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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Thursday, September 30, 2010

BlackBerry PlayBook tablet

Rumors about a RIM BlackBerry tablet began circulating last week and earlier this week the company unveiled a 7-inch PlayBook tablet. This announcement has everyone wondering how the device compares to the iPad and other tablet competition. According to reports it does surpass some of the iPad’s current specs but by the time it is released next year there may be a newer edition of the iPad as well.

An article from eWeek includes pictures of the device and points out some of the differences between the PlayBook and the iPad. Some of the advantages of the PlayBook include: 1 GHz dual-core processor, multitasking capabilities, support for Adobe Flash, mirco USB and mirco HDMI ports, and dual cameras. However, the iPad excels with its 3G support, long battery life, and access to thousands of apps.

While the PlayBook is being compared to the iPad, it is expected to be targeted at enterprise users and not the consumer market. For example, Blackberry users may find the device useful because they can pair their smartphone with it and view any of their content on the larger device. Analysts point out that this puts the device in a different playing field. In an article from CIO Insight, Analyst Ken Hyers from Technology Business Research, noted, “[RIM] really has the market to itself. There's little chance, in my opinion, that this will be a runaway best seller, but I don't think it necessarily needs to be. If it catches on with the enterprise as a genuine productivity tool in the same way that the BlackBerry has, it will be a positive development for RIM.”

For additional info, an article from Fast Company features a side by side comparison of the PlayBook, iPad, and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Kno announces second tablet for education

According to a posting on Wired’s Gadget Lab, Kno Inc., has announced that it will release a second touchscreen tablet this year. Kno’s first tablet includes two 14-inch screens while the second tablet includes just one 14-inch screen. Detailed specs have not been released but it is expected to incorporate similar functionality as the dual screen device.

Osman Rashid, CEO and Co-Founder of Kno Inc., commented on the new device, “Even though the Kno pays for itself in 13 months, the smaller up front investment of the single screen version will allow more students to use our learning platform."

The dual screen device is being piloted on a few campuses this fall and both devices are scheduled to ship by the end of the year.

Pictures of the new device can be found on Wired’s website.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sharp to launch tablets and e-bookstore

Sharp Corp. has announced that it will launch two tablets and an e-bookstore in Japan to compete with the Apple iPad. According to the press release, it will offer a mobile device with a 5.5 inch LCD screen and a 10.8 inch device designed for home use. Both of the devices will feature the Google Android operating system.

Sharp’s e-bookstore will give users access to 30,000 e-books, newspapers, and magazines. Users will be able to receive the latest content on their devices via automatic scheduled delivery. Next year, Sharp will expand the offering to include movies, music, and games.

The tablets and e-bookstore will be available in Japan in December and Sharp plans to launch the system in the U.S. and Europe “as soon as possible.” It has also been reported that Sharp is in negotiations with Verizon.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

e-reader users are likely to read more and purchase more books

A new study from market research firm Harris Interactive found that 8 percent of Americans use an e-reader and an additional 12 percent plan to purchase an e-reader within the next six months. The study also found that consumers that own e-readers read more and purchase more books than those that do not own e-readers. The study notes, "Overall, two in five Americans (40%) read 11 or more books a year with one in five reading 21 or more books in a year (19%). But among those who have an e-reader, over one-third read 11-20 books a year (36%) and over one-quarter read 21 or more books in an average year (26%)."

Additional results from the study can be found here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ebooks: Libraries at the Tipping Point

On Wednesday, September 29, the Ebooks: Libraries at the Tipping Point online conference will be held. The conference includes some great speakers that you may be interested in. Visit the conference website to view the complete program and find out more.

Friday, September 24, 2010

E-textbooks in South Korea schools

For the past few weeks, Jeff Young from The Chronicle has been traveling through Asia to observe how digital technologies are changing teaching, research, and university experiences. Mr. Young recently stopped in South Korea and observed four classrooms at an elementary school that is participating in the e-textbook pilot run by the government. An interesting article written by Mr. Young provides an overview of the classroom experience and includes comments from students and faculty about the learning experience.

As with other e-textbook pilots, the comments show that there are advantages and challenges to using the technology in the classroom. Some of the advantages include: the wide range of real world material that is available compared to the paper text and that the students are performing better in math class with the digital textbooks. While some of the challenges include: self guided quizzes that do not give detailed feedback and difficulty accessing the materials from home. Teachers at the school also say that they have difficulty finding and producing multimedia content to incorporate into the digital textbooks.

Mr. Young summed up the article by pointing out the e-textbooks provide an interactive and engaging experience but at this point seem to be high maintenance.

You can read more about Mr. Young’s travels on his College 2.0 column.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Digital Happenings

Here are some links to interesting articles from the past few days:

  • The Xplanation blog has a posting about “Nine Important Trends in the Evolution of Digital Textbook and E-learning Content” that is worth a read. Some of the trends include the growth of OER, the development of a common format for e-textbooks, and a merging of the rental and e-textbook markets.
  • An article from the Wall Street Journal reports that Blackberry could unveil a 7-inch tablet as early as next week. According to the report, the tablet will not be sold with a cellular service but users will be able to connect to cellular networks through Blackberry smartphones.
  • According to a recent press release, Vook has released 47 enhanced e-books or “vooks” in the Apple iBookstore. As mentioned previously, vooks blend text, video, images, and social networking into a single experience. Here is a video demo that explains more.
  • Here is an interesting article about a school in Scotland that gave each of its students an iPad for use in class and at home.
  • According to Publishers Weekly, the Community College Open Textbook Collaborative (CCOTC) has partnered with Dynamic Books, an interactive digital textbook platform from Macmillan. CCOTC is a nonprofit coalition of colleges, governmental agencies, educational nonprofits, and other education-related organizations that was formed to help reduce the cost of textbooks. CCOTC has identified 27 open textbooks that will be made available through Dynamic Books beginning in January 2011.
  • A posting on the Kindle Nation Daily blog says that Amazon is winning the e-book pricing war against publishers. The number of e-books in the Kindle store that are in Amazon’s preferred price range has increased significantly over the past few months. The posting includes a pricing analysis as well.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Update on iPad pilots at Seton Hill University and George Fox University

A recent article from Wired Campus provides some updates on a few of the iPad pilots occurring this fall.

According to the article, faculty members at Seton Hill University are working with the developers of Inkling, an interactive textbooks app for the iPad, to determine how to integrate the technology into the classroom. As mentioned previously, Inkling has many appealing features including: figures and diagrams that can be freely rotated and resized, embedded videos and case studies, and interactive quizzes. One of the most interesting features is the note sharing functionality that allows students to take notes in the margins and then share the notes with classmates or instructors in real-time. This gives students the opportunity to ask questions and share ideas instantly. Catherine Giunta, an associate professor of business at Seton Hill, says that the technology has changed the way that students interact with the textbook and how she interacts with the students. Ms. Guinta has been able to give students individualized instruction and guidance after reviewing their margin notes.

The article also discusses the iPad experience at George Fox University. For the first time this year, the university expanded the computing options and offered each incoming first-year student a choice between an iPad and a MacBook. According to the article, only about 10 percent of the students chose the iPad so it has been difficult to completely incorporate the device into the curriculum this semester.

Monday, September 20, 2010

July 2010 e-book sales statistics

E-book sales statistics for July 2010 have been released by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) via IDPF. Trade e-book sales were $40.8 million for July 2010, a 150.2% increase over July 2009. IDPF reports calendar year to date revenue is up 191%. Note: These figures represent the 12 to 15 trade book publishers who have been willing to supply their data to IDPF.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Apple’s iBooks is one of most popular iPad apps

According to an article on TheBookseller.com, Apple’s iBooks application is one of the most popular apps on the iPad and it has even surpassed social networking apps like Facebook and Twitter. A recent report says that 78% of iPad owners have downloaded the iBooks app while 52% have downloaded the Facebook app and 34% have downloaded the Twitter app. The report also says that half of the users use the iBooks app three times a week and almost a quarter of the users access it daily.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Something you can’t do with the iPad

Here is a funny advertisement from Newsday that was posted on the Bits Blog. It shows you one of the few things that you can’t do with the iPad.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announces innovation fund and partnership with A&E Television Networks

A few recent announcements from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) show that the publisher is preparing for the digital future. Earlier this week, HMH announced the creation of an innovation fund to invest in education initiatives globally. According to the press release, the fund will support projects that enhance student achievement, individualized learning, and technology integration. The goal is to bring new solutions to the market that will play a role in transforming education.

HMH also plans to invest in innovation centers in the U.S. and Ireland. At the centers, innovation teams will work with third party manufacturers, foundations, and academia on new solutions. The HMH Fuse: Algebra 1 app that we discussed last week is one of the new solutions.

Today, HMH also announced a new partnership with A&E Television Networks (AETN). Content from HISTORY, a division of AETN formerly known as the History Channel, will be used to create digital education materials including: multimedia classroom packages, a streaming digital library, and interactive textbooks.

Here is an interesting video from the companies that discusses how the partnership could help transform education in the classroom.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

University of Texas at San Antonio opens a bookless library

As we discussed in a previous posting, some university libraries have begun remaking their physical spaces for the digital future. Stanford University, Cornell University, and Johns Hopkins University have all made changes on their campuses.

According to a recent article, the University of Texas at San Antonio has also created a new library space which will be the first bookless library on a college or university campus. The Applied Engineering and Technology Library at the university includes 425,000 e-books and 18,000 e-journal subscriptions, as well as computers, LCD screens, printers, and scanners for student use. In the near future, the library will also make e-reader and tablet devices available for check out.

According to the article, the new bookless library is catching on with students because librarians now have more time to assist them.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Early results from iPad pilot at University of Notre Dame

An article on Forbes.com discusses the results from the first survey of a test group of students using iPads at the University of Notre Dame. While the students have only been using the devices for a short time, the overall results are positive. Corey Angst, Assistant Professor of Management, and the faculty member teaching the class, noted that he anticipated more negative feedback. “In [Information Technology] research, we almost always see a slight dip in satisfaction after a couple weeks of usage. In this case, we saw very little of that.”

Below is a listing of some of the pros and cons that were expressed by the students.


  • Encouraged exploration of additional topics
  • Provided functions/tools that are not possible with a traditional textbook
  • Made coursework more interesting
  • Improved collaboration among team members
  • Helped with organization
  • Made bags/backpacks much lighter
  • Used for reading in other courses and non-academic reading
  • Reduced paper usage


  • Distracting due to games, apps, and web browser
  • Concerned about the effects of spending so much time looking at a screen
  • More difficult to highlight text on an iPad than a regular book

Notre Dame plans to rotate the iPads among different classes next semester. The university aims to create an “e-publishing ecosystem” for the entire university in the future.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The future of reading

Wired has an interesting article written by Jonah Lehrer about the future of reading on screens. Lehrer points out that advances in technology are making it easier to consume content on television, computer screens, etc., but he worries that this could backfire with books. He says that we may consume the words unconsciously and not truly contemplate the meaning of what we are reading.

“I worry that, before long, we’ll become so used to the mindless clarity of e-ink – to these screens that keep on getting better – that the technology will feedback onto the content, making us less willing to endure harder texts. We’ll forget what it’s like to flex those dorsal muscles, to consciously decipher a literate clause.”

The full article can be found on Wired’s website.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The size of books

Have you ever wondered why books are the size that they are? A posting on Wired’s Gadget Lab blog has the story behind the size.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bookstore at Christopher Newport University to go digital in January 2011

Christopher Newport University recently announced that it will shut down its campus bookstore and launch a textbook website in January. The university said the decision was based on student buying patterns and the increase in online competition. The new website will include new and used textbooks, rentals, and e-books.

An article about the announcement can be found here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Daytona State College plans to switch to e-textbooks in January 2011

According to a recent article from Inside Higher Ed, beginning in January, Daytona State College will purchase licenses from textbook publishers that will give students access to e-textbooks for a fee. This model allows the university to buy the license at a discounted price and transfer the cost and the savings to the students. According to Rand S. Spiwak, chief financial officer of Daytona State College, students may save as much as 80% with this model. Students will also have the option to purchase the print version if they choose. The digital course materials fee can be used as a credit toward the print version. In addition, this model will still give faculty the opportunity to choose among multiple publishers when selecting the texts for students.

The article points out that the college bookstore will not benefit from this new model but the college is prepared for that. Spiwak noted, “The simplest conclusion would be we’ll have no bookstore. What we’ll have is a store that sells t-shirts and backpacks, and things that go with e-readers.”

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt launches algebra app and pilots in four California school districts

Today, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) launched an interactive full-curriculum algebra app for the iPad and announced year-long pilots with four school districts in California.

The app is called HMH Fuse: Algebra 1 and it includes a year-long course and ancillary materials. The app is intended to provide students with an interactive learning experience that features: guided practice, video lessons, vocabulary links, graphing tools, highlighting, and notetaking capabilities. The app also provides teachers with real-time performance feedback for students.

According to the press release, approximately 400 students in San Francisco, Long Beach, Riverside, and Fresno school districts will participate in the pilot. The students will utilize the algebra app on iPad devices while control groups of students will use traditional paper textbooks. The groups will be compared based on student achievement and attitudes about learning.

The HMH Education website features additional information about the app and pilot. There is also a video demo to show how the app works on the iPad.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

How do digital devices affect the way we process information?

An interesting article from NPR discusses several research projects that are studying the way that digital technologies affect our brains. Some research shows that heavy multimedia users have trouble focusing on tasks and filtering out irrelevant information. While other research shows that digital technologies have many positive benefits because information can be organized so that we do not have to keep track of it all.

The article also includes some interesting stats. It says that the average person today consumes about three times as much information as a person consumed in 1960. In addition, an average computer user can switch programs 36 times an hour.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Youth in Japan and China experience “character amnesia”

A recent article from Yahoo News says that the younger generations in China and Japan often have a hard time remembering how to write certain characters because of the constant use of digital devices. In China, electronic devices offer a menu of characters so users just need to be able to recognize a character. In Japan, the simpler writing systems are used for digital devices so over time users may forget the more complicated writing system.

Siok Wai Ting, assistant professor of linguistics at Hong Kong University, pointed out that forgetting how to write the characters could eventually affect reading ability.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Five publishers to pilot digital textbooks at California State Universities

Earlier this week, it was announced that Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill Education, Bedford/Freeman/Worth, John Wiley & Sons, and Pearson will all participate in a pilot with The Digital Marketplace, an initiative of the California State University Office of the Chancellor.

The pilot begins this semester and includes five California State Universities: Dominguez Hills, Fullerton, Long Beach, San Bernardino, and San Francisco State. Between the schools, 32 courses will be participating and about 4,000 students. Students enrolled in the participating classes will be able to purchase subscriptions for the digital content through their campus bookstores. With the subscription, students will be able to access the digital content for the length of the term and read the texts on computers/laptops, iPad, iPhones, and other devices.

According to an article on the California State University website, the pilot program will likely expand to include more courses and campuses for the spring 2011 semester. In addition, data will be collected throughout the pilots to learn more about student and faculty preferences for digital material.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Full edition of Oxford English Dictionary may not be printed again

According to an article from Telegraph.co.uk, it is not likely that a full edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) will be printed again. The second version of OED was published in 1989 across 20 volumes but has also been available online via subscription for many years. Currently, it receives about two million visits per month from subscribers. The third version is still a decade away from completion and will likely only appear online at that point.

Nigel Portwood, the chief executive of Oxford University Press, commented, “The print dictionary market is just disappearing, it is falling away by tens of percent a year.”

Simon Winchester, author of ‘The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary’ added, “The printed book is about to vanish at extraordinary speed. I have two complete OEDs, but never consult them – I use the online OED five or six times daily. The same with many of my reference books – and soon with most.”

Oxford University Press, owner of the dictionary, said that it will still continue to print the Oxford Dictionary of English which is sold in bookstores.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sony announces three new e-readers

Today, Sony announced the launch of three new e-reader devices. The three devices are upgraded versions of those already on the market including the Reader Pocket Edition, Reader Touch Edition, and the wireless Reader Daily Edition. All of the devices now include a touch screen and utilize E Ink’s latest display technology called Pearl. Pearl has a contrast ratio approximately 50 percent greater than the previous E Ink display. In addition, all of the devices have a reduced size and weight. The Reader Pocket Edition and the Reader Touch Edition are available now and the wireless Reader Daily Edition is expected to ship in time for the holidays. To see pictures of the new devices, you can view this posting on the Teleread blog.

In addition, Sony has announced plans to expand its Reader line to Italy, Spain, Australia, Japan, and China.