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.

The site uses Google's cookies to provide services and analyze traffic. Your IP address and user agent are shared with Google, along with performance and security statistics to ensure service quality, generate usage statistics, detect abuse and take action.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Popular newspapers and magazines available on the Sony Reader Daily Edition

According to a recent press release, customers that own the new Sony Reader Daily Edition will be able to access many popular newspapers and magazines on their devices. Users can currently purchase a single paper or a monthly subscription to The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, and Chicago Tribune. In the coming weeks, users will be able to access an additional 16 newspapers/magazines and Sony says that more publications will follow. According to Sony’s website, the Reader Daily Edition is currently backordered due to high demand and expected to ship on January 15, 2010.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review of the Nook e-reader

Engadget recently featured a comprehensive review of the Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader. The review includes information about how the device compares to the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader. There are also several photos and a video demo. Engadget’s overall take is, “In the end, the Nook is an intriguing product launched by a powerful force in the world of booksellers, but the initial offering feels long on promises and short on delivery. With the right software revisions, the Nook could be a tsunami, but as it stands right now, it's only a mild swell.”

As mentioned previously, the Nook sold out just weeks after its debut and well before the holiday season. The current expected ship date for new orders is February 1, 2010. For those of you that want to see the device in person, your local B&N may have a counter set up where you can try out the device.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Kindle books outsell paper books on Christmas day

Last month, Amazon announced that November was the best sales month ever for the Kindle but by December 17th the record was already broken and December became the new best selling month. The Amazon news release does not include actual sales figures but says that the “Kindle has become the most gifted item in Amazon’s history.” Amazon also announced that on Christmas Day, for the first time, customers purchased more Kindle books than paper books. A posting on Wired points out that customers that received Kindles as gifts were probably more likely to make purchases on Christmas day than other shoppers were to log-in to Amazon and purchase paper books. However, it is still a significant milestone for both e-books and Amazon. We expect that the new year will bring many more announcements and milestones for both e-books and e-readers companies.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy holidays!

Due to some illness and some scheduled time off, Liz and I will have few postings to the blog over the next week. As the end of the first decade of the millenium approaches, we would like to thank our readers -- both new and returning. We are nearing our 600th post, with over 30 thousand unique visitors from 149 countries, many of whom return regularly.

Blog postings will resume with regularity January 4th. If there are stories or topics you would like to see covered more in 2010, let us know. If you would like more commentary or information on a topic, we will provide that if we can. Based on a continously growing readership, we hope that we are doing something right. However, feedback from you will help us to continue improving.

Best wishes to all for a happy holiday season, and we look forward to exhanging more information with you in 2010.

Best regards,

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ed Tech predictions

In a recent posting on Education Week's blog they reference an article in the THE Journal which outlines five ed-tech trends expected to gain traction in 2010:

1. eBooks will continue to proliferate.
2. Netbook functionality will grow.
3. More teachers will use interactive whiteboards.
4. Personal devices will infiltrate the classroom.
5. Technology will enable tailored curricula.

It does seem that some of these predictions are a bit optimistic, but certainly we are already seeing growing interest and movement on the first two -- e-books and netbooks. Lately it seems like a plethora of e-book readers, netbooks, and "SmartBook" vendors are starting to come forward with a "solution" for digital textbook delivery and reading. It will be interesting to see where these go.

The Education Week blog also referenced another interesting blog posting by Barry Bachenheimer. He weighs in on some of the challenges that will need to be overcome for these predictions to come true from a k-12 perspective. The story for higher education could be quite different.

If you had to pick 5 technologies likely to change higher education, or perhaps college stores, within the next year, what would they be?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Digital textbook websites

The folks at DegreeDirectory have compiled a list of their top ten picks for the best places to buy digital textbooks online. The companies at the top of the list are: Zinio, Cengage Brain (iChapters), and Coursemart. The posting also includes a few links to free textbook websites.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Batteries of the future

Here’s an interesting innovation that could further change electronics such as e-readers in the years to come. Wired Science recently featured an article that says that scientists have successfully made batteries out of plain paper and nanomaterials. This research brings scientists closer to the development of printable batteries that could actually be molded into computers, cell phones, or solar panels. Can you imagine? Someday in the future we might be able to print our own batteries at home. What would happen to the battery industry and how would it affect so many other industries?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Trade publishers delay release of e-books

Last week, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Hachette Book Group all announced that they will delay the e-book versions of some of their best selling titles due to the concern that e-books sales are cannibalizing hardcover sales. Simon & Schuster and Hachette Book Group plan to delay the books three to four months while HarperCollins will delay the books four to six weeks. In an article from the Wall Street Journal, Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster commented, “The right place for the e-book is after the hardcover but before the paperback. We believe some people will be disappointed. But with new [electronic] readers coming and sales booming, we need to do this now, before the installed base of e-book reading devices gets to a size where doing it would be impossible." David Young, chief executive of Hachette Book Group, added, “We're doing this to preserve our industry. I can't sit back and watch years of building authors sold off at bargain-basement prices. It's about the future of the business." If other publishers follow their lead, e-books could be placed in the publishing cycle after the release of the hardcover but before the release of the paperback. However, analysts warn that this model may only work for the short term and withholding e-books may upset buyers.

In a second article from Wall Street Journal, James McQuivey, principal analyst for Consumer Media Technology at Forrester Research Inc., commented, “Every once in a while, a media business that appears to understand the digital reality quickly reverts under pressure and starts acting like a last-century business. If you give people digital content, they'll actually consume more of it. But if you withhold it from them, you are motivating them to buy somebody else's book, or to consider piracy, something which hasn't yet hit the book industry but probably will next year."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Flat World Knowledge announces partnership with Bookshare

In recent months, open access course materials and textbook accessibility have been two important topics in the news and now two companies are joining forces to make open textbooks available to students with print disabilities. Earlier this week, Flat World Knowledge announced a partnership with Bookshare, the largest free online library for people with print disabilities. Bookshare currently has agreements with many trade publishers but Flat World will be the first publisher of higher education materials to supply digital textbooks to the organization.

According to the press release, Flat World will provide Bookshare with XML files so that the files can be converted to DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) and Braille formats. Students will be able to access the texts in multiple formats directly from Bookshare’s website which will eliminate the conversion efforts required by individual campuses for those specific titles. Students will also be able to access the texts when the semester begins rather than waiting weeks for the titles to be converted. According to the agreement, eleven business and economics textbooks will be available initially and within the next two years, an additional fifty titles in several subjects will be added.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

October 2009 e-book sales statistics

E-book sales statistics for October 2009 have been released by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) via IDPF. October 2009 trade e-book sales were $18.5 million which is highest single month thus far and a 254.3% increase over October 2008. IDPF reports calendar year to date revenue is up 180.7% 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.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cool-er e-reader to gain wireless capabilities next year

Last week, Interead, maker of the Cool-er e-reader, partnered with AT&T to bring 3G high speed wireless to the e-readers. According to the press release, two versions of the new device will be available in mid 2010; a 3G version and a WiFi version. Interead has also announced a partnership with NewspaperDirect to make over 1300 newspapers and magazines available on the current Cool-er model and the new device.

The Cool-er has received mixed reviews in recent months. While the device comes in eight colors, is available in eight languages, and can handle EPUB, PDF, TXT, and JPEG files, reviewers say that the device is not made as well as other e-readers and navigation is extremely difficult. Interead has not said if any of these features will be modified in the next generation device.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A pen to link paper to digital

Advertising Age recently featured an interesting video clip of Livescribe’s CEO Jim Marggraff demonstrating the company’s Pulse Smartpen. The Smartpen looks like an ordinary pen but also includes a processor, 1-4 GB of storage, speaker, audio jack, microphone, camera, OLED display, and USB connector. When the pen is used with special paper, the camera tracks the movement of anything that is written or drawn while recording audio. The audio can be played back later by touching the pen to portions of the notes. The notes can also be emailed via a link, shared on Facebook, or embedded directly on the web. This is a really interesting concept and one that college students may find particularly useful. At the end of the video, Marggraff also discusses some interesting new ideas that the company is working on including: interactive business cards, interactive print magazines, and the ability to make purchases via the pen. The video is worth a watch to hear the description of these ideas.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Good resource for e-reader and e-book info

ComputerWorld has added a great new reference page to their website that lists all of their latest articles and blog posts about e-books and e-readers. You can access the page here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Five technology trends to watch in 2010

A recent article from Campus Technology features five higher education technology trends to watch in 2010. The trends are: more interactive classrooms, more information at your fingertips, mashed-up technologies, breaking out of technology isolation, and capabilities that go beyond 1:1. The trends are worth a read through. There are a few interesting items to note including the prediction that next year there will be demand for technologies that make the classroom more dynamic and engaging. Some examples of these technologies are: multimedia content, classroom response systems, and streaming video. We will also begin to see technologies such as smart phones and e-readers influence the way classes are taught because the devices give students and teachers access to any information they need in seconds. Several universities implemented pilots this year to provide students with these technologies and we will likely see more pilots next year as the technology improves and new devices are introduced. It addition, it is predicted that we will see “capabilities that go beyond 1:1.” The traditional 1:1 computing which is the use of one device to handle one task, will be replaced with 4:1 computing as students use more devices and technologies than ever before. Technologies such as netbooks, online education, social networking, smart phones, and podcasts will all continue to be important tools next year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

JooJoo tablet to be released tomorrow

According to ComputerWorld, the CrunchPad tablet that we talked about in a previous posting, will hit the market tomorrow under the new name JooJoo. The tablet was developed by TechCrunch and FusionGarage but in recent weeks the companies have parted ways and been battling over who owns the intellectual property rights to the device. According to the article, FusionGarage will release the device without TechCrunch however a lawsuit is likely underway.

The tablet was designed as a simple, touch screen LCD device for surfing the web, video chat, and light e-mail, and is said to include a 12.1 inch color touch screen with an on-screen keyboard. According to the CEO of Fusion Garage, Chandra Rathakrishnan, the device can also be used as an e-reader and they are in talks with some “very exciting” companies to bring specially designed content to the device. The article notes that the device has 4 GB of storage to be used solely for storing cached information from the browser but it is not clear if e-books could actually be stored on the device. It is possible that the new digital format for magazines that we discussed yesterday could be made available on this device. The JooJoo is expected to be available online tomorrow and could hit retail shelves in the future.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Magazine publishers form joint venture to create digital format

Last week, Time Inc. released a video demo of an impressive digitized version of a Sports Illustrated issue and All Things Digital reported that the company is working on digital versions of all its magazine titles that are designed to “run on whatever tablet Apple or any[one] else has up their sleeves.”

An article from eSchool News is now reporting that Time, News Corp., Conde Nast, Hearst Corp., and Meredith Corp., have formed a joint venture to create a digital format that will work on a variety of devices. The features of the format include those which are demonstrated in the Sports Illustrated video including: the ability to retain the look and layout of the magazine, colorful graphics, videos, games, and social networking capabilities. The companies plan to begin selling content in the new format next year and will target tablet computers, e-readers, and smart phones with color displays. John Squires, the interim managing director for the joint venture, noted that there are devices in development that are suited to the task. In addition, publishers outside of the joint venture will be able to adopt the format.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Amazon to add new features to the Kindle for blind and vision impaired users

On Monday, Amazon announced some good news for blind and vision impaired Kindle users. According to the news release, in the summer of 2010, Amazon will add two new features to the Kindle to make it more useful. The first addition is a font size that is twice the height and width of the current largest font size. The second addition is an audible menu system. The device already features text-to-speech technology but the lack of audible menus makes it difficult for blind users to navigate to the books without assistance. Earlier this year, the National Federation of the Blind urged Amazon to add this feature to the device and in November, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Syracuse University announced that they would not buy any more Kindle devices until the devices were truly accessible to the blind.

In other Amazon news, Jeff Bezos recently provided some interesting numbers in a New York Times interview. When asked about the percentage of digital books sold, Bezos said, “For every 100 copies of a physical book we sell, where we have the Kindle edition, we will sell 48 copies of the Kindle edition. It won’t be too long before we’re selling more electronic books than we are physical books. It’s astonishing.” Bezos also commented on how quickly paper books are migrating to their digital equivalents. “When we launched Kindle two years ago, it was 90,000 titles, and today it’s more than 350,000. We’re adding thousands of titles every week.”

Monday, December 7, 2009

Hybrid e-readers for textbooks

Over the weekend, The New York Times featured an article about the introduction of hybrid e-readers. Hybrid e-readers like the Entourage eDGe have two screens: a black and white E Ink screen for reading and a color LCD screen for viewing images, videos, and the internet. Textbooks are better suited for hybrid e-readers because color graphics and illustrations that are imperative for certain disciplines do not display on dedicated e-readers. On the eDGe device, the two screens are linked so that a user can select an image from the E Ink screen and view it in color on the LCD screen. Users can also view any animations or videos supplied by the publisher.

The eDGe e-reader will be released in February 2010 and it is currently being piloted at Catholic University of America in Washington DC. Other hybrid devices designed for education will likely follow. For now, many students may continue to read e-textbooks on their laptop but as new technologies are introduced this could change. In the NYT article, Allen Weiner, a research vice president with Gartner, commented that dual-screen devices are likely to find a place in the market as long as they have fairly large screens. He also noted that hybrids provide an advantage over reading e-textbooks on most laptops because students can underline the text directly on screen.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sony to launch iTunes competitor

Sony has announced that it will launch an online store for music, movies, books, and applications for Sony e-readers, TV’s, and other devices. Sony has not said when the store will launch or what it will look like but an article from BusinessWeek says it will likely be based on Sony’s PlayStation Network that currently sells video games, TV shows, and movies. Another article from Internet Retailers notes that consumers will also be able to upload and share digital content through the online service.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Something fun

With all the e-reader hype, here is a comic that appeared a few months back that readers of this blog might enjoy. It comes from Free Range by Bill Whitehead -- an often amusing comic that reminds me a bit of the old Far Side comic strip. This comic originally appeared on 9-21-2009 and can be found here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Publishers prepare magazines for tablet

According to All Things Digital, Time Inc. is working on digitized versions of its magazine titles that are designed to “run on whatever tablet Apple or any[one] else has up their sleeves.” Time says that the digital versions will be ready by the middle of next year or before and has released a video demo of a Sports Illustrated issue that is definitely worth watching. The video demonstrates an impressive magazine with interactive videos, graphics, and the ability to share a picture or article with friends via Facebook.

Meanwhile, there are rumors circulating that Time, Conde Nast, and Hearst will form a joint venture to create an “iTunes-like” store for magazines. The store could include over 50 digital magazines that can be read on multiple platforms including Apple and Blackberry devices. An article from The New York Observer notes that if the rumors are true, the joint venture will bring together rival publishers in one of the biggest alliances ever formed in print media. “Each magazine publisher now believes it’s too risky to go it alone to find new ways to get consumers to pay. If they all join together, the reasoning goes, they stand a better chance of producing greater revenue.”

When interactive digital magazines that enhance the print version become available, it will further increase expectations for what digital textbooks should be capable of doing on comparable devices. The availability of such content will also likely further promote netbooks or similar multi-function devices over the mostly single-purpose e-readers on the market today. The willingness of these large competitors to cooperate to save their industry also sends a message about competitive cooperation, or coopetition, that could benefit academic publishers and retailers. Unless we want to see our products and channels go the way of the music, video, and newspaper industries, some creative partnering and solutions are in order.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

National Educational Technology Plan

The National Educational Technology Plan website is a good information source that you may want to take a look at. The Technical Working Group that was appointed by the U.S. Department of Education to develop the plan is working to create a complete draft by the end of 2009 and has identified four main focus areas that are highlighted on the site - learning, assessment, productivity, and teaching. Users can view and comment on the written resources, technology tools, and exemplary cases that have been submitted in each of the areas and can also recommend additional resources or tools. There are some particularly good data resources regarding the OER movement and K-12 technology trends for anyone interested in these topics. For those that wish to submit comments, the deadline has been extended to Sunday, December 6, 2009.

Bookseller.com releases results of digital survey

Bookseller.com has released the results of a survey of 1,080 professionals from the publishing industry that was conducted at its “FutureBook” Digital Conference in London. The results showed that 88% of respondents believe that bookstores will be the sector most affected by the growth in digital sales. Many respondents noted that despite the change, stores can still benefit. “Everyone will gain by making reading easier and more accessible - and by widening the appeal to younger people (i.e. mobile audiences). High street bookshops need to become service providers for readers - technology, some printed books (e.g. children's books, maps, art books), advice, author readings, seminars, learning centres, event hosts, etc."

In regards to sales, 47% of respondents said that less than 10% of their current sales are from e-books. However, by 2025, 16% of respondents believe that 51% of sales will be from digital content and only 5% believe that digital sales will make up less than 10% of total sales.

When asked about e-readers, 52% respondents said that the rumored Apple device will take the lead in the e-reader market even though the device is not currently on the market and has not been confirmed. Amazon ranked second with Sony farther behind. The posting does not mention if the Barnes & Noble Nook was included in the survey.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Forrester’s predictions for 2010

Forrester recently released ten predictions for the e-reader and e-book market in 2010. The posting is worth a read and includes some interesting predictions to take note of. In regards to e-textbooks, Forrester expects that they will become more accessible next year but 2010 will not be the year that they take off due to the lack of content. “Publishers aren’t ready to relinquish control over how their content is sold and displayed. For example, the publisher-owned CourseSmart has a substantial content catalog for online subscription but isn’t available on portable devices other than iPhones, and won’t be available on new, textbook-optimized devices like the Entourage Edge because of the proprietary format and DRM that CourseSmart uses.”

Forrester also expects that Barnes & Noble will sell a significant number of Nook e-readers but Amazon will maintain its position as market leader by launching a suite of new touch-screen e-readers that could be flexible and include color. “Apps” will also continue to be a growing trend next year and more e-books apps will be available on more devices including e-readers. The posting notes, “We wouldn’t be surprised to see Amazon launch a Kindle app store, too. What kind of apps, you say? We think anything from a social-reading app from Goodreads to an enterprise app from Microsoft or Oracle would make e-readers vastly expand the possibilities for consumers and businesses.” In addition, the U.S. will continue to have the biggest market for e-readers and e-books but other countries such as China, India, Brazil, and Europe will begin to catch up and help drive global growth.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Report predicts e-readers will be a major disruptive technology

A new report from research and advisory firm mediaIDEAS says that e-readers are set to become “one of the major disruptive technologies of the 21st century.” In an interview with Publishing Executive, Nick Hampshire, author of the report, discussed some of the key findings and predictions for the market over the next decade. Hampshire expects that within the next year, the number of e-reader devices on the market will double from the 40+ that are available today. Next year, we will likely see flexible e-readers hit the market and flexible color magazine e-readers could be available in 2013. By 2015, Hampshire expects that, “e-paper e-readers will be employed to display virtually any form of printed content from monochrome text heavy office documents and newspapers to high quality full color magazines and brochures with audio and video components.” By 2020, Hampshire says that the e-reader market will be divided into four categories: e-readers for e-books, foldable e-reader communication devices, e-readers for newspapers, and e-readers for magazines. The first two categories will feature devices with 9-inch displays or smaller while the newspaper and magazine e-readers will have displays over 9-inches.

As for sales, it is predicted that e-reader sales will increase to 6 million units in 2010, to 115 million units in 2013, and then to 446 million units by 2020. Hampshire also commented on how e-readers will influence publishing within the next 10 years. Hampshire said, “With the arrival of high-quality color, low cost, large-screen e-readers within the next few years, we are looking at these devices becoming as ubiquitous as today's cell phone. Whilst people will still be buying and reading content printed on paper in 2020, the bulk of the market for magazine content will be for digital publications primarily viewed on reading devices.”