This blog is dedicated to the topics of Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education. it is intended as an information source for the college store industry, or anyone interested in how course materials are changing. Suggestions for discussion topics or news stories are welcome.

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Nintendo adds e-books to video game device

According to BusinessWeek, Nintendo has added a book e-reader to its dual screen DSI XL handheld video game device. The device will be available in late March and in June users will be able to purchase out-of-copyright books in a package called the “100 Classic Book Collection.” According to the article, Nintendo is facing increased competition from the Apple mobile devices. Cammie Dunaway, executive vice president of sales and marketing for North America, commented, “It’s not really about trying to take on the e-book market. It’s just one more way to enjoy your device.”

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Singapore e-reader allows access to 900,000 free e-books

This week a company called iCell released an e-reader that will allow users to access over 900,000 free e-books from Singapore’s National Library Board. The device is called the KeyReader and it is the first e-reader device to be made in Singapore.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Abilene Christian University to explore potential of iPad

According to a recent article, Abilene Christian University will soon acquire 20 iPads so that faculty can begin exploring potential pilot opportunities for the device and research how future generations will consume textbooks. Kenneth Pybus, assistant professor of journalism and mass communication at the university, believes that there are many opportunities for the device. Pybus commented, “I can’t guarantee it will be a game-changer in reading and learning, just like I can’t guarantee it will be a game-changer in news consumption. But it’s the best possibility to come along in the past 100 years.”

Faculty are also encouraged to come up with new app ideas for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. By this fall, all students at the university will be participating in the mobile learning program which provides an iPhone or iPod Touch device to all incoming freshman. Developers at the university have already created several interesting applications for the university and according to MacNewsWorld, they have been working on an iPad app for their student newspaper. Kenneth Pybus noted, “We can’t wait until [the iPad] is adopted by a critical mass of people. We want to be up and running and there when they’re ready for us.” Compared to the newspaper app that was developed for the iPhone/iPod Touch, the iPad app will have better interfacing to Facebook and better integration of video, photos, and text.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Macmillan introduces new platform for e-textbooks

Earlier this week, Macmillan introduced a new platform called DynamicBooks that will give professors the opportunity to create custom digital textbooks from existing titles. Professors will be able to rearrange chapters; upload links, video or audio; rewrite or delete portions of the text; and upload the course syllabus. According to an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, changes to the original text will be clearly labeled so that students can easily recognize the modifications. Another article from The New York Times says the books will be sold at about half the cost of the traditional print books. Macmillan is willing to sell the e-textbooks for less because it expects that the e-textbook sales will replace the sale of used books.

Beginning in August, students will be able to buy the e-textbooks through the DynamicBooks website, college stores, and CourseSmart. The books can be read on laptops or the iPhone and the company plans to negotiate with Apple so that the books can be read on the iPad.

Monday, February 22, 2010

December 2009 e-book sales statistics

E-book sales statistics for December 2009 have been released by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) via IDPF. Trade e-book sales were $19.1 million which is the highest single month thus far and a 119.7% increase over December 2008. IDPF reports calendar year to date revenue is up 176.2%. IDPF is also reporting that total sales for Q4 of 2009 totaled 55.9 million which is greater than the 2008 total of 53.5 million. Note: These figures represent the 12 to 15 trade book publishers who have been willing to supply their data to IDPF.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Five technologies to expect in next generation e-readers

Wired’s Gadget Lab has a great article about the five technologies that e-reader makers are working to incorporate into their devices this year. The technologies include: touch, color, flexibility, better software, and more contrast. Wired does a great job explaining each technology and discussing the latest news and developments on each.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A smartbook for kids

The 2010 holiday shopping season is months away but Mattel Chief Executive Officer, Robert Eckert, predicts that they have already developed the must have toy, a smartbook device called the Fisher-Price iXL. The device is designed for three to six year olds and includes six applications for books, games, music, and photos. According to Engadget, the home screen was modeled after the iPhone/iPod Touch. The Bits Blog also has a posting about the device and many parents and teachers added interesting comments in the readers’ comments section. Several parents say that their young children already know how to use devices such as laptops and iPhones and they will not be interested in a toy device. Others say that children should not be exposed to technology at such a young age. What do you think?

Friday, February 19, 2010

No ruling for Google Book Search settlement

The Google Book Search fairness hearing was held yesterday and according to The Huffington Post, the judge heard from several supporters and objectors throughout the day. During the hearing, Judge Denny Chin questioned the lawyers who reached the $125 million settlement. Chin asked lawyer for authors, Michael J. Boni, why the settlement gave Google publishing rights into the future. Chin noted, “Usually it's a release of claims based on what's happened in the past. Usually you don't have a release of claims based on future conduct. Why is this case different?" Boni agreed that the case was unusual but said that the deal is fair despite objections. During the discussion about orphan works, Chin noted, “I would surmise that Google wants the orphan books and that’s what this is about.” Judge Chin noted that “there’s too much to digest” and did not rule on the settlement. According to the Wall Street Journal, Judge Chin wants to write an opinion at a later date to outline his views so the ruling could take several months.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Amazon acquires screen technology company

According to The New York Times, Amazon may be working on a device to compete with the iPad. Earlier this month, Amazon acquired Touchco, a start-up company that is developing flexible, color, multitouch-screen technology. With the technology, Amazon could produce a Kindle with a color screen that can detect an unlimited number of touch points and display multimedia content. This would give Amazon a more advanced and potentially less expensive screen than those used for the iPad.

Amazon’s announcement last month regarding the release of a kit to enable developers to build apps for the Kindle also proves that Amazon is looking to compete with Apple. Analysts predict that Amazon will need to use new screen technology or drop the price of the current Kindle in order to compete. Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Lazard Capital says, “If touch screens were added to the Kindle or other Amazon devices, it would bring them up to date with the plethora of other screens consumers are becoming used to. Any device is at a disadvantage if it doesn’t offer it.”

To see photos and a short video of the Touchco technology, visit the Bits Blog.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Google defends revised settlement

As mentioned in a previous posting, several groups including the U.S. Department of Justice recently filed objections to the revised Google Book Search settlement. The U.S. Department of Justice explained on their website that despite the substantial progress reflected in the revised settlement there are still class certification, copyright, and antitrust issues. According to a new article from eSchool News, Google has issued a filing to defend its revised settlement and is not planning to withdraw the settlement to make revisions as it did in November.

Beginning tomorrow, Google will attempt to win the judge’s approval at the fairness hearing. If approved, consumers will be able to access the millions of books that Google has scanned over the past five years. Many of the books are orphan works or those which are under copyright but out-of-print and the rights holders are unknown or can not be located. Major libraries including university libraries contain large numbers of orphan works and Google could gain exclusive rights to publish the books online and profit from them. As of our members noted several months ago, if the settlement is approved, it could be a real game changer and easily affect every community and stakeholder in the industry.

Monday, February 15, 2010

140,000 apps available in the Apple store

In October 2009, Apple announced that its customers had downloaded over two billion apps from the Apple app store and there were 85,000 apps to choose from. By January 2010, Apple had reached its three billionth download and now there are over 140,000 apps. An interesting chart on the Mobclix website shows the number of apps in each of the 20 app categories. Books and Education apps are in the top 5 with 20,621 applications (14.3%) and 9,293 (6.4%) respectively. The number of apps in both of these categories has nearly doubled since October. We can expect that the number of apps as well as the sophistication of these apps will continue to increase in the coming months when the iPad becomes available.

In addition, Apple is nearing its 10 billionth song download. You can see how quickly the downloads are occurring via this counter on the iTunes webpage.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Survey finds most e-reader owners are satisfied with their device

A recent survey conducted by market research company NPD Group found that 93 percent of e-reader owners are either “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their device. When asked to name their favorite feature, 60 percent of respondents said wireless access. In terms of recommended improvements, 42 percent said they would like to see more book title availability, 39 percent said longer battery life, and 34 percent said color screens. The survey also showed that 30 percent of respondents use more than one device to read e-books such as a smartphone or PC.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Talking Pen

Recently we featured a posting about an interesting new smartpen from Livescribe that can record audio and link it to the words written with the pen. Another type of smartpen called the
Talking Pen – Multimedia Print Reader (MPR) is now available in India. According to an article, when the pen is placed on a book that contains MPR codes, it activates the preloaded audio files so that the user can hear the text as they read. Aadarsh Private Limited, creator of the Talking Pen, says that the technology can be used as an education tool to help those that are visually impaired or have dyslexia.

Friday, February 12, 2010

e-reader happenings

While the blog highlights many of the digital happenings affecting our industry, there is often more going on than we have a chance to cover each week. Here is a round-up of some of the recent e-reader news.

  • According to Computerworld, Sony may be working on a device to compete with the Apple iPad.
  • According to Engadget, Prime View International (PVI), maker of e-paper displays for e-readers, will introduce color, flexible, and touchscreen displays later this year.
  • Asustek is planning to launch its first e-reader, the Eee Book, at the Computex Taipei 2010 electronics show beginning on June 1. PC World says that Asustek is also planning to launch a tablet to compete with the iPad. The tablet could be available later this year.
  • According to the New York Times, the JooJoo tablet is now in full production. Meanwhile, a legal battle between the creators of the device is ongoing.
  • According to Engadget, LG is working on a device to compete with Apple and Amazon. Details have not been released but the device could hit the market by April.
  • Micro-Star International (MSI) is preparing to launch a tablet later this year.
  • The Bits Blog has an interesting posting about whether or not e-readers really cause eye strain
  • DigitalBeat and GreenBiz discuss the “green” aspects of the Apple iPad and if e-reader devices can help save the planet

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Update on NMS Digital Content Platform Pilots

A few months ago, NMS announced an agreement with Canadian Campus Retail Associates (CCRA) for co-development and deployment of a common digital content platform (DCP) that is designed with student-friendly terms and reflects the academic nature of our marketplace. The platform was successfully tested in the Canadian market during the fall term 2009 and this semester the U.S. pilot was initiated. The current pilot spans close to 60 stores in the U.S. and Canada. Feedback to date has been quite positive.

Recently we realized that there may be some confusion regarding what the pilot is and is not, so we wanted to take this opportunity to clarify. The current pilot is only testing one piece of a larger solution. The pilot gives stores the ability to integrate the DCP into their own website so that students can access free e-books via a link on the website. Currently the platform offers 200 free Digital Study Versions which are enhanced digital versions of course material content that can be downloaded an unlimited number of times. The titles are either available in the public domain or are royalty free versions of materials authored by Instructors. Elements such as custom content and Print-on-Demand (POD) capabilities were not incorporated into this phase of the pilot.

As an evolving pilot project, the goal is to learn. This should not be viewed as a complete solution at this time, although it does include some core elements of a final solution. Based upon the feedback from the initial pilot, NMS will work in collaboration with CCRA on further enhancements to the system, acquisition of additional content, incorporation of POD capabilities, and a plan for continued expansion for store participation. The stores participating in the current pilot were selected in partnership with the Independent College Bookstore Association (ICBA) and represent a broad range of geographic, demographic, and scalability criteria. One of the key things we wanted to learn was if we could design a solution that was scalable to stores of diverse size and technical expertise. We really appreciate the additional number of stores that have shown interest in the DCP capabilities and we look forward to offering the service to all stores in the coming months, hopefully with expanded content and capabilities included.

For individuals attending CAMEX in a few weeks, we will have a session on Friday, March 13th where CCRA, ICBA, and NMS will talk about the partnership between these organizations, the importance of this initiative, and additional pilot program details.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Publishers negotiate with Amazon and Google for agency model

According to a posting from Digital Trends, three publishers are now renegotiating their deals with Amazon in order to gain control over e-book pricing. The negotiations started soon after the iPad was announced and it became clear that Apple would offer the publishers more favorable terms. Since then, Macmillan, HarperCollins, and Hachette have all announced plans to switch to an agency model that will allow the publishers to set the price for e-books and receive a 70 percent commission on titles sold. Amazon recently expressed their disapproval of the model and at one point removed direct access to all Macmillan Kindle and print books. The titles were restored but the final terms of the negotiation have not been disclosed.

According to The New York Times, publishers may also convince Google to move to this model for titles sold through Google Editions. It was reported a few months ago that Google would offer a 63:37 split in favor of the publisher when Google Editions launches this summer. In addition, customers would be able to print and copy/paste portions of the text. According to the article, Google is open to talking about the model and removing the option to print and copy/paste.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Wiley to offer content on Blio

According to a recent press release, John Wiley & Sons will be the first major publisher to partner with Baker & Taylor to provide educational and consumer content for the Blio platform. Blio is an impressive e-reader software application that recently debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show. The platform retains the layout, typesetting, fonts and pagination of a book; supports video and text-to-speech functionality; and is designed to run on devices such as tablets, computers, and iPhones. The press release does not mention when the first Wiley titles will be available.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Google Book Search update

In November 2009, Google, the Authors Guild, and the Association of American Publishers submitted a revised version of the Google Book Settlement that was intended to resolve the U.S. Justice Department’s concerns that the settlement would violate copyright law and give Google an unfair advantage. Soon after, the judge presiding over the case granted preliminary approval of the amended settlement and gave groups until January 28, 2010 to file objections.

Since November, several groups have filed objections including the U.S. Department of Justice. In a statement on the U.S. Department of Justice's website, it says that despite the substantial progress reflected in the settlement there are still class certification, copyright, and antitrust issues. Postings on the Bits Blog and Wired Campus list several other groups that say that the revisions are not enough to prevent Google from having a monopoly over orphan works. Some of these groups include: Amazon; Microsoft; the Internet Archive; Open Book Alliance; Institute for Information Law and Policy at the New York Law School; and a group of 80 professors, led by Pamela Samuleson, a professor of law and information at the University of California at Berkley. In addition, an informative website called The Public Index, has a complete list of all the filings in support and opposition to the settlement.

The future for Google Book Search could be revealed within the coming weeks. The fairness hearing for the settlement is scheduled to take place on February 18, 2010.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Asustek’s technology for the future

Recently the Bits Blog featured a really interesting posting about the radical devices that manufacturer Asustek is working on. The devices include a wearable smartphone bracelet that finds, filters, and provides the user with the right information at the right time; a TV that works with gesture commands; and a tablet with location based services. According to the posting, the company already has a working prototype of the wearable smartphone. Here is a link to a video demo of the devices.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Is Apple working on a second tablet?

An article from TechCrunch says that Apple could be working on another tablet that is even larger than the iPad and more like a Mac than an iPhone. The article notes that if the rumor is true, it could be revealed at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

Friday, February 5, 2010

ASU Bookstore adds free e-book links to website

Here is an example of a college store that is providing its customers with information about how to obtain free e-books. ASU Bookstore added a page to their website that includes a list of free e-book links and descriptions of the titles and formats offered. The ASU Bookstore, like others, made this information available as a service to students as part of an effort to contribute to lowering textbook costs where possible.

CQ Press partners with LibreDigital

CQ Press has partnered with LibreDigital to launch an online publishing platform called CQ Press Custom and Online Books. The platform will provide professors with examination copies of the CQ Press collection and the opportunity to create custom print and digital political science textbooks. Students will also be able to use the platform to access CQ Press texts or the custom texts created by professors. According to a posting on the textbookfacts.org website, the custom textbooks can include in-print and out-of-print publications, public domain content, and material written by the professor. Students that choose the digital version of the text will be able to access it immediately while print copies will take two weeks to arrive.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Textbook publishers partner with ScrollMotion

According to an article from The Wall Street Journal, McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt K-12, Pearson, and Kaplan Publishing are all working with ScrollMotion to turn their textbooks and test-prep guides into applications for the iPad. The ScrollMotion reader differs from Stanza and other e-book applications because each book is a stand-alone application that uses ScrollMotion’s Iceberg reader and each book retains the pagination of the print book. The applications will enhance the reading experience by allowing students to play videos, highlight text, record lectures, take notes, search the text, and participate in interactive quizzes.

At last week’s unveiling of the iPad, details about how the device could be used for education were not provided. According to the WSJ article, people familiar with the situation say that education was one of the focal points of discussion during the iPad development. At the Apple event, Steve Jobs did confirm that publishers such as Penguin, Harper-Collins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette Book Group have signed on to provide e-books through a new Apple app called iBooks. It is not clear if textbooks will also be offered through the iBooks app.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Enrollment in online education continues to grow at a fast pace

A study conducted by the Sloan Consortium, the College Board, and the Babson Survey Research Group called "Learning on Demand: Online Education in the United States, 2009" found that more than 4.6 million college and university students (about 25% of higher education students) took at least one online course during the fall 2008 semester. This represents a 17 percent increase over the number reported in 2007 and greatly exceeds the overall higher education growth rate of 1.2 percent. For the past six years, online enrollments have been growing faster than overall higher education enrollment and the most recent data continues this trend.

The report also says the economy is contributing to the high growth rate in online education. A large number of the respondents reported that the economic downturn created increased demand for both face-to-face and online courses. Of the 2,590 colleges and universities that participated in the survey, 66 percent of institutions reported increased demand for new online courses and programs and 73 percent reported increased demand for existing online courses and programs.

To find out more, you can view the full report via the link above. In addition, an article from Campus Technology features a video of Babson College associate professor, Elaine Allen, discussing the findings.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Macmillan to set prices for Kindle books

According to an article from The New York Times, last week Amazon removed direct access to all Macmillan Kindle and print books while the companies were sorting out a dispute over pricing for the Kindle titles. The companies have reached an agreement and under the new terms, Macmillan will set the price for the e-books and receive 70 percent commission on its titles. Up until now, Amazon has controlled all e-book pricing. Amazon placed this announcement on their website noting that they do not agree with the new pricing and “don't believe that all of the major publishers will take the same route as Macmillan.” The announcement goes on to say that there is an opportunity for independent presses and self-published authors to “provide attractively priced e-books as an alternative.”

Monday, February 1, 2010

2010 Horizon Report

The 2010 Horizon Report produced in collaboration with the New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative is now available for viewing and downloading. This year’s report is the seventh annual report in the series. As with prior reports, this version outlines six emerging technologies or practices that are likely to enter mainstream use on campus within three adoption horizons spread over the next one to five years. This year’s list includes:

Within 1 year or less:
- Mobile computing
- Open content

Within 2-3 years:
- Electronic books
- Simple augmented reality

Within 4-5 years:
- Gesture-based computing
- Visual data analysis

The technologies of particular interest to the readers of this blog are also those within the first and second adoption horizons. The report shows that the two trends that are most likely to enter mainstream learning within the year are mobile computing and open content. Mobile technology made last year’s report and this year it is noted that this category becomes more capable and more interesting each year. There are many opportunities for mobile computing because nearly all students carry a mobile device and an increasing number of pilots and experiments are taking place on campuses. The report points out that before we see widespread use there are some concerns that need to be addressed including privacy, classroom management, and access.

Open content could also enter mainstream use within the year. The open content movement has been present for years but has recently begun to rapidly drive change. The report notes, “Today, there is a tremendous variety of open content, and in many parts of the world, open content represents a profound shift in the way students study and learn. Far more than a collection of free online course materials, the open content movement is a response to the rising costs of education, the desire for access to learning in areas where such access is difficult, and an expression of student choice about when and how to learn.”

Electronic books are expected to enter mainstream use within two to three years. The report points out that campuses have been slower to adopt e-books than the general public due to the lack of available academic content, the inability for e-readers to render high quality illustrations, and because e-books were often viewed as ancillary to the printed version. Over the past year, these adoption barriers have become less of a constraint as more electronic versions of academic titles have become available, new technologies have hit the market or are in development, and many publishers have uncoupled the print and digital content. The report notes, “Electronic books are quickly reaching the point where their advantages over the printed book are compelling to almost any observer.”

More information about each technology and the key trends can be found in the full report. Additionally, there is a Horizon Project Wiki that is used as a workspace for the project and contains links to the data, research, and background materials in the report.