking communities such as Facebook and Goodreads. The posting notes that an e-reader startup company in Germany is focusing on this idea and plans to introduce a device this fall at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

A third article from ReadWriteWeb features another interesting chart from the report that shows the drivers of growth for e-reader devices and content. The figure shows a significantly lower price point for e-readers in 2010 and an even further reduction in cost by 2012. It is also predicted that color devices will be available by the end of 2010 with full frame video available in 2011-2012.

The charts and information presented in the report confirm that the e-reader space is becoming more complex everyday with new entrants and incumbents all vying for a piece of the market. As new technologies are introduced and e-reader adoption shifts beyond the early adopters, we must prepare for the effect that e-readers will have on our industry.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Study finds that Twitter is not as popular among 18 to 24 year olds

Twitter may have over 30 million users but a recent study conducted by Participatory Marketing Network and the Lubin School of Business’ Interactive and Direct Marketing Lab at Pace University found that only 22% of 18 to 24 year olds use Twitter. However, when this same age group was asked about social networking usage, 99% reported that they have at least one active profile on another social networking site.

At the recent Twtrcon conference, Michael Della Penna, co-founder and chairman of Participatory Marketing Network commented, “If [18-24 year olds] are texting, using social networks, what is the social value of Twitter?” He went on to say, “This is a classic ‘glass half full’ scenario for Twitter because it’s clear that Gen Y has an appetite for social networking, but still hasn’t fully embraced micro-blogging. There is a tremendous opportunity now for marketers to develop strategies to get this important group active on Twitter too.”

Some other interesting findings from the study show that 89% of 18 to 24 years olds have downloaded an application for their social networking profile page and 38% own an iPhone or iPod Touch.

Friday, June 5, 2009

E-paper/LCD screen for netbooks

An article from PCWorld features a new hybrid e-paper/LCD screen for netbooks that could make the devices viable competitors in the e-reader space. The 10.1 inch screen was developed by start-up company, Pixel Qi, and is designed to work in black and white e-paper mode, and two LCD color modes for indoor and outdoor use. The e-paper mode is designed for reading e-books and documents while the color modes can be used for the internet, videos, etc. The e-paper mode also helps extend battery life because the backlighting is turned off. The screens could be available in netbooks by the end of this year, giving the devices more capabilities than current e-readers but a similar price tag. A video demonstration of the Pixel Qi screen can be found on the E-Ink-Info website.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Prime View International acquires E Ink

On Monday, Prime View International (PVI), the world’s highest volume supplier of ePaper display modules announced that it will acquire E Ink, the leader in e-paper display materials. According to the press release, the companies were already partners in supporting e-book manufactures worldwide but by forming a single company that is dedicated to e-paper, they will be able to improve e-paper displays, expand capacity, and speed up new product development. The press release also provided a few very interesting statistics about the potential growth for e-reader devices.

Vinita Jakhanwal, an analyst from iSuppli commented, “The market for electronic book devices such as the SONY Reader and Amazon Kindle is forecasted to grow from 1.1 million units in 2008 to 20 million units in 2012, a cumulative annual growth rate of 105% over the four-year period.”

Dr. Jennifer Colegrove, Director of Display Technologies for DisplaySearch noted, “The ePaper display module market will grow to over $3 billion by 2013. This market will see further growth with the emergence of color displays and flexible displays, serving eBook/eTextbook, eNewspaper/eMagazine and eDocument markets.”

These statistics support other recent predictions that e-readers will have a considerable impact on our market in the near future.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Google to begin selling e-books through Google Edition

An article from The New York Times says that Google has plans to launch an initiative called Google Edition which will let publishers sell in-print e-books direct to consumers. The new initiative is separate from Google Book Search but will utilize a feature from Google’s Partner Program that allows users to preview up to 20 percent of a book and select links to online retailers where the books are available for purchase. With Google Edition, the users will be able to purchase those e-books directly through Google. This new program will give Google an e-book store similar to Amazon’s and therefore put the two companies in direct competition for control of the e-book market. (For those booksellers reading, this means in direct competition with us as much as each other.) Google plans to implement a similar pricing strategy as Amazon where publishers set wholesale prices but Google and Amazon control the consumer prices. It will be interesting to see the price that Google charges for the e-books because publishers have expressed much concern over the sustainability of Amazon’s low pricing. Recent reports say that Amazon is selling the e-books at a loss in an effort to sell more Kindles but that customers have already become accustomed to the low price tag. The article notes that some details of Google Edition are still being worked out but publishers that were briefed on the plans are optimistic about the program. Google Edition is expected to go live later this year.

Note: The New York Times posted a correction to the original piece and this posting has been updated to reflect the correction.