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, November 30, 2009

November is the best sales month ever for the Kindle

While the Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader is sold out for the holidays, the Kindle is still in stock and breaking sales records. On Monday, Amazon reported via its website, “November is already the best sales month ever for Kindle, even before Cyber Monday.”

Last week, Amazon also announced that a few enhancements have been added to the Kindle. New Kindles will now come with 85 percent more battery life and last about seven days with the wireless turned on or about two weeks with the wireless turned off. New Kindles will also come with a built-in PDF reader. Previously, users had to pay a conversion charge to convert documents from PDFs to the Kindle format. Users will now be able to e-mail the PDFs to their Kindle e-mail address or transfer the documents to the device with a USB connection.

An article from PCWorld, notes that this could make the devices more appealing for business users. Bill Brikiatis, marketing manager for Nuance Communications commented, "This holiday shopping season, ebook readers will be hot products. Ebook reader users will look to sync up the content they use both in work and personal activities on these digital devices." He went on to say, "Business professionals will want to add more content to their ebook readers--business reports and other work documents--following the well-worn path of convergence of personal and business usage on mobile devices."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

“Electronic Schoolbags” in Taiwan

An article from The China Post says that the Ministry of Education in Taiwan has chosen five schools to pilot “electronic schoolbags.” The schoolbags are laptops that include electronic versions of textbooks and handouts. According to Chen Hsuan-mou, principal of one of the pilot schools, the pilot has been positive because the kids typing skills and ability to use search engines has improved along with their moods during class. However, some parents fear that the students are spending more time with the computers and less time playing outside. The article notes the positive and negative impacts of the pilot will be assessed before more classes are incorporated.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

iclicker partners with Educational Resources

According to a recent press release, iclicker, maker of the student response system used at more than 700 higher education institutions, has partnered with Educational Resources to bring the response system into K-12 classrooms. Renee Altier, iclicker’s managing director commented, “Although our origins are in higher education, iclicker's core philosophy -- simplicity and pedagogy -- is equally valuable for students and teachers in K-12 settings. We are excited to be working with Educational Resources, who are seasoned experts in the K-12 channel." The agreement also includes the alignment of iclicker’s system with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Google Edition to launch in Japan

In October, Google announced that its Google Edition program that will let publishers sell in-print digital books directly to consumers will launch in the U.S. and Europe in June 2010. According to MarketWatch, the program will also launch in Japan by the end of next year. It is hoped that 10,000 e-books will be available when the service launches. The article notes that leading publishers in Japan are wary of the program due to the controversy surrounding Google Book Search.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

University of Arizona purchases Espresso Book Machine 2.0

The University of Arizona BookStore has produced a video of their newly installed Espresso Book Machine 2.0. The store hopes that the machine will provide the community with services that were not previously offered and help to lower the price of certain textbooks.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Judge grants preliminary approval of Google Book Settlement

Earlier this month, Google, the Authors Guild, and the Association of American Publishers submitted a revised version of the Google Book Settlement. The new draft is intended to resolve the U.S. Justice Department’s concerns that the settlement would violate copyright law and give Google an unfair advantage. According to the Digits blog, Judge Denny Chin has granted preliminary approval of the amended settlement and has set the hearing for February 18, 2010. However, many groups do not believe that the revisions are enough and feel that Google could still have a monopoly on orphan works or those which are under copyright but out-of-print and the rights holders are unknown or can not be located.

According to an article from CNET news, the settlement has been revised to include only out-of-print books that were published in the U.S., U.K., Australia, or Canada due to opposition from several countries. More rules regarding the Books Rights Registry were also added. The registry will be independent of Google and authors and publishers will have seats on the registry board. The registry will also be required to search for copyright holders that have not come forward. The revision does not address the important concern that reading records will be protected from disclosure to the government and third parties.

An article from the Bookseller.com says that Amazon has already filed a memorandum asking the judge to reconsider the preliminary approval noting that the ruling was made “without the benefit of opposing viewpoints” and the settlement is “doomed from the start and fails to satisfy even the low standard for preliminary approval.” Groups will have until January 28, 2010 to file objections to the revised settlement with the court.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

JISC conducts e-textbook business model trials

In September, the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) in the UK announced that it would begin conducting trials to explore the co-existence of e-textbooks and paper textbooks, and evaluate potential business models. According to a new posting on the JISC website, eight textbook publishers, three e-book aggregators, and ten universities are working together on the trials. Four trials will be conducted to: assess the sustainability of offering unlimited access to e-textbooks via aggregated platforms or publisher-specific platforms, explore the role of the library in offering students a range of e-textbook options, access the impact on print sales of textbooks by offering access via libraries, and determine if making e-textbooks available in libraries improves the sell-through of existing adoptions. More information about the universities, publishers, textbooks, and e-book aggregators involved in the trials can be found on the JISC website.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Google adds captions to YouTube videos

According to an article from The New York Times, Google has added technology to the YouTube website that will automatically insert English text captions into the videos. This will make the videos accessible to the deaf and hearing impaired, as well as to users across the world because the text captions can be translated into 51 languages. The new technology will also help users search for specific text within a video. There are already captioned videos available on YouTube but the captions are either added manually or the videos are from networks that include captions. Initially Google will add the caption technology to its own educational videos and those from Stanford, Yale, Duke, Columbia, MIT, PBS, National Geographic, and a few other channels. The technology will be expanded to other channels gradually so that it can be tested. Google has also introduced an additional service to make it easier to use the manual caption technology. Users can upload a text file with the words in the video and the technology will match up the text to the words as they are spoken.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

“100 Useful Links for eBook Lovers”

The OnlineCourses.org website has compiled a great list of links for free e-books, reviews of e-readers, as well as links to blogs and twitter feeds for e-book news.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Nook e-reader already sold out for the holidays

The shopping season may have just begun but it is already too late to order a Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader for the holidays. According to CrunchGear, the Nook is officially sold out and the new expected ship date is January 4, 2010. Mary Ellen Keating, spokeswoman for Barnes & Noble commented that, “Preorders have exceeded our expectations.”

In addition, Sony says that it can not guarantee that the new Daily Edition touch screen and wireless e-reader will ship in time for Christmas. Sony began taking preorders for the device on Wednesday and has posted a note on its website that says, “Preorders will ship Dec. 18 thru Jan. 8. Actual delivery date cannot be guaranteed.” Sony’s Reader Pocket Edition and Touch Edition devices are available but neither device offers wireless capabilities.

As a result, Amazon could see a boost to its Kindle 2 sales this holiday season. Last year Amazon sold out of the Kindle weeks before Christmas but so far the device is in stock.

Friday, November 20, 2009

College to develop distance learning program via flash drives

The Thomas Edison State College was recently awarded a federal grant to develop a course delivery system that utilizes flash drives so that students can participate in distance learning without connecting to the internet at all times. According to the college’s website, they will develop 40 courses over the next few years that contain a similar structure to the online course but students will only need to connect to the internet to submit assignments and participate in online discussions. Dr. George A. Pruitt, president of Thomas Edison State College commented, “This grant enables us to make our courses and degree programs more readily accessible to students in locations all over the world, even where broadband Internet access is limited, including remote rural areas in the United States, in the Middle East and on ships at sea.”

The college will also begin developing courses that use cloud computing technology. The technology enables content to be stored on a server so that users can access the content at anytime from various mobile devices or PCs. This will lead to a platform independent course delivery system that enables all classes to use the same content regardless if it is an online course, independent study, delivered via flash drive, or delivered to a smartphone or web-enabled device.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Purdue University integrates social networking into the classroom

An article from Campus Technology discusses how Purdue University is integrating social networking into the classroom. Recently, developers at the university created a web application called Hotseat that allows students to post feedback and exchange questions and ideas in real-time during class. Professors and teaching assistants can view the comments as they are posted and adjust the course content to improve the learning experience. Students can post the comments to Hotseat via their Facebook and Twitter accounts, by text messaging, or by logging into the Hotseat website.

According to an article from Purdue News, Hotseat is currently being piloted in two classes and 73% of the students in the classes are participating. Both professors and students have expressed positive reactions to the tool. One of the professors involved in the pilot, Sugato Chakravarty, commented, “Hotseat is turning out to be a nice innovation. I'm seeing students interact more with the course and ask relevant questions. The tool allows us to engage students using media they are already familiar with." Some of the students put together a YouTube video to explain why they like Hotseat. It is expected that the tool will be utilized by all students at Purdue by the 2010-11 academic year.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Entourage launches e-book store for the eDGe e-reader

A few weeks ago, Entourage Systems introduced a two-screen e-reader called the eDGe. The device was designed for education and features both an E Ink screen and a LCD screen. The E Ink screen is designed for reading and taking notes while the LCD screen can be used for browsing the internet, sending e-mails, and playing audio or video content.

When the device begins shipping in February 2010, users will have access to the Entourage e-book store that just launched today. Entourage has partnered with Ingram Digital for professional and trade titles and LibreDigital for e-books and periodicals. Users will also be able to download Google’s free public domain e-books.

According to the press release, Entourage will be announcing additional partnerships in the coming weeks. The addition of e-textbooks could be announced at that time. Entourage’s website currently shows that e-textbooks will be coming soon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

First high school to replace printed textbooks with Sony Readers

According to a recent news release, Blyth Academy high school in Canada will be the first school to issue Sony Readers to all of its students in place of printed textbooks. Beginning this week, each student will use a new Sony Reader Touch device that contains textbooks from publishers such as Pearson Canada as well as assignments, reference materials, background reading, outlines, and personal timetables. Students will also have access to e-books from the Toronto Public Library, free e-books from Google, and digital materials for applying to colleges and universities.

Sam Blyth, Chair of Blyth Academy, commented on the initiative and provided some interesting information about a recent student survey. Blyth said, “The digital content we've acquired, coupled with the students' Sony Readers, will dramatically improve student access to textbooks, collateral material, literature and reading in general. Our student survey shows that they are twice as likely to read a book available in an e-book format as in hard copy form.”

Tim Algate, Reader Product Manger with Sony Canada, also noted that Sony is interested in the student’s feedback. Algate commented, “We're excited about how the Sony Reader can enhance a student's learning experience. We'll be listening to these students, using their feedback to evolve our Reader offering for education.”

Monday, November 16, 2009

E Ink partners with Marvell

Earlier this month, E Ink announced that it will partner with Marvell, a manufacturer of microprocessors, to produce a series of integrated processors for e-readers and other electronic devices. An article from Publishers Weekly says that the new technology will integrate the two microprocessors contained in many of the e-readers that are available today which could help reduce the price and improve the performance of e-readers. In addition, it could reduce power consumption to extend battery life and allow for easier integration of wireless connectivity. The new technology will be included in the Plastic Logic Que and the enTourage eDGe e-readers that are due out early next year.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Blockbuster pilots movie rentals via SD cards

An article from Fast Company says that Blockbuster is piloting new movie rental kiosks that will allow users to rent movies via SD cards. The SD cards can be used with mobile phones, computers, TV’s, or other devices that include SD readers. The movie must be viewed within 30 days of purchase and once a consumer has begun watching the movie it will be available for 48 hours. That article notes that Blockbuster hopes that the higher quality videos will target consumers that watch movies via online streaming but it is questionable if those consumers will be willing to travel to the store. The pilot is occurring at select stores in Dallas, Seattle, and Portland.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

September 2009 e-book sales statistics

E-book sales statistics for September 2009 have been released by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) via IDPF. Trade e-book sales were $15.9 million for September 2009, a 170.1% increase over September 2008. IDPF reports calendar year to date revenue is up 176.1% for the year. Note that these figures represent the 12 to 15 trade book publishers who have been willing to supply their data to IDPF.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Digital Happenings

Here again this week, are some links to articles that you may find interesting:

  • The Wall Street Journal is reporting that demand for Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader is stronger than expected. New pre-orders will now ship on December 11 rather than November 30. B&N will also make the devices available in some of their college bookstores.
  • According to an article from Reuters, newspaper circulation continues to sharply decline. Average weekday circulation at 379 daily newspapers fell 10.6 percent to 30.4 million copies. This percentage is up from 4.6 percent last year. Sunday circulation for 562 newspapers also fell 7.5 percent to 40 million copies. This percentage is up from 4.9 percent last year.
  • According to the Kindle Review blog, Amazon announced that the Kindle is its bestselling product in both unit sales and revenue, and it is also the most wished for and most gifted product on Amazon.
  • An article from eSchool News says that the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Syracuse University will not buy any more Kindle devices until the devices are accessible to the blind. Both schools recently purchased Kindles for campus pilot programs but the devices do not feature audio menus to enable blind users to navigate the menus.
  • A new e-reader from iRiver called the Story Ebook Reader has been released in Korea. The reader includes a 6-inch E Ink display, 2GB of internal storage, as well as support for PDF, ePub, and office documents including PowerPoint and Excel.
  • According to a posting on Engadget, Wistron, a manufacturer of computer and consumer electronic products, has acquired Polymer Vision, the maker of the flexible Readius e-reader. Wistron plans to launch a device similar to the Readius in 2010.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Intel introduces e-reader for the blind and visually impaired

Earlier this week, Intel introduced an e-reader that is designed specifically for the blind and visually impaired. The device can read digital books aloud as well as convert printed material to digital form so that it can be magnified or read aloud. Users convert the print material by taking a picture of it with the built-in camera. Additionally, the menus on the device have audio capability so that blind users can operate the device on their own. This is an important feature because the current Kindle DX device has text-to-speech technology but does not feature audio menus so blind users can not navigate to the books.

Intel has also created a capture station device to be used with the e-reader to capture the images of entire books. A video demonstration of the e-reader and capture station can be viewed on Intel’s website.

According to an article from VentureBeat, several organizations have endorsed the e-reader including: National Center for Learning Disabilities, the International Dyslexia Association, the Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs, the Council for Exceptional Children, and the National Federation of the Blind.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Simon & Schuster to sell e-book chapters

Last week, Simon & Schuster announced that it will implement an iTunes type model and begin selling individual e-book chapters of its popular “You” series of health and wellness books. According to an article from Publishers Weekly, readers will still be able to purchase the full e-book, print book, and audio book. Simon & Schuster is planning to make the new model available for other books and will offer the e-commerce capability to other publishers and authors.

A posting on Media Bistro’s GalleyCat features commentary from Ellie Hirschhorn, chief digital officer at Simon & Schuster. Hirschhorn said, "It represents a transformational shift from current trade publishing models... consumers may no longer have to purchase an entire book when perhaps a chapter or two will provide them with the answers they are looking for, or if they are looking to sample parts of a book before making a decision...This opens up a new world of opportunities for where and how our digital content can be distributed and sold, and we plan to expand both the chapter selling model and use of our e-commerce widget to other content categories."

As publishers experiment with new business models, college stores could begin to see more atomization of content which includes selling the chapters or portions of chapters of print or digital textbooks rather than the whole book and increasing the volume of custom course materials. A model like this could help decrease costs for students while improving sell-through for stores. Models like this could open up new funding models for course materials, allowing students to buy the class materials in a “pay-as-you-go” model, allowing students to acquire chunks of course material content as they need it throughout the semester. In addition, students may be more likely to purchase the content if they know each portion that they purchase will be actually be used in class, potentially resulting in happier faculty and better learning outcomes for students who have acquired the content required for courses.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Update on the AccessText Network

As mentioned in a previous posting, the AccessText Network is working to make it easier for colleges and universities to provide course materials to students with disabilities. The initiative consists of an online database that aggregates publisher information to allow institutions to order electronic versions of the content or gain permission to scan course materials.

According to a recent article from eSchool News, the service is currently in beta testing and will officially launch in July 2010 but already more than 650 colleges and universities have enrolled. The article reports that with the system, orders can be fulfilled in about four days and already 3,000 requests have been fulfilled since August. Without AccessText, it can take weeks or months for students with disabilities to receive their textbooks. In addition, members of the network are able to access the publishers that produce 92 percent of the college textbooks on the market.

Mike Shuttic, president of the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), commented that AccessText Network is "a significant step forward that combines stakeholder resources and addresses the rights of students with disabilities. I encourage every member of the disability community to coalesce around this solution, ensuring its success."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Study evaluates hybrid courses

South Texas College has released new data that suggests that student success and retention rates are higher in hybrid courses (a combination of face-to-face learning and online learning) than in traditional or distance education courses. In July, the U.S. Department of Education released the results of a Meta-Analysis and Reviews of Online Learning Studies which showed similar findings.

According to an article from Inside Higher Ed, researchers at the college analyzed the grades of every student enrolled during the spring 2009 semester. A grade of “A”, “B”, “C”, or “Pass” was considered successful and “D”, “F”, “Not Pass” or “Incomplete” was considered unsuccessful. The study found that student success rates were 82% for hybrid courses, 72% for traditional courses, and 60% for distance learning. For courses in liberal arts and social sciences, allied health, and business and technology, success rates were the highest in hybrid courses while math and science success rates were highest in traditional courses. The article notes that due to the sample size the findings can not be considered statistically significant. The researchers at the college plan to conduct additional research to determine why the hybrid courses produced better outcomes and to compare how well the students performed to how much they learned.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Magazine to feature augmented reality technology

In an effort to attract some attention to Esquire’s print magazine, the December issue will feature augmented reality technology. According to The Wall Street Journal, the cover and several pages within the magazine will include black and white augmented reality markers that can be held up to a webcam to trigger video content onscreen. To see an example of how augmented reality works, you can check out GE’s website.

This is Esquire’s second attempt at mixing digital technology with print. You may remember that the October 2008 issue of Esquire featured a cover with an E Ink display. It is not clear what affect the E Ink cover had on sales but it certainly got Esquire some media attention.

In regards to the latest cover, David Granger, Esquire’s editor-in chief, commented, "We've been trying to do things that cause people to re-evaluate what a magazine is and get people excited about this thing called print."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Release dates for upcoming e-readers

The Kindle Review blog has a great posting that lists the anticipated release dates for many upcoming e-readers. The list includes both confirmed and rumors devices and shows that three to four devices could be released each month through April 2010. The posting notes that a Kindle 3 could be released in November or February which would be two years after the Kindle 1 or Kindle 2 were released. It also shows a possible Kindle DX 2 for April 2010 as well as a possible Dell tablet for March 2010.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Six million students use Google Apps Education Edition

As universities and colleges seek to find ways to cut costs, many are turning to Google for their free e-mail services. Google recently reported that as of September, “over five million students at thousands of schools in more than 145 countries” were using its suite of communication and collaboration applications known as Google Apps Education Edition. According to a posting on the Google blog, this number has increased 400% since the fall of 2008. Google recently launched a new website to show the schools how the products work which now shows that another million students have signed on for a current total of six million students.

An article from the Minneapolis – St. Paul Star Tribune discusses the transition to the Google services and the concern it has caused for many college administrators. Administrators are worried about how well sensitive information will be protected by an outside company but Google promises that the information is secure. According to Jaime Casap, a business development manager for Google Apps Education, “When somebody sends an e-mail out, it’s broke up into a gazillion pieces and spread across a bunch of different servers. Their data is absolutely secure.” Jerry Sanders, chief information officer at Macalester College pointed out that when there is a server room on campus “there’s an illusion of control. But there are so many ways through any given system. The question became, who can really protect this better: Google, with its army of engineers? Or us calling our guys in the middle of the night to hurry down?”

Thursday, November 5, 2009

L.A. Public Library suspends purchase of Adobe Digital Edition e-books

The Los Angeles Public Library system announced that it has suspended the purchase of Adobe Digital Editions e-books because the books are not currently accessible to the blind or those with print disabilities. According to an article from the Library Journal, the books were accessible when they were purchased from Overdrive but last spring Adobe updated the software which disabled the text-to-speech functionally. Steve Potash, CEO of OverDrive commented on the difficult situation and said that OverDrive has “been persistent in urging Adobe to make accessibility a high priority” and is "working on other avenues should there be no movement from Adobe."

In response to the announcement, Bill McCoy, general manager of Adobe’s ePublishing Business, noted on his blog that Adobe is working on a new version of Digital Editions as well as working with vendors of accessibility software and devices. McCoy commented, “I expect we will be able to make some specific announcements around this very shortly, but the bottom line is that there will soon be multiple means for visually-impaired end users to consume Adobe eBooks.”

In the meantime, the National Federation of the Blind will continue to notify others about the accessibility issues. In the press release, Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind commented, “We will continue to inform libraries, universities, and other entities of the inaccessibility of these materials and urge them to comply with accessibility standards and applicable laws by requiring that any e-books they purchase be accessible to those with print disabilities. We will no longer tolerate the gratuitous inaccessibility of e-books; we demand that Americans who cannot read print be treated like first-class citizens and be given access to all of the printed information to which other Americans have access.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Moving stores toward digital (or not)

Recently I had the pleasure to exchange thoughts with some of our industry leaders, including Stacy Waymire from ICBA. The move to digital course materials is a topic on many of our minds these days. In our opinion, while a number of college stores are engaging with digital change, and addressing the necessary evolution of the traditional business model, there are many stores that are not. My remarks below will seem controversial to some, but as a former faculty member I cannot on occasion help but to try to push those around me to think about what is happening in our environment from another perspective.

The college store market is reflective of higher education and publishing, the two mature industries which we intersect. As Stacy noted, “Resistance, denial, fear, withdrawal - we have it all. Our channel includes a high frequency of hostility to the reality of the shifting market, and to anyone who points out just how radical a shift is required by us to survive -- IF we can.” It reminds me of one of my current favorite quotes from Clay Shirky:

And so it is today. When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. [...] They are demanding to be lied to. There are fwer and fewer people who can convincingly tell such a lie.
We could just as easily replace "newspapers" with "bookstores" in the above quote and have it be just as relevent. Stacy remembered observing the deer-in-headlights looks in the room at a recent meeting of college stores when he said "it may be too late" for stores to make the changes required to survive. I had a similar reaction at another recent presentation where I thought some people in the room looked like they might need a stretcher by the time I finished. Particularly when I commented that in a NACS survey from earlier this year 3% of stores believed that digital would not impact their stores... EVER. I, of course, followed this by a remark that if one of those stores were in the room they should leave immediately because they cannot be saved. In that same survey nearly 31% of responding stores believed digital would not impact their sales for at least 4 years or more. I worry about that group's survival as well. Better perhaps to focus on the remaining two-thirds of the industry that is at least aware that their world is changing.

A topic that came up in our conversation about this point is the concept of asymmetrical competition. Asymmetrical competition is when your competitor refuses to compete in the traditional way, causing traditional organizations or industries to react to disruptive change. Frank Hecker has a nice paraphrasing of this concept which comes from the innovation theory literature (see also Clay Christensen’s Seeing What’s Next). He writes:

[A] classic disruptive scenario is when a market entrant introduces a disruptive innovation of some sort and incumbents are motivated to ignore the innovation, for whatever reason: For example, the innovation does not meet the needs of incumbents’ existing customers, or the incumbents’ cost structures or business models are such that they would be unlikely to make money in the initial market for the innovation. [In] this scenario the market entrant is protected by the shield of asymmetric motivation and has time to develop the sword of asymmetric skills that enables it to threaten and (in some cases) displace the incumbent.
Wow, do we sound like those incumbents at all? In the case of the textbook market, the example might be where competitors start by making some of our fundamental products free. I agree with Stacy’s observation that stores “need to consider the primary shift they are driving toward being less about preventing channel collapse, and more about abandoning the channel By which I mean, it is more about management needing to abandon their existing thinking and business model, and adopt a new approach in a market that may not even exist in total yet, and in fact may not gel for the next few years.” Wayne Gretsky might have described this as “skating to where the puck will be, not where it is.” In innovation theory we would describe this as “pursuing future profit pools.” We need to focus on where the future business will be, not where today’s business is. That may require abandoning some of our traditional practices and foci in order to survive the change to our industry.

About a year or so ago, when asked if publishing would move from print to computer, Bill Gates replied that it will leapfrog the computer and go directly to mobile. Cloud computing facilitates this. It is important to see digital course materials within the context that all of higher ed (indeed all education) is transforming. Look at Wiley Plus Wiley Plus, and the new Houghton announcement of their Learning Village deal with the Detroit public schools. Houghton will be providing a computer-based teaching system it developed with Microsoft Corp. that will connect teachers, students, and administrators. It's a radical shift away from the classic textbook publishing model and represents an industry transformation, as technology supplants books. "The textbook is no longer the center of the educational universe,'' said Wendy Colby, a senior vice president at Houghton, which is based in Boston. Wait until we hit reverse site licensing, where a university press gives all of its content away for free because the new revenue stream is a partnership with a learning system that will incorporate their content into a delivery and custom commons with a percentage going to the up. Or who knows what else?

For stores today, we must take on as part of our education and marketing the issue of "Why Free?", which allows us, as Stacy puts it so eloquently, to raise the idea that "our free has to be better than their free." We are challenged to design new business models that abandon our traditional legacy infrastructure, even while that infrastructure continues to support the existing channel. The textbook manager of the future will be as much reference librarian, helping faculty and students find the right content for the course, as a course materials expert who knows what products are available in what formats and with which associated rights. In making this shift, along with others, the college store can continue to add value, stake a claim and build market share in the new or emerging digital course materials channel.

I know -- heavy thoughts for the middle of the week. These are questions and ideas we must think about and address as an industry if we do not want to end up like record stores (and perhaps newspapers) before us.

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

On Friday, November 20th, Project Tomorrow and T.H.E. Journal will host their fifth free webinar based on the results of Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up Online Research Project. The webinar entitled, “Top Ten Trends in Student Learning with Technology” will feature the technology trends that schools and administrators should consider incorporating to meet the needs of today’s students. The link to sign up for the webinar is available here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Internet Archive introduces BookServer

Recently the Internet Archive introduced a significant new project known as BookServer that could not only give Amazon and Google some competition but incorporate free, borrowed, and paid digital content into one model that benefits many of the stakeholders in the industry. According to the website, BookServer is “a growing open architecture for vending and lending digital books over the Internet. Built on open catalog and open book formats, the BookServer model allows a wide network of publishers, booksellers, libraries, and even authors to make their catalogs of books available directly to readers through their laptops, phones, netbooks, or dedicated reading devices.”

According to an article from Information Today, Inc., BookServer is still in development and may take years to complete but users will be able to type a title, author, or keyword into a search engine and a list of results will display to show the bookstores, libraries, and publisher websites where the digital book can be purchased or borrowed. A search engine such as this could benefit consumers because it could help reduce the confusion associated with determining which formats work on particular devices and where to find specific titles. Peter Brantley from the Internet Archive explained that what consumers really want is to “be able to find the books they want, in the formats that they can use, for the device that they have, and not have it be painful.” In addition, authors, publishers, booksellers, and libraries would be able to make the books available for discovery while controlling the pricing and access rights of the content. Content owners do not have this type of control with Amazon and Google.

A posting on ReadWriteWeb explains, “While the project isn't exactly a direct effort to take down Amazon's online bookstore or Google's upcoming online eBook store called Google Editions, it will provide book publishers and online libraries with the means to more effectively compete with those companies. By allowing publishers to set their own pricing and manage the distribution of their books, they will be able to take back control from Amazon and Google who would rather dictate those terms for them.”

Monday, November 2, 2009

An interesting iPhone milestone

A new report from Flurry, a company that provides metrics for smartphone usage, says that for the first time since the Apple app store debuted in July 2008, the number of book apps released in a single month surpassed game apps. According to the report, from August 2008 to August 2009, more apps were released in the games category than any other but in September and October book apps took the lead. A chart on the website shows that in October, 20% of the newly released apps were book apps.

A posting on the Flurry blog notes that the iPhone has impacted several companies including Nintendo which recently cited the iPhone as one of the reasons its profits fell last quarter. Flurry predicts that Apple could begin to take market share from other devices such as the Amazon Kindle. The posting notes, “Despite the smaller form factor of the display, we predict that the iPhone will be a significant player in the book category of the Media & Entertainment space. Further, with Apple working on a larger tablet form factor, running on the iPhone OS, we believe Jeff Bezos and team will face significant competition.”

As we have mentioned previously, Apple has the potential to make a large impact on our industry. Apple could not only take market share from Amazon but from all booksellers including college stores. More e-book/reading apps are now being introduced than gaming apps, not bad for a device some people said neither they nor their students would ever read upon. Of course, the iPhone is not quite the device for reading textbooks, but how far off can that device really be?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Asus dual screen e-reader

A few weeks ago, we heard rumors about a potential Microsoft tablet/booklet called Courier that includes two multi-touch screens and opens like a book. We also learned about three new e-readers that include both E Ink and LCD technology - Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Entourage Systems’ Edge, and a device from Spring Design. You can view the posting here.

Recent reports say that Asus could also launch a new dual screen device in the coming months. An article from the Times Online reports that the device will have two color screens with a hinged spine similar to the potential Courier device. Consumers could use the screens to read an e-book like a physical book and turn the pages from one screen to the next. In addition, one screen can be used as a virtual keyboard so that the device could function as a laptop. Asus may release both budget and premium versions of the device. According to the article, the company hopes that the budget version will be the cheapest e-reader on the market.