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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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Amazon and its love of numbers

Amazon has made many moves over the past few years that have affected the publishing industry. Here is a video by Colin Robinson, a long-time editor, about how Amazon does business and its possible negative impact on publishers, authors, and readers. The article associated with this video can be found here. The article itself is an interesting read, with a focus on Amazon's love of numbers and quantitative analysis -- along with what could be characterized as some of the more "heavy handed" tactics Amazon uses to get its way. What does Amazon's growing strength -- or the growing dominance of a small number of companies in the book channel -- mean for the future of books and literature?

GRITtv: Colin Robinson: Amazon Books & Intellectual ...
Uploaded by grittv. - News videos from around the world.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

future of e-textbooks

DM news posted an article this week on how retailers are preparing for a big push on e-textbooks this fall. On the whole the article is interesting, and provides a brief overview of projections and current status of the e-textbook market.

The article is a good example, though, of why I prefer not talking to the press. On the whole the article is good, but one quote was taken out of context, implying a different meaning, and another point was reported inaccurately. To be fair, part of the problem is on my side, as I tend to talk very quickly.

As a point of clarification, we did not indicate that the textbook market will be 50% digital in 5 years. Our opinion is more in line with other industry estimates, but certainly something in the 20% range could be reasonable. We were asked to explain the range of estimates out there, and I was trying to provide a scenario or rationale that might explain estimates as high as 50%. 50% could be possible, but I think most experts would predict far more moderate numbers at this point.

Another error in the piece, it reads :

After an NACS study found that about half of students did not know their school's stores sold e-textbooks, some began to offer “personal book lists.”

This is inaccurate. The NACS study did not precipitate stores offering personal portals. Rather, stores that offer personal book lists have less of an awareness issue that digital is an option. The best stores explain what the digital option means. Those stores are seeing greater adoption of digital, which may be partially explained by better awareness. Other stores are investigating personal book lists, but again, that likely has little to do with the NACS study which suggested many students do not know if their store offered digital as a choice. A comparable study by librarians found close to the same percentage of students did not know if the library offered digital books, and the librarians have been at digital delivery far longer than stores. Thus, it is a marketing and awareness challenge for us both, and not necessarily a surprising statistic.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

e-book readers in the global market – Amazon out of Kindles

A recent article from Digitimes takes a look into e-reader shipments and market share. According to the article, 1.35 million e-book readers were shipped globally in the second quarter of 2010, falling short of the forecasted 2.02 million units. Digitimes speculates that this is due to several companies’ shipments of new models being pushed back to the third quarter in addition to lower than expected sales in China.

Digitimes research indicates that Barnes & Noble took the leading position in the second quarter with 33% market share, followed by Amazon's 27%. However, Amazon is expected to regain the leading position in the third quarter when the company launches a new product.

Digitimes Research forecasts that the global e-book reader market will reach seven million units in the second half of 2010 and attain the target of 10 million units for the whole year.

Despite not meeting forecasts, the e-reader market is growing rapidly, and this trend is expected to continue as global demand rises. In fact, according to Amazon’s website, the Kindle is currently sold out. Although this is more likely in preparation for a new device or alteration, as it is rumored that Amazon will release an updated Kindle or third generation product in August, it is still an interesting move. Amazon is expected to release a less expensive WiFi only device in response to Barnes and Noble’s plans for the same.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

iSuppli ups sales predictions for iPad

In April, we discussed the iPad sales predictions from market research firm, iSuppli. At the time, iSuppli predicted that Apple would sell 7.1 million iPads in 2010, 14.4 million in 2011, and 20.1 million in 2012. According to a recent article, iSuppli has changed its predictions to incorporate the high demand for the iPad. iSuppli now predicts that Apple will sell 12.9 million iPads this year, 36.5 million in 2011, and 50.4 million in 2012.

Rhoda Alexander, director of monitor research for iSuppli commented, “The iPad is shaping up to be the ‘Tickle Me Elmo’ of the 2010 holiday season, with product demand expected to vastly exceed available supply. Apple has hiked its iPad manufacturing goals to suppliers across Asia. As iSuppli stated in its initial forecast, the key to continuing success will be how quickly Apple responds to issues as they arise and whether the company can align suppliers to meet demand needs.”

According to a recent article from InformationWeek, Apple is experiencing some difficulty in meeting demand because LG can not produce the LCD displays fast enough. As a result, Apple may have to delay the launch dates for the iPad in some countries.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Odyssey Editions – eBooks without publishers

On Thursday, literary agent Andrew Wylie announced that he and his 700+ authors would be bypassing publishers in order to sell electronic books directly to readers. Through an exclusive, two-year deal with Amazon, this venture, dubbed Odyssey Editions, will produce ebook editions that are available through Amazon’s Kindle store.

Although launching with just 20 classic literary titles this represents many authors’ ongoing dissatisfaction with the terms publishers have offered for ebooks. Publishers and authors have debated royalty percentages as well as which party holds the digital rights to older works published before the arrival of ebooks. Amazon’s efforts to cut out publishers and sign authors directly is also not new. However, these issues may affect how the ebook market develops and the cost of ebooks going forward.

More information on Odyssey Editions may be found in an article here, and some insight into the response from publishers can be found in a NY Times article here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Google Editions

Digital Book World recently featured a posting with a good summary of what we know and don’t know about Google Editions. As we have discussed in previous postings, Google Editions is expected to launch this summer. Here is a link to the posting.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Where are all the iPad alternatives?

Crunchgear recently featured an interesting posting about the state of many of the e-readers/ slates/tablets that were expected to come to market this year. Some devices have made it but others have been delayed or scrapped entirely.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tablet market update

As the noted success of the iPad would indicate, tablets have made and will continue to make an enormous impact in 2010. Companies such as HP and Microsoft canceled or postponed their current tablet projects when the iPad was released, but a plethora of companies are now developing their own competing tablets:

Confirmed earlier this week by Liu Jun, senior VP and president of Lenovo’s Consumer Business Group, Lenovo is developing an Android tablet, dubbed the LePad. Expected to debut in China, the LePad will likely be focused on the Chinese market, where Apple decided not to officially release the iPad.

HP, which talked about developing new slate and netbook devices when it acquired Palm, trademarked the name PalmPad earlier this month. If HP puts out its own tablet, it would likely be based upon Palm’s webOS operating system.

Microsoft also announced earlier this month at its Worldwide Partner Conference that existing partners such as Asus, Dell, Samsung, Toshiba, and Sony will be fielding Windows 7 slates in the near future.

The Dell Streak, currently available in Europe and expected to be released in the US within the next 10 days, is a Smartphone that is very tablet-like. Dell will likely expand upon these designs for its potential Windows 7 Slate.

The Tablet market is expected to expand rapidly, as the 3.27 million iPads sold this quarter would indicate. ABI Research forecasts 11 million media tablet shipments in 2010. ABI Research principal analyst Jeff Orr suggests that that the media tablet segment is still far short of a “mass market,” and that a market size justifying that term probably won’t be reached before 2013.

Many universities have implemented iPad experiments, and higher education tablet adoptions will likely increase as they become more powerful, efficient, and applicable academic tools.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Amazon reports ebooks now outselling hardbacks

In a recent press release, Amazon discussed its rapidly increasing ebook sales and milestones. Although Amazon did not disclose sales figures, digital books are clearly growing rapidly; three times as many Kindle books were sold in the first half of 2010 than in the first half of 2009. According to the press release, sales on Kindle devices also tripled since its price reduction ‘war’ with Barnes and Noble. Another interesting statistic that Amazon released is that in the past three months it sold 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books, and in the past month this ratio increased to sales of 80% more ebooks than hardcovers. Although information pertaining to the profit margin was not released and is not clear, an article in the Los Angeles Times this week opined that the company may be taking a loss on some ebooks in its battle for market share.

Colin Gillis, an analyst with BGC Financial stated, "We don't know the economics of these e-books. In our opinion, they are losing money on a lot of the bestsellers sold as e-books."

This information, announced only a few days before the company’s earning report, is likely in response to concerns about the iPad’s impact on Amazon’s sales. The ebook market is clearly growing rapidly, although with so many devices and platforms available it is quite competitive. Amazon has stated that it intends to compete with the iPad and other such devices by providing a purpose-built device for “serious readers”, and the Graphite Kindle DX, released earlier this month, maintains this stance, providing higher contrast, faster page turning, and generally improving upon the reading experience of its predecessors.

A review of the Graphite Kindle DX can be found here, and more information on Amazon’s recently announced sales statistics can be found in an LA Times article here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

50% of college students may buy an e-reader within the year

Alloy Media + Marketing has released a consumer research report with data about the purchases that students are planning to make within the next year. According to the report, 50% of the students that were surveyed are planning to buy an e-reader. Currently, only 2% of students own e-readers. This is a very interesting statistic but it is important to point out that intention does not always translate to reality. Many of the students that plan to buy an e-reader may not actually make the purchase within the year. However, this stat shows that there is great interest in e-readers and we could see a significant increase in adoption in the coming months.

The study also found that smartphones and portable gaming consoles will be popular purchases before school starts this fall. The number of students that own a smartphone is expected to increase by 26%. In addition, 73% of male students are planning to buy handheld gaming devices.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

See(k)ing Opportunities

The O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing blog recently featured an interesting posting written by Mark Nelson. The posting takes a look at some of our observations about digital and how these observations could prove to be useful to publishers. As we approach the future, college bookstores and publishers have great opportunities to be the purveyors of digital and print.

You can read the posting here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

B&N’s NOOKstudy and Borders e-book store

Last week, both Barnes & Noble and Borders announced new digital initiatives.

According to the press release, Barnes & Noble has created a new study application for students of higher education called NOOKstudy. The application is currently being tested at several universities and will be available to all higher education students during the fall 2010 semester. The application is free and can be downloaded to PC’s and Mac’s. It enables students to download e- books and e-textbooks, take notes, tag content, search through both the textbook and annotations, and manage all of their digital content, including: lecture notes, syllabi, slides, handouts, trade books, and other course documents. Marketed as a study aid, the NOOKstudy may prove to be a convenient tool and interface through which students can organize, download, and read e-textbooks and other digital content.

As mentioned in a previous posting, NOOKstudy will be also be integrated with Blackboard Learn.

Also last week, Borders launched an e-book store that is powered by Kobo. According to an article from RetailingToday.com, Blackberry and Android reading apps will also be available.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Kids Innovation Study

The Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning blog recently featured an interesting posting about a Kids Innovation Study that was conducted by ReadWriteweb and Latitude Research. The study asked the kids, “What would be really interesting or fun to do on your computer or the internet that your computer can’t do right now?” Interestingly, only 4% of the kids responses were impossible demands for today’s developers. The study found that kids desire “increasingly immersive content experiences, better integration of digital technology into physical objects, spaces and activities, and more intuitive interfaces.”

To see drawings of the children’s responses and for more information, visit the Latitude Research website.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Apple sells one iPad every 2.3 seconds

It was recently reported that Apple sold three million iPads in less than three months. Here is another way to think about those sales. Apple sold one iPad every 2.3 seconds during the first 80 days that the device was on the market.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Blackboard partners with McGraw-Hill, Follett and B&N, and acquires Elluminate and Wimba

Earlier this week, CourseSmart announced a new program that will provide faculty with improved access to e-textbooks and now Blackboard has announced several significant partnerships to make accessing e-textbooks easier.

On Wednesday, Blackboard announced that is partnering with McGraw-Hill, Follett Higher Education Group, and Barnes & Noble. The partnership with McGraw-Hill will give instructors and students the ability to search McGraw-Hill Connect, the company’s e-textbook catalog, through Blackboard Learn. The catalog currently features 250 titles in 34 academic disciplines. The partnerships with Follett and B&N will allow students to purchase and access the assigned materials in Blackboard Learn.

According to the press releases, Follett’s Cafescribe and Barnes & Nobles’s NOOKstudy will also be integrated with BlackBoard learn. The CafeScribe Blackboard Building Block is already available but the Nook Blackboard Building Block will not be available until later this year.

This news follows last week’s announcement that Blackboard has acquired Elluminate and Wimba. Both companies are leading providers of online learning and student collaboration tools.
The tools can be used in a variety of ways including support for distance learning courses and to facilitate collaboration on campus with virtual office hours, tutoring, or team meetings. According to a posting on the Blackboard blog, Blackboard’s clients utilize the technologies from Elluminate and Wimba so Blackboard acquired both to serve their whole community.

In the press release, Michael L. Chasen, Blackboard President and CEO noted, “We've heard directly from our clients that this technology has become increasingly fundamental to the learning process for the online course experience and beyond. Collaboration technology is joining the range of solutions that our clients are leveraging to support and improve the teaching and learning experience. We expect this will grow as institutions look for cost-effective ways to encourage social learning and support learning interactions of all kinds."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Potential changes to next generation iPads

A recent article from Digitimes reports rumors of Apple’s potential plans to launch second generation iPads in several sizes and possibly with Organic LED displays. These rumors revolve around Apple’s iPad orders with its Taiwan component manufacturers, which seem to indicate the possible use of 5.6, 7, and 9.7 inch OLED iPad panels as soon as 2011.

Organic LED screens generally have a higher contrast, use less power, and have superior color saturation compared to their LED counterparts. However, the OLED screens are much more expensive than the current LCD panels for the iPad. Digitimes Research senior analyst Mingchi Kuo points out that, “the price gap is unlikely to narrow significantly in 2010 or 2011.”

If Apple does choose to implement OLED screens in its next generation iPads, it may win over avid readers in the eBook market. OLED screens are not backlit which would make reading on iPads easier on the eyes and bring it more in line with the E Ink displays of other e-readers.

May 2010 e-book sales statistics

E-book sales statistics for May 2010 have been released by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) via IDPF. Trade e-book sales were $29.3 million for May 2010, a 162.8% increase over May 2009. IDPF reports calendar year to date revenue is up 207.4%. Note: These figures represent the 12 to 15 trade book publishers who have been willing to supply their data to IDPF.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

CourseSmart steps up focus on faculty

CourseSmart issued a press release announcing a new program to provide faculty with improved access to the company’s eTextbooks for faculty evaluation and use. Several universities have been invited to participate in this “Faculty Instant Access” program, which will enable faculty to access CourseSmart’s digital content library through the college’s Learning Management System or Campus Portal with a single sign-on. This program will make it easier for faculty to evaluate and select digital textbooks and will introduce them to other digital learning tools. The likely effect will be an increase in faculty adoptions of digital textbooks, or greater faculty comfort in recommending digital textbook options to students. Access to the examination copies through the LMS or Campus Portal may have an impact on where faculty adoptions occur, and subsequently where students purchase their course materials. This has implications for college bookstores and institutions both in terms of HEOA compliance and sales. However, since faculty acceptance is still a significant barrier to e-textbook adoption in higher education, this should be viewed as a positive development that will improve faculty awareness and acceptance, and ultimately student adoption, of digital course materials.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Paperless plans at Daytona State College

A News-Journal article takes a look into Daytona State College’s ambitious plans to implement a complete e-text solution to combat rising textbook costs for students.

Executive Vice President Rand Spiwak stated that the college tried to find another institution that had gone completely e-text so that they could replicate the model. "We gave up," Spiwak said. "Everybody is waiting for somebody else to do it."

Daytona State College received a FIPSE Grant last October to research four textbook rental models: traditional, e-book, Kindle, and student-club. This initiative has cumulated in the institution issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) that seeks proposals from publishers that can provide electronic textbooks to the students at the college. These proposals are being accepted until July 15th, and will be made public on Daytona’s website soon after. The college plans to enter a long-term relationship with the publisher(s) whose proposals best fit its needs.

According to Daytona, this is part of a two step process, and “RFP number two will address hardware/connectivity/on-campus printing, distribution, data storing and other related issues.”

More information on Daytona’s vision, its plans, and the RFP process can be found here.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Amazon patent could mean trouble for Nook and Alex

According to Crunch Gear, Amazon has a patent that may be broad enough to justify a lawsuit over other e-readers. The patent for a dual screen LCD/E-Ink device was filed in 2006 and recently granted. It could cover devices such as the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Spring Design Alex. We will have to wait and see if anything comes of this.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sony reduces e-reader prices

According to Publishers Weekly, Sony has quietly dropped the prices on three of its e-readers. In late June, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble lowered the prices on their e-reader devices. The recent price reductions come in response to the success of the iPad. According to reports, Apple has sold three million iPads since the device launched three months ago.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Study finds K-20 institutions are embracing technology and e-learning slowly but steadily

The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) has released the results of its Spring 2010 SIIA Vision K-20 Survey. The SIIA vision is based on the belief that every K-20 institution should have an instructional and institutional framework that embraces technology and e-learning. Educators participating in the survey were asked to answer 20 benchmark statements to indicate their progress toward the SIIA measures and goals. The measures consist of: 21st century tools, anytime/anywhere access, differentiated learning, assessment tools, and enterprise support. While the goals include: meet the needs of all students; support accountability and inform instruction; deepen learning and motivate students; facilitate communication, connectivity and collaboration; manage the education enterprise effectively and economically; enable students to learn from any place at any time; and nurture creativity and self-expression.

The survey was completed by 647 educators and showed that K-20 institutions are moving towards SIIA’s vision but the progress is slow. The average score for the 20 benchmark statements was 62% which represents a small increase over the scores reported in 2009 (61.8%) and 2008 (60.9%). As indicated in past surveys, postsecondary institutions are farther ahead than K-12 schools in almost every category. Overall, the two benchmarks with the highest level of achievement were: security tools to protect student data and privacy, and the availability of high-speed broadband access for robust communication, administrative, and instructional needs.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cisco announces Cius Android tablet

Last week, Cisco Systems announced that it will enter the tablet space with a 7-inch Android tablet called Cius. According to an article from Fast Company, the device is designed for professional use rather than for consumer use so it is not likely that it will compete directly with the iPad.

The Cius includes 32GB of memory, an SD slot for adding additional memory, and a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor. It also has front and rear-facing cameras for teleconferencing capabilities and a docking station for a faster wired ethernet connection.

The Cius will be available in the first quarter of 2011.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

E Ink announces next generation display technology

Last week, E Ink Corporation announced that it will soon release its next generation display technology called Pearl.

According to the press release, “With Pearl, E Ink expands the capabilities of reflective displays, bringing electronic paper performance to the next level. With the whitest reflective displays in the industry, and a contrast ratio now approximately 50 percent greater than today’s products, text on Pearl “pops” from the page, enabling a reading experience most similar to reading text on printed paper.”

It is likely that Amazon’s second generation Kindle DX includes the new display. In a recent news release it says that the new Kindle will feature “50 percent better display contrast.” The new Kindle DX will begin shipping today.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Oklahoma State to pilot iPad this fall

Oklahoma State University is the latest to announce that it will pilot the iPad beginning this fall. According to an article from Campus Technology, the pilot will involve 125 students in journalism and marketing courses. The university hopes that the pilot will help them determine how the iPads academically enhance the courses, how the devices and specific apps can be integrated, and how the use of mobile tools can help students expand their tactical abilities.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Amazon Kindles available in airport bookstores

As of last week, busy travelers can now purchase Amazon Kindles while at the airport. According to a recent article, Kindles will be available at Simply Books and Authors Bookstores located in airports across the country.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sony announces Reader Library program

Earlier this week, Sony announced the launch of a new Reader Library program to promote digital reading at public libraries. According to the press release, the program will provide public libraries with an online training program about Sony’s Reader devices, educational materials to help library patrons learn about e-books, e-readers for use by library staff, and bi-annual update sessions to keep libraries informed about the latest content and devices.

The new program is open to public libraries with “robust eBook lending programs.”

Friday, July 2, 2010

U.S. Departments of Justice and Education issue letter regarding accessibility

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Education issued a joint letter to colleges expressing concern over the use of e-book readers that do not adequately accommodate students with visual disabilities, stating that "it is unacceptable for universities to use emerging technology without insisting that this technology be accessible to all students." This letter is in response to several universities that engaged in the Kindle e-book pilot study with Amazon; such programs have had opposition in the past, such as last year, when Arizona State University faced a discrimination lawsuit filed by National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind, which prompted an investigation into the practices of other universities as well. The Department of Justice recently reached settlement agreements with colleges that had Kindle pilot projects, and these universities agreed not to purchase, require, or recommend the use of the Kindle or any other electronic reading devices that are not accessible to visually impaired students.

"Technology can be a driving force in making equal educational opportunity a reality," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "Given what technology now makes possible, no student should be the denied the opportunity to benefit from an enhanced educational experience based simply on a visual disability."

In order to comply with The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Universities will need to ensure that they are not inadvertently discriminating against students with disabilities when embracing and implementing e-reading technology.

At the end of last year, Amazon stated that it would be adding features to the Kindle—primarily audible menus—in order to make the devices more accessible to the visually impaired. These modifications are expected to be ready some time this summer. According to Chris Danielsen, a spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind, “Of the e-readers produced by four companies—Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony, and Apple—only Apple's iPad can be used by blind people.”

An article from Inside Higher ED discusses this topic further, and the Department of Education also posted a Frequently Asked Questions page about the letter, the laws in place, and the people affected.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Symtext - Build a Textbook

A recent article from Inside Higher Ed discusses Symtext, a company taking an interesting approach to the future of the textbook market. Symtext attempts to answer student, publisher, and faculty concerns with their highly customizable “liquid textbook” platform. The Symtext solution will give publishers the opportunity to separate their content and price each component—whether it be whole chapters or significantly smaller portions—individually. This will provide faculty with the means by which to search through these chunks of content and assemble a custom digital textbook. Students will benefit from a customized textbook that will be “free from the Unread Chapter Tax.” If properly implemented, Symtext believes it can create a “win-win-win” situation for these three parties.

“Professors can pick only the content they want, the content can be mixed media, and collaborative tagging, community and advanced search tools can help the professor discover the best-of-breed content. Students only pay for what they will use, and can receive and consume their content on the platform of their choice (Symtext is developing iPad/iPhone platforms and print-on-demand options to complement their existing browser delivered format). And publishers (and authors and other content creators) can price and receive revenues for chunks of content, and be paid each time the content is used.”

Symtext’s success will depend upon publisher and writer interest in this new business model. According to the article, the company has had some success helping publishers overcome their reluctance to share content to build a large enough database.

More information can be found on the Symtext website. Symtext has also produced an informative white paper that is worth a read. It is available via this link.