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, August 31, 2009

Analyst estimates 4% of total U.S. population will own Kindles in five years time

Jim Friedland, an analyst from Cowen and Company, has released some interesting new predictions for Kindle sales. According to a posting on Barron’s, Friedland estimates that by the end of 2009, there will be 1.5 million active Kindle devices in service. By the end of 2010, this number will increase to 3 million devices in service and within 5 years time, 17% of active Amazon customers will own Kindles which equates to 4% of the total U.S. population. Friedland added four reasons why he thinks the Kindle will continue to dominate the market. These reasons include: the Kindle’s wireless capability; low customer acquisition cost because the device can be promoted to current Amazon customers; large title list which includes newspaper and magazine subscriptions; and Amazon’s product related content and reviews.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


While many stores are caught up with rush (the time of year when students come in to buy textbooks for the semester -- a peak season), we thought it would be nice to have a fun story or two. Today's is about fabbers. You may have heard about fabbers -- these are essentially 3d printers -- printers that allow you to manufacture or produce 3-dimensional devices, such as a coffee mug, on demand. Talk about POD! Many of these devices cost in the tens of thousands of dollars (or more), and have material limitations. But as the technology continues to evolve costs will go down and capabilities will improve. There may be a market for college stores, particularly on campuses where students need or want to develop prototype products for demonstration purposes. Or a student wants their own customized coffee mug on demand. :) It turns out that it may be possible to build one of these fabbers on your own -- sort of an open source fabber. You can learn more at http://www.fabathome.org/ to see how it is done, see some sample products produced on fabbers, and learn more about the technology.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

iPhone app for textbook comparison shopping

An interesting new iPhone App for textbook comparison shopping has been released. The app is called Bigwords and it utilizes a process called “Multi-Item Price Optimization” to search 30 sources to determine the best deal for a student’s textbook shopping list. The sources include sites such as Amazon, CourseSmart, textbook.com, and sellbackyourbooks.com. According to a posting on the Gadgetwise blog, the company says that utilizing the app can save students over 35 percent compared to buying online without the search engine.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Amazon, Microsoft, and Yahoo to oppose Google Book settlement

According to an article from the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, Microsoft, and Yahoo are planning to join an alliance to oppose the Google Book Settlement. The alliance is being led by the Internet Archive and includes nonprofit groups, individuals, and library associations. Other groups planning to join the alliance include the Special Libraries Association, the New York Library Association, and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. According to Peter Brantley, co-founder of Internet Archive, the intent of the alliance is to develop public statements and documents to identify antitrust implications as well as, determine if the agreement sufficiently protects the privacy of users. The alliance is pushing for revisions to the settlement and is not planning to issue a joint filing with the court. Individual members will decide whether or not to oppose the settlement in court.

The deadline to oppose or participate in the settlement is set for Friday, September 4, 2009 with the final hearing set for October 7, 2009.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Barnes & Noble partners with Irex

In an effort to keep up with Amazon, Irex Technologies will partner with Barnes & Noble online bookstore when it releases an e-reader in the U.S. this fall. Currently, Irex sells e-reader devices in Europe but has yet to release a device in the U.S. According to the press release, the new e-reader will feature an 8.1 inch touch-screen and 3G wireless connection. The device will also be available for purchase in Barnes & Noble stores and online.

A comment from Kevin Hamilton, North American CEO of IREX Technologies, suggests that Irex could partner with other content providers to provide users with additional content options. Hamilton said, “We will change the dynamics of the consumer market – users want to easily purchase content from a variety of sources and we will allow them to read it on an IREX eReader as well as other devices."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sony introduces the Daily Edition wireless e-reader

After Sony introduced its two new non-wireless e-readers earlier this month, there was much speculation that it would soon release a third wireless device. On Tuesday, at an event in New York, Sony announced that it will release a wireless e-reader in December called the Daily Edition. The device will have a 7” touch screen and will utilize AT&T’s 3G network. Initially the device will only connect to the Sony e-book store but according to a posting on the American Booksellers Association (ABA) website, Sony is working with ABA, other retailers, as well as traditional and digital publishers to make more ePub content available for the Sony Readers.

Sony also announced that it will partner with OverDrive to enable customers to access their local library’s collection of e-books through Sony’s e-book store. Customers will be able to enter their library card number and check out e-books for a specified lending period. A posting from Gizmodo points out that each library has an actual stock of e-books so if a certain title is checked out, a customer will have to wait until another customer’s lending period expires.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Free e-reader and e-textbook webinar from EDUCAUSE

On Wednesday, August 26th, EDUCAUSE will host a free webinar entitled, “E-Readers and E-Textbooks: Current Reality and Future Possibilities.” The webinar will discuss the experiences from the 2008-2009 e-book pilot study at Northwest Missouri State University and explore the capabilities for e-textbooks in online, blended, and face-to-face instruction. For those that are not able to attend, the webinar will also be available for viewing after the live event. The link to sign-up for the webinar is available here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Flat World increases textbook adoptions to include 350 institutions

We recently reported that Flat World Knowledge had picked up textbook adoptions at over 170 institutions but now we are learning that 350 institutions and 38,000 students will utilize the textbooks this fall. According to the press release, this is a significant increase for Flat World because as of spring 2009 there were only 1,000 students and 30 colleges participating. Eric Frank, Flat World Knowledge co-founder commented, “We’ll save college students and their families nearly $3 million in textbook expenses this semester. We’re on track to expand to 50,000 students in Spring 2010 and 120,000 students in Fall 2010. By the conclusion of 2010, Flat World will have conservatively saved 200,000 students over $15 million.”

As mentioned previously, open access course materials are gaining a lot of media attention as institutions look for ways to reduce the cost of textbooks for students. These materials propose both opportunities and challenges for college stores and institutions. College stores can participate in these models by offering the digital version of the content as well as print-on-demand solutions. Stores must find ways to participate in these models so that store remains the primary source for student’s content needs.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Booktopia book vending machines

According to a posting from Inside Retailing, next month the Booktopia book store will launch book vending machines in Australia. The company plans to roll-out 200 machines over the next year in such locations as malls, hospitals, and hotels. The machines will include a range of bestsellers and discounted books. Book vending machines are also successful in the UK where they can be found in various locations such as subway stations.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Growing competition in Taiwan’s e-book market

According to an article from PC World, there is growing interest and competition in Taiwan’s e-book market. Taiwan’s largest telecommunications service provider, Chunghwa Telecom, has teamed up with several partners to build an e-book business for Chinese language materials. Some of the partners include: Microsoft, Taiwanese magazines, news groups, publishers, and smartphone producer High Tech Computer. Chunghwa Telecom plans to work with the partners to launch an online e-book store and develop e-reading software for smartphones and e-readers. Far EasTone Telecommunications, a competitor to Chunghwa Telecom, has also announced a partnership with Eslite Books, Taiwan’s largest book store.

Friday, August 21, 2009

AccessText initiative to improve textbook accessibility for disabled students

Several months ago, we discussed a new initiative known as AccessText Network that will soon make it easier for colleges to provide course materials to students with disabilities. The initiative was developed by the Association of American Publishers and the Alternative Media Access Center, and is funded by several publishes including: Pearson Education; Bedford, Freeman & Worth, Wiley; McGraw-Hill Higher Education; Cengage Learning; CQ Press; Reed Elsevier; John Wiley & Sons; and W.W. Norton. The initiative will help improve access and reduce cost of textbooks for disabled students because it will aggregate publisher information and allow students to order the content in the format that meets their needs.

According to a recent article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, the service is now in beta testing at 367 offices and expected to launch in July 2010. Dawn V. Adams, digital-media-accessibility specialist at the Alternative Media Access Center at the University of Georgia and participant in the beta testing, has found the service useful because she has been able to get the required books easier and it is streamlining her work. When the service officially launches next year, it is hoped that colleges will be able to share materials that are not available in electronic format to reduce duplicating the scanning efforts across campuses.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cengage Learning launches textbook rental program

There was some big news for our industry last week when Cengage Learning announced that it will be the first higher education publisher to offer a textbook rental program. The publisher entrance follows hundreds of college based rental programs already in existence —some running for more then 100 years. According to the press release, the rental titles will be available through the CengageBrain.com website at 40 to 70 percent less than the publisher’s list price. For students that participate in the rental program, the first chapter of the book will be made available in e-book format while the book is sent to the student. Students can select a rental term of 60, 90, or 130 days and then choose to return the book or purchase it.

The New York Times recently featured an article about this news and it became one the Times most e-mailed articles for a few days proving that there is growing interest in finding alternatives to purchasing traditional textbooks. Rental programs are becoming more popular because they may give students a lower upfront cost option.

Follett Higher Education Group, McGraw Hill, and Barnes & Noble College Booksellers as well as a number of independent college bookstores are also initiating new programs for the fall semester. Follett will begin a pilot rental program at several college stores including: State University of Buffalo, Grand Rapids Community College, and California State University. McGraw-Hill will soon announce a partnership with Chegg.com, an online service for renting and selling textbooks, which will make 25 books available on the Chegg website. McGraw-Hill is also reportedly in discussions with a number of college bookstores to launch similar programs. Barnes & Noble College Booksellers will also begin a pilot rental program at three of its stores.

A possible difference between the new publisher based programs and those offered by campuses through the college store is the campus based model allows institutions a certain level of control over the rental price and lifecycle of the adoption, thus providing greater potential savings for the students. In contrast, a publisher based program establishes its base rental price on the current print price of a new book. In many cases this price escalates annually or even biannually. As a result, the publisher based model could eventually lead to rental prices at levels above what students believe to be acceptable. A parallel to this is what has happened with publisher based subscriptions for digital journals.

Stores must become even more creative in developing and supporting new business models. The rental model being developed by Follett for example is an interesting one as it brings more options and choices for students and limits start-up costs. There are opportunities for groups of stores to collaborate with both publishers and used book wholesalers to make similar models work that include the college store.

Stores still bring many important value propositions to the table. However, they must be prepared for significant changes in how their businesses operate. We must be innovative and provide alternatives that leverage advantages of the new models while also leveraging our core strengths and advantages. Failure to innovate will result in continued loss of market share and relevance for the college store and other booksellers.

Note: The posting has been revised to reflect new information.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Professors at the University of California raise concerns about Google Book Search

This week it was announced that professors at the University of California are calling for reconsideration of the institution’s participation with Google Book Search and the settlement. According to a posting from the Bits blog, the professors include members from the university’s Academic Council and the chair of the Academic Senate’s Committee on Libraries and Scholarly Communication. The group has issued a letter to the court noting that they are not opposed to the settlement but they have a number of concerns including: “the settlement is not equally fair to all members of the author sub-class and does not fully address the needs of academic authors,” the settlement does not expressly protect the privacy of users, and if the settlement is approved, Google could become a monopoly and be free to raise the prices. The letter also includes suggestions on how to address the concerns.

The deadline for authors to decide whether to participate in the settlement or opt or is approaching and set for September 4, 2009 with the final hearing on October 7, 2009.

Monday, August 17, 2009

California releases first report of digital textbook review

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has released the first report of the review of digital textbooks for the state of California’s digital textbook initiative. As a reminder, the initiative aims to begin replacing print textbooks with free online digital e-books in K-12 classes. The first phase of the plan will give high school students access to science and math digital textbooks beginning this fall.

According to the press release, the recent report includes a review of 16 math and science books. Of the 16 books, four books met all of the standards and ten books met at least 90 percent of the standards making a total of 14 books available for download and use this fall. Schools can make the books available to students through downloads on the computer, projection on a screen, printing by chapter, or printing and binding the books, allowing schools without access to computers to utilize the free content.

According to an article from Santa Cruz Sentinel, some districts in Santa Cruz County are not ready to incorporate the e-books into the curriculum this fall due to access and affordability concerns.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sprint and Samsung’s new eco-friendly phone

A recent article from Yahoo Finance features an interesting new phone made from eco-friendly bio-plastic materials that will soon be introduced by Sprint and Samsung. The phone will be the first in the U.S. to be constructed of such materials. According to the article the outer casing is made from a bio-plastic material that is made from corn, the outer packaging is made from 70 percent recycled materials, and the how-to manual is virtual.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Apple clears up e-book app rumor

After Apple rejected the Google Voice app it was reported on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) and other blogs that Apple would also be rejecting all new e-book submissions for iPhone apps because "this category of applications is often used for the purpose of infringing upon third party rights. We have chosen to not publish this type of application to the App Store." Apple recently cleared up the rumor and stated, “We have not stopped approving ebook readers and ebooks in fact we've approved 221 new ebooks to the App Store since 7/30/09. The book category in the App Store lists 6,000 apps and this doesn't cover the full scope since ebooks are included in other categories like medical, reference and education."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sony to sell books in ePub format only

Last week, Sony announced that it had revised the pricing structure of its e-books to compete with Amazon and now it is being reported that Sony will only sell its books in ePub format by the end of the year. Sony has always allowed ePub books to be read on the readers but now all of its books will be sold in the format as well. This move will also allow Sony’s titles to be read on other devices that support ePub.

According to an article from The New York Times, Sony is also planning to do away with its proprietary digital rights management software and utilize Adobe software to restrict how the e-books can be shared. The article notes that Sony and Adobe hope that their efforts will help move the e-book industry to a common standard so that one company can not dominate the business like Apple did with digital music.

Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading business division commented, “There is going to be a proliferation of different reading devices, with different features and capabilities and prices for a different set of consumer requirements. If people are going to this e-book shopping mall, they are going to want to shop at all the stores, and not just be required to shop at one store.”

Thursday, August 13, 2009

CourseSmart e-textbooks available on the iPhone

CourseSmart has become the latest company to join in on the Apple iPhone app trend and has released an app for its e-textbooks. According to an article from The Wall Street Journal, CourseSmart subscribers will be able to access the free iPone app to review the textbooks they have purchased as well as utilize a search function. Subscribers will also be able to review any notes that were added to the content from their PC. The app does not let users add or edit the notes but that feature will be made available in the future. With CourseSmart subscriptions, students can typically access a text for 180-days so it is assumed that the books will be available on the iPhone app for the same time period.

Frank Lyman, CourseSmart's executive vice president commented on how the app could be used, “Nobody is going to use their iPhone to do their homework, but this does provide real mobile learning. If you're in a study group and you have a question, you can immediately access your text."

In addition, an article from CNET features a video demonstration of the new app.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Free webinar series from Project Tomorrow and T.H.E. Journal

Next Wednesday, August 19th, Project Tomorrow and T.H.E. Journal will begin hosting a series of six free webinars based on the results of Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up Online Research Project. The first webinar entitled, “Mobile Devices within Instruction” will explore how schools can leverage the mobile devices that students carry with them such as: cell phones, MP3 players, laptops, and smart phones. The webinar will include information from the latest Speak Up survey that was distributed to K -12 students, teachers, and administrators. The link to sign-up for the webinar is available here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

McGraw-Hill Education content to be used in Kindle DX pilots

McGraw-Hill Education has announced that it will provide content for the Kindle DX pilots. As a reminder, specific classes at seven colleges and universities will participate in a pilot program this fall to test out the large screen Kindle DX devices. The schools include: Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve, Pace University, Princeton University, Reed College, University of Washington, and the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. An article from Publishers Weekly says that over 100 McGraw titles in various disciplines will be available including: business, economics, science, math, humanities, foreign languages, and social sciences. The article does not indicate who will be responsible for paying for the content but an article from Tech Flash notes that all content for the pilot will be provided by Amazon.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cambridge University Press to make titles from the Cambridge Library Collection available for print-on-demand

According to a recent press release, Cambridge University Press has launched a new scanning initiative that will make 475 rare and out-of-print titles from the Cambridge Library Collection available for print-on-demand. Some of the titles in the collection are so valuable that they are no longer circulating and can only be viewed in the vault.

In an article from Inside Higher Ed, Erin Igoe, library sales and marketing manager for Cambridge University Press, commented on how they are increasing the accessibility of these rare books, “Some of these are titles that weren't available in the free domain. By making them available, we are creating a demand. Because they are scanned and available, people know they're out there.”

Cambridge University is one of several universities that have recently embarked on scanning and print-on-demand initiatives to make their rare books available to more customers. Other universities include: University of Michigan, Cornell University Library, and University of Pittsburgh Press. Cambridge University plans to expand their offering to include over 1,000 titles by the end of 2009.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

New e-reader for the Brazilian market

A recent posting on the Teleread blog features a photo and details about a new e-reader that will be released in Brazil in June 2010. The reader will feature a 6” e-ink touch screen, QWERT keyboard, 8 GB of internal memory, wifi, internal reading light, and Bluetooth capability. The reader will support a variety of formats but there are no plans to support EPUB. The posting notes that device will also be useful for the classroom because it will support the sharing and creation of content and school tests.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

“The Book vs. The Kindle” videos

San Francisco’s Green Apple Books has come out with a series of ten entertaining videos called “The Book vs. The Kindle” that highlight the ways books are superior to the Kindle. There are ten rounds in the series and so far the book is up 6-0.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sony to introduce two new e-readers and match Amazon’s e-book pricing

Earlier this month, Barnes & Noble announced that it had revised the pricing structure of its e-books to compete with Amazon and now it appears that Sony will do the same. This news proves that Amazon is in fact defining the cost of e-books. In recent months, publishers have expressed concern over Amazon’s low pricing for fear that consumers would become accustomed to the low price and it would affect the sale of more expensive hard cover books. A recent article from Fast Company noted, “Once readers have it in their heads that an e-book is worth ten bucks and no more, everyone from publishers to writers to competitors like B&N are going to have to bend to that price. It would seem that paradigm shift is already underway.”

Currently, publishers still receive half of the hardcover retail list price for every book sold but this may not be sustainable because it has been reported that Amazon is selling the e-books at a loss in an effort to sell more Kindles. In an article from The New York Times, Jonathan Karp, publisher and editor in chief at Twelve, an imprint of the Hachette Book Group commented, “$9.99 has now become the effective price for e-books in August of 2009. Let’s just take a breath and see how long this lasts.” According to the article, some publishers are considering an approach similar to the movie studios that will make the digital version available after the hardcover version has been on sale.

The article also confirms that Sony will introduce two new e-readers, the Reader Pocket Edition (PRS-300) and Reader Touch Edition (PRS-600), at the end of August. The PRS-300 has a 5-ink E Ink screen and can hold 350 books while the Reader Touch Edition has a 6-inch touch screen and includes expansion slots for additional storage. The new e-readers each come in a few colors and will replace the more expensive 505 and 700 series readers. The new e-readers still do include wireless capabilities or the ability to access magazines and newspapers but it is reported that Sony is working to incorporate these features.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Report from Forrester shows e-reader awareness and adoption on the rise

According to an article from The New York Times, Sarah Rotman Epps of Forrester Research has a new report out entitled, “Who Will Buy An eReader?” This is Rotman Epps’ second report in recent months. In June, Rotman Epps published a report entitled, “How Big is the eReader Opportunity?” which predicted an explosion of the e-reader textbook market within five years time. The new report shows that e-reader awareness is on the rise with 37% of US consumers saying that they have heard of an e-book device, this number is up from 17% last year. Also of interest is that 1.5% of consumers currently own an e-book device, this number has more than doubled since last year when it was at .6% and the number of consumers that plan to buy an e-reader in the next six months has tripled from 2% to 6%. In regards to the number of devices sold, Forrester estimates that three million e-readers will be sold in U.S. in 2009 and by 2013 it could reach 13 million devices sold.

The report also discusses the change in demographics from the early adopters to the future adopters and a posting from ReadWriteWeb features a chart of the survey results. In addition, the new adopters may not be as loyal to Amazon as the early adopters were, so Amazon could have a tough time holding onto the lead. On the Forrester Blog, Rotman Epps commented, “The types of consumers likely to buy an eReader are changing. While early adopters of eReaders were a perfect storm of demographics for Amazon (they could afford the device, they have a need for the device in business travel and urban commuting, they like technology, and they buy lots of books online), future prospects for the devices look completely different. They’re more likely to be female, less tech optimistic, and they read a lot (on average, 5 books per month) but they buy and borrow books from multiple sources, as opposed to buying lots of books online. The big takeaway is that this could spell trouble for Amazon, if competitors can move in to better serve the later waves of adopters who don’t have as strong a relationship with the eCommerce giant.”

A posting on Gigaom points out that Amazon will need to sell the devices in bricks-and-mortar stores like Apple does with the iPod in order to remain on top. Currently, the Kindle can only be purchased via Amazon.com and the only way for a consumer to see it before purchasing is to try out a friends or participate in Amazon’s "See a Kindle in Your City" program but neither option is necessarily as easy as testing the device in a store. If consumers are able to purchase other comparable e-reader devices in-store, they may be more likely to do so.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Google discusses vision for digital books

A recent posting from MediaBistro features interesting commentary from Google Books engineering director, Dan Clancy, about Google’s vision for the future of digital books. Mr. Clancy noted that the vision for the future is about new digital books and is separate from Google’s settlement which is its plan for out-of-print books. As noted in a previous posting, Google’s plan has been referred to as Google Editions which will let publishers sell in-print e-books direct to consumers.

Mr. Clancy outlined three requirements for this initiative including – digital books will be stored in the cloud (the books will be stored on a Google server and not on personal computers or devices but users will be able to access their books at anytime), the ability to read Google books on any device, and the ability for Google to partner with all interested retailers so that consumers can buy Google editions of digital books at brick and mortar bookstores and also online.

Mr. Clancy commented on the importance of the ability to buy digital books in bookstores by saying, “Right now the physical bookstores are a critical part of our book ecosystem. A huge amount of books are bought because people go into a physical bookstore and say, hey I want this, I want that. It's a mistake if we think of our future digital world as digital means online and physical means offline. Because if that happens and 10 percent of the world goes digital, that's going to be really hard for all the bookstores to sustain their business model."

An article from Book Business points out that this plan will place Google in between the publishers and the consumers potentially giving them too much control over content and pricing which is also of great concern with Amazon.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Looming Wave

This month’s, The College Store magazine features an article written by Mark entitled, “The Looming Wave.” The article is a must read for college stores as it discusses how digital is affecting the college store industry today and what we can expect in the near future. The article points out that digital course materials will not replace print overnight but they will likely have an impact on course material sales beginning this fall and a growing impact within the next several years. Many college stores are not yet prepared for the effect that digital will have. There is still time to prepare but everyday that goes by without a plan is time lost that could have been used to secure market share for the future. Stores must use this time to participate in environmental scanning and monitor the competition as there are many potential new entrants vying for a piece of the market. It is hoped that NACS’ efforts will help address the market forces affecting the industry but more efforts may be required, particularly on the part of individual stores or other groups, in order to successfully transition to the college store of the future.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Details about new Sony Readers leaked

According to some recent postings on CNET and Sony Insider, details and photos of new Sony Readers have been leaked. The postings note that there could be two devices, the PRS-300 and PRS-600. The PRS-300 has a 5-inch display with 440MB of internal storage and the PRS-600 has a 6-inch touch screen, audio capabilities, 440MB of internal storage, and expandable memory card slots. According to the posting, the PRS-700 which went on sale last year is no longer available for purchase at the SonyStyle store, so that could mean these devices will hit the market soon.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Digital Textbook program in Korea

Several years ago the Korean government embarked on a digital textbook research project to determine effective ways to digitize school textbooks and utilize the textbooks in the classroom. The project is now in its second phase with 20 pilot schools in operation for a total of 2,637 students in 81 classes using digital textbooks. To learn more about the project, a presentation and paper can be viewed on the UNESCO Bangkok website.