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

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Monday, October 31, 2011

Study Suggests "App Gap"

Common Sense Media surveyed parents of U.S. kids ages zero to eight conducted to understand children's patterns of use for TV, reading, music, computers, video games, and mobile digital media.  Among the report’s key findings suggests that there is an “App Gap” occurring perhaps contributing to the digital divide.  Some of the data include the following:

·   14% of lower-income parents have downloaded new media apps for their kids to use, compared to 47% of upper-income parents.
·   Among lower-income children, 27% of parent have a smart phone, compared to 57%  for higher-income children.
·   2% of lower-income children have a tablet device such as an iPad at home, compared to 17% of higher-income children.
·   38% of lower-income parents say they don’t even know what an app is, compared to just 3% of higher-income parents.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Online University Adopts CourseSmart for Digital Textbook Delivery

Online universities continue to see some of the largest adoption of digital course materials.  Such institutions have distinct advantages for this shift, due to standardized curriculums, centralized course decisions, and primarily distance/commuter population to name a few.  These advantages also make it easier for institutions whose classes are primarily online to negotiate institutional licensing arrangements for content--something that is more complicated and much higher risk for traditional academic institutions. 

A recent article in Campus Technology underscores this pattern, reporting that Western Governors University, a well-recognized institution with largely online classes, has started to adopt digital textbooks into their curriculum.   Like many of their for-profit counterparts, the cost of the digital course materials is included in student’s tuition and fees charged by the university.  Students can then access digital titles through their existing university accounts.  Approximately 15,000 students have used about 130 distinct e-texts through CourseSmart, and half of the university’s 350 courses are currently using the new delivery service according to university officials.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Infomercial and Web Retailing

Great article by Mashable Business if you are into new marketing practices.  There’s a new trend to integrate content with product offerings on the web, according to the article.  Content can range from editorials to videos all intended to provide value-added shopping experience for the consumer.  Some include infomercial like videos and others are in-depth articles on how to do certain things.

So, if you are shopping for a tie, you can learn about the right tie knot for your color shirt. Or, if you are looking to buy bed sheets you can learn about how to fold fitted sheets.  The content offering is producing repeat visits and giving consumers confidence to make purchases according one CEO whose company is using this technique.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Academic eBook Survey by UC Libraries

University of California Libraries recently released an interesting survey report entitled “ UC Libraries Academic e-Book Usage Survey.”  The survey’s intent was to evaluate UC academic community’s experience utilizing one of their e-book collections.  The primary objectives of the survey were to determine general preference for print books as compared to e-books, how  respondents interact with e-books, and barriers to e-book adoption and use.

The frequency of use of academic e-books were highest among postdoctoral researchers (68%) and graduate students (67%), followed by faculty and lecturers (57%), and then undergraduate students (55%).  Among disciplines, the physical sciences and engineering reported the highest rate of academic e-book usage (68%), followed by arts and humanities (57%), life and health sciences (57%), social sciences (54%), and then Business and law (47%).

In terms of format, this study is reflective of other recent studies that illustrate a shift in print versus electronic preferences.  The survey found that 49% of respondents prefer print books, 34% prefer e-books, and 17% had no preference.  By discipline, business and law reported the highest preference for e-books at (54%), followed by life and health sciences (44%), physical sciences and engineering (32%), social sciences (31%), and then arts and humanities (17%).   Postdoctoral researchers reported the highest preference for e-books over print books at (49%), followed by graduate students (35%), faculty and lecturers (33%), and undergraduate students (27%).  Perhaps surprising to some, undergraduate students expressed the highest preference for print books over digital (53%), but even in this case the numbers reflect a significant shift in preference as compared to other studies just a year ago. 
Other survey findings reported related to specific e-book functionalities:

·    Search functions within and across e-book content is acknowledged as the primary advantage of e-books.

·    Annotating and highlighting within the e-book environment is perceived as vital to the majority of respondents who use academic e-books.

·    Downloading the entire e-book to a device for later use is a highly valued feature.

·    e-Book readers, such as the Kindle, and mobile devices, such as the iPhone, offer significant advantage over the personal computer.

The survey also reported several other interesting findings related to the relationship between an e-book and its print counterpart:

·    Borrowing or purchasing a print copy of an e-book is not uncommon.

·    Undergraduate students express the strongest desire for a corresponding print copy of an academic e-book for borrowing from a UC library, with 66% rating it as important.

·    41% of respondents said that access to a “print-on-demand” copy of an e-book is an important feature.

The study provides a number of interesting insights into digital adoption in higher education from a different perspective.  The data corroborates other information out there related to how we understand current campus attitudes towards ebooks.  At the same time, it reinforces the beginning of a shift in preference from predominately print to decidedly digital.  This is a trend we will continue to monitor as it may be among the first signals that we are passing the knee of the curve for digital books on campuses. 


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Virtual Stores and QR Codes

This is a great video of how one retailer is taking itself to the consumer using QR codes.   The video shows people shopping while waiting for the subway in South Korea where the virtual displays and the merchandise is identical to what a customer would see in the store.  By using smartphones a shopper can scan the products QR codes and place it in the basket and the grocery bags are delivered to their home.  Essentially, for busy South Koreans, they can shop while they wait.   This is the wave of the future for virtual stores and QR codes and for retailers who are contemplating whether to open another brick and mortar they should consider following the trend being set by the most connected people in the world.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Abilene Christian University's Mobile Education Report Released

Abilene Christian University recently released its mobile education initiative report 2010-2011 that highlights its research projects and surveys on mobile learning on their campus.  In its fourth year of the initiative using iPads, IPhones and IPods, Abilene has attracted national attention during their Connected Open House that brought in people from many other schools.   They recently broke ground on three mobile research centers with a large grant from AT&T.  

"Our efforts are increasingly breaking down the walls of the classroom, removing barriers so teachers and students can engage more fully with and take their learning more easily into the world around them.  We're discovering that the power of mobility comes not only from the ability to access information, but also from the ability to create it, and the creative opportunities during this third year of our initiative have been staggering." says the Director of Educational Innovation Bill Rankin

According to the report, in a survey of 149 faculty members, 89% of faculty members bring mobile devices to class while 84% regularly use the devices in class and half of faculty report using the devices in every class.  Meanwhile, more than 80% of students responded that mobility device usage has improved collaboration in their academic experience, improved communication with teachers, and provided them with increased control of their learning environment.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Jobs Wanted to Transform Book Industry

Steve Jobs' new biography talks about how Mr. Jobs wanted to transform the textbook industry, according to this NY Times article.  The story talks about how Mr. Jobs met with the major players in the publishing industry to discuss how publishers could bypass the costly process of state certification of textbooks for K-12 if books were published on the iPad.  Mr. Jobs is quoted as saying, “ We can give them an opportunity to circumvent that whole process and save money.”  The idea, according to the biographer,  was to employ textbook writers to develop digital versions of their textbooks on the iPad.

In some ways, this sounds much like the type of work that Inkling is doing -- working with some of the top textbook publishers and taking a number of top textbook titles and moving them into the Inkling platform.  That platform at least initially is mostly focused on delivering its content to the iPad environment.  Parts of the business model within Inkling, and how they source some aspects of development, are quite interesting.  Seeing some of Steve Jobs' vision here play out within Inkling is not a big leap, as the CEO of Inkling, Matt McInnis, is a former Apple employee. 

Such developments should again give college stores pause.  The stores have value to provide to these transactions, but how do they become integrated into the new channel for content distribution? 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Recycle Your Electronics for Books- No charge for Kindles

Here is an interesting story on a recycling program being held at Andover Bookstore.  The program will charge $1 per/lb for unused electronics equipment with 5% of the cost going toward a gift certificate to the bookstore.  What is interesting about the event is if you read the list of items they accept it says, “ accepting Kindles and cell phones at no charge.”  Really?  Kindles?  How are ebooks more environmentally friendly with such rapid device obsolescence?  Event could be a good traffic generator for the store, though.  Would be interesting to know how the event turned out.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Question: Should Retailers Own Branded e-Book Device: yea or nay?

Some retailers are opting to make or brand their own e-Book devices. Teleread reports that German booksellers Weltbild and Hugendubell launched their own device recently and following will be Waterstone, expected to launch their e-reader next year.  Bloomsbury executive director Richard Charkin says, “ You need to be able to offer both [e-books and a device] if you are to take any share of the market,” says in the story.   It is also reported that the American Booksellers Association is in talks about making its own device.  Penguin’s vice-president for digital commerce, Tim McCall agrees with this view and said it was necessary for a retailer with a digital strategy to have a reader as part of it, reported in the article.

We picked up on this commentary by Steven Lyle Jordan, an author, who disagrees with the message of this article.  “Bookstores should be making every effort to be the place people want to buy ebooks from, and read on whatever device they have. That means value-adding to the ebooks. Deals, memberships, exclusive content, customer-tailored specials… those should be their strategies.”

Should book retailers have their own devices, aim for a more device agnostic strategy, or both?  What do you see as the pros and cons of a store owned and branded device?  What do you think? 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pearson to Offer Free Learning Management System

This week Pearson announced a new learning management system that will be free to colleges without having to pay any of the usual licensing or maintenance fees.  The new platform, called OpenClass, will offer free support, hosting and upgrades in addition to the service itself making it very attractive to current open-source users since open source systems still charge for services. 

OpenClass is  “absolutely for free,” says Adrian Sannier, senior vice president of product at Pearson and former CIO at Arizona State University. “No licensing costs, no costs for maintenance, and no costs for hosting. So this is a freer offer than Moodle is. It’s a freer offer than any other in the space.”

“By freeing the LMS, Pearson seems to want to steer higher education dollars away from e-learning platforms and toward e-learning content,” says Phil Hill, executive vice president of the Delta Initiative, an I.T. consulting firm.   In doing so, Pearson is “potentially outflanking Blackboard,” because while Blackboard still relies heavily on revenues from its LMS licenses, Pearson has its “core business in digital content,” says Hill. Relegating the LMS to commodity status, while elevating content, plays to its strengths, he says.

According to the article, “Pearson says it is taking a strategic cue from Google, which offers its cloud-based e-mail and applications suite to colleges for free in an effort to secure “mind share” among the students and professors who use it. Like Google with its Apps for Education — with which Pearson has partnered for its beta launch — the media conglomerate is hoping to use OpenClass as a loss leader that points students and professors toward those products that the company’s higher ed division sees as the future of its bottom line: e-textbooks, e-tutoring software, and other “digital content” products.”

“Whether Pearson can pull off its end-run around the LMS market depends largely on whether it can convince its competitors in the publishing world to play nice with OpenClass, says Lev Gonick, the Case Western CIO.

“Integrating sophisticated digital content into a cloud-based LMS involves a lot of coordination between the platform provider and content provider, says Gonick. So Pearson might have to court its fellow publishers before it can guarantee to professors that OpenClass will support the content they want, he says. “I don’t think that’s a slam dunk,” says Gonick.

‘If the endgame of taking on the LMS market with OpenClass is to up-sell Pearson’s line digital content products,” he says, “Why would any other publisher want to give that advantage to a competitor?” Pearson might be using Google as a model, but Google did not have to partner with Microsoft to get institutions to adopt its suite of education apps, he says.

“Certainly, we’re aware of this issue,” says Matt Leavy, CEO of Pearson’s eCollege, adding that “there’s probably a lot of negotiating and deal-making to come” with both publishers and distributors. But he said he does not think instructors will require OpenClass to support all types of digital content from other publishers as a prerequisite to signing up. “A lot of professors don’t have that expectation of deep integration,” Leavy says, “and shallow integrations” — i.e., embedding simple links inside the LMS — “are still available to them.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bookstore Sales Up in August

As a follow-up to the last story, Publisher's Weekly also reported bookstore sales jumped 11.8% in August, to $2.44 billion.  The PW report theorized that it is due to strong sales and other items through college bookstores (associated with back-to-school Rush) and going-out-of-business sales at Borders. Additionally, sales through the first eight months of the year rose 2.1%, to $10.47 billion and sales for the entire retail market were up 8.7% in August and 8.0% in the eight-month.

E-Commerce and e-Books Continue Market Share Growth

The following data was reported in Publisher's Weekly using Bowker’s PubTrack Consumer service.
  • Bookstore chains lost 3.6% market share down from 30.6% in  2Q 2010 to 27.3% 2Q 2011.  (Borders’s closing drove the decline in market share.
  • E-tailers grabbed 37.0% of all spending in the quarter, up from 35.3% in the first period and almost 10 percentage points higher than the 27.6% share e-tailers had in the second quarter of 2010.
  • Independent bookstores picked up half a percentage point between the second quarter of 2010 and 2011, although compared to the first quarter of 2011 their share fell from 6.2% to 5.0%.
  • e-books’ share of units rose from 3.2% to 13.7%.
  • Hardcover’s share of market share falling from 33.3% in last year’s second quarter to 28.6%, but holding even with this year’s first quarter.
This data should tell brick and mortar and book retailers that the battle for market share is on, if they did not know that already.  Online retailers are capturing sales, further emphasizing the importance of traditional booksellers to provide access to sales online.  Note too the fairly significant gain in ebook market share in the past year from 3.2% of units to 13.7% of units -- a significant jump in a short time period.  This may account for much of the gain in sales by e-tailers.  Interesting numbers to ponder -- and yet another example of why market share matters.

Monday, October 17, 2011

To Go Digital, We Must All Experience Failure

Here is a podcast featuring Jesse Wiley who works on digital and new business initiatives at John Wiley & Sons, Inc..  In the podcast he discusses the challenges of digital for the 200-year-old company.  The simple message of his presentation is that success in digital will require that companies must accept failure and move on.  He says, “Learning to fail is not an established concept in publishing, but in the technology world, innovation is built on doing pilots and testing — learning to fail and expecting to fail, and learning from both the successes and the failures."

Well put, Jesse.  We have been trying to encourage pilots and the "fail and fail fast" mentality among college stores for the past several years.  It takes time for established, mature companies and industries to get more comfortable with the idea that managed failure is actually a risk-reduction strategy for organizations.   Regardless, the podcast provides for interesting listening. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hidden Cost of Digital?

Here’s an article about colleges capping broadband usage on campus and students having to pay for data overlimit fees.  As digital books become more embedded with rich-media and takes up more and more data transmission this issue could be one of those unforeseen consequences of going digital.  Will faculty have to deal with students who say, “I could not access my digital course materials because I went over my data limit and I can’t afford to pay the fees?”

This leads to asking the question, what is the real cost for going digital?   Many schools have ‘free’ (nothing is really free- tuition is suppose to cover those costs) internet access and may not limit downloads.  But what if the student does not have access to internet at home or cannot afford broadband access to required educational content?  Are download rates higher as students move toward tablet devices like the iPad?  Will students need to subscribe to internet or broadband services so that they can read their assignments?  Will students without such access be at a disadvantage as digital course materials become the norm? 

We were recently asked, "What is the average data usage for student’s courses?"  Honestly, we do not know. If anyone has any data out there please share with us your findings.  Is it insignificant?  Will it become significant down the road? 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Understanding EPUB 3.0

The International Digital Publishing Forum(IDPF), a global trade and standards organization for the digital publishing industry, has promoted EPUB 3.0 to a final IDPF Recommended Specification for the interchange and delivery format for eBooks and other digital publications. 

Many of the enhancements to the digital standard will have implications for digital course materials or e-textbooks, so folks in this space should be aware of this development.  Supported by HTML5, EPUB 3 adds rich media (audio, video), interactivity (JavaScript), global language support (including vertical writing), styling and layout enhancements, SVG, embedded fonts, expanded metadata facilities, MathML, and synchronization of audio with text and other enhancements for accessibility.

"EPUB has become the industry standard format for digital publications based on Web Standards that are structured, reliable, device-independent, and accessible," said Bill McCoy, Executive Director, IDPF. "As digital publications evolve from digitized text into enhanced eBooks and new forms of expression, EPUB 3 will dramatically expand the ability of authors and publishers to deliver richer experiences to their readers across disparate devices, in browsers and in apps.

You can learn more about the new format in this article published by O’reilly Media. The article is an easy read and very perceptive even for non-techies. It is a free download from O’Reilly’s website but you must register and check-out as if you were purchasing.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

600 School Districts use iPads for Course Materials

Are iPads better investment than traditional textbooks?

One principal in Boston thinks so, according to this story in eSchoolNews.  The article states that Patrick Larkin, Principal at Burlington High School, believes the $500.00 iPads are a better long-term investment than textbooks.  When asked about textbooks, Larkin said,
I don’t want to generalize, because I don’t want to insult people who are working hard to make those resources but they’re pretty much outdated the minute they’re printed and certainly by the time they’re delivered.  The bottom line is that the iPads will give our kids a chance to use much more relevant materials.
More than 600 school districts in the country now have a one-to-one computing program using iPads ranging from wealthy suburban schools to school districts in New York and Chicago, according to the article.  However, experts in the article warns that districts looking to adopt such devices need to ensure the resources are available to support wireless infrastructure, repairs, and other costs associated with a such programs.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More Tools for Professors to Customize Textbooks

The Chronicle recently reported on a trend we have been monitoring for a while.  From small start-ups to the big publishers, custom textbooks are becoming the common denominator in digital publishing.  With pressure from students who complain course materials are overpriced, professors are taking the Frankenstein mash-up approach to adopting course materials these days by taking materials from here and there, making textbooks much more affordable.

Customized course materials is not a new concept for faculty, pubishers, or college stores, but new innovations in digital technology in conjunction with the open source movement are enabling new growth in this course material segment.  Moving content to this segment is often beneficial as it reduces the cost of course materials for students, provides faculty with resources more tailored to their classes, and sell-through via the store improves. 
The Chronicle article covers several of the players -- new and traditional -- who currently operate in the custom publishing area. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Study finds Rise in College Student’s Purchasing Power

re:fuel released its 11th annual College Explorer survey, according to Marketwatch.

The recent findings shows that the more than 20 million new college students’ spending power set a new record with $417 billion dollars, a 14% jump from last year’s study.  Overall discretionary spending for this population was $76 billion.  The article acknowledges that part of the growth in spending power is due to rising tuition costs and higher education costs.  Here are some other notable findings of the study discussed in the article.

Food is a major discrectionary spending area.  Discretionary spending on food increased by 39% since last year's study and accounts for almost half (46%) of college students' total discretionary budget.  Of the $35.2 billion reported towards food spending - $20 billion is being spent on groceries, $12 billion in restaurants and $3 billion in convenience stores.  Nearly all students (90%) report visiting a grocery store in a typical month, and they do so more than once per week (4.7 times a month).  These numbers suggest that food is a potential growth category for college stores.
On the technology front, students report that on average they now own six digital devices and spend a cumulative 11.4 hours per day using technology. Cell phones are quickly being replaced by smart phones.  Cell phone ownership decreased from 84% of students in 2010 to just over half (55%) in 2011.  Smartphone ownership  jumped more than 61% in the same time period.  In 2010, just one quarter of students (26%) reported owning a smart phone device, and that figure rose to 42% in 2011.  20% of students expecting to purchase a smartphone  in the year ahead. This places it ahead of other coveted items like laptops (17%) and tablet computers (11%).

Related to social media, a full 88% of students are Facebook users and 25% use Twitter, a slightly higher engagement over last year.   53% have followed or "liked" a brand on Facebook, and only 16% have done so on Twitter. Students who say they "friended" a brand in order to be the first to know about company news dropped from 48% last year to 40% in the current survey. Forty-eight percent (48%) of students have followed a brand's social networking page to take advantage of special offers and just 22% regularly read a brand's page for updates. Of note, more than 44% of students reported actively avoiding ads on social media sites, placing them among the most avoided media types.

The survey reports on several other statistics as well and the full report is worth reading.

Monday, October 10, 2011

UCLA Cleared of Copyright Infringement

University of California at Los Angeles recently prevailed in a copyright infringement lawsuit for streaming videos online.

According to the Chronicle, one copyright expert thinks the UCLA decision helps the HathiTrust digital-library consortium in its copyright lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild over the digitization of books from university libraries.

The Association for Information Media and Equipment (AIME) and Ambrose Video Publishing filed the lawsuit against UCLA for streaming a Shakespeare play for faculty and students to use as part of curriculum.  The plaintiffs asserted that UCLA violated copyright and breached its contract by duplicating DVD’s of the play that was acquired from Ambrose.

The judge in the case held that UCLA had not waived its constitutional “sovereign immunity,” a principle that prevents state universities from being sued without their consent in federal court.  The court also found that the association did not own the copyrights and therefore did not establish its standing to bring the case.

Chronicle interviewed James Grimmelmann, an associate professor at New York Law School who commented that “universities will have a little more breathing room for using media,” and “this decision will make the Authors Guild case against HathiTrust more of a long shot.”  “If the HathiTrust suit were to be decided tomorrow by the same court, it would be dismissed.” Mr. Grimmelmann says.

Further, Chronicle also quoted Kevin Smith, Duke University’s scholarly-communications officer, who says “because much of the dismissal hung on the sovereign-immunity question, “a major part of the decision applies only to state entities” and “does not translate to private universities.”

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Retail Systems Research Report on the State of the Store

Retail Systems Research continues to produce interesting and relevant stories and reports for retailers in an age of technology.  In one recent report RSR discusses their annual study on the "state of the store" or retailing.  Here is a quick quip:
Our findings consistently show retailers understand the importance of creating a better in-store shopping experience for their customers. However, in 2010 it became clear that armed with more technology than most store employees and managers, the consumer was crafting her own experience – and much of it was outside the boundaries of the store’s four walls. The question is no longer, “How can we make the in-store experience as satisfying as the web?” It has become, “How can we make our stores more significant than showrooms for on-line merchants?”

As stores think more about increasing traffic, and providing more and more products and services online, several of the lessons within the report are worth examining.  Key lessons in this year's report seem to focus on the importance of making sure that the people on the floor are educated in the products being offered.  The report also discusses the importance of using technology in retail to engage customers, and in doing so available technologies can drive customers to the store rather than away from it. 

The 29 page report is available for free with site registration and is worth the time to download and read. There is more than one actionable takeaway that retailers can pull from the piece.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Community College Student Survey on Use of Technology on Campus

The Lone Star College System conducted a student-driven survey of more than 6,000 students from 36 two-year colleges on the impact of technology on their academic performance.   According to one article, 78 percent of students responded said that their grades and learning are improved when technology is used consistently and effectively.  Campus Technology articles’ main take a ways are: 1. Schools should not implement technology for the sake of technology; 2. When  technology is deployed that the technology is working properly; and (3) That faculty needs to know how to use the technology and they should actually use it. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Remembering Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

As most folks are probably aware by now, co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, 56, passed away Wednesday after fighting with cancer for many years.  Jobs took a medical leave from Apple in January and stepped down as chief executive in August. 

Here are some of his famous quotes to remember him by.

“I want to put a ding in the universe.”

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”

“My job is not to be easy on people. My jobs is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.”

“We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them.”

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and everyone should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.”

“Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

“I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”

“Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.”

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.” - Fortune, Nov. 9, 1998

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Happy National Student Day!

Today is the inaugural National Student Day, a day celebrating and promoting college students’ social responsibility. More than 500 college stores across the United States and Canada are holding celebrations recognizing their students. Some of the events taking place include food drives, giveaways, and even a pet adoption. Visit the National Student Day Facebook page often over the next few weeks to see pictures of the celebrations.

Also, the National Student Day contest will close on Oct. 14 at 5pm EST. We have more than 100 stories! If you haven’t already, take a few minutes to read some of the entries as some of them are very heartwarming.

BookRiff Announces ‘Build Your Own Book’ Platform Launch

PublisherWeekly (PW) reports that, BookRiff, a novel digital publishing company will go live with their technology on October 6th.  BookRiff’s platform uses an ePub reader and allows users to create their own book by piecing together chapters, articles, or other content.  Users pay for content which is delivered in a variety of formats such as print-on-demand and content rights holders are given royalties.   According to PW, publishers who will provide content include O'Reilly Media, Harvard Common Press, Stonesong Press, Sterling Publishers, EnThrillEntertainment, as well as Douglas & McIntyre, Greystone Books and New Society Publishers.

There are a growing number of competitors to enable campus creation of "mashable" books -- a category we traditionally refer to as custom publishing or coursepacks.  Cengage has probably received some of the greatest press around this concept, but AcademicPub, BookMasters, LiquidText, Xanadu, and others offer comparable solutions.  As custom publishing grows as a way to preserve market share, grow revenue, and decrease course materials costs for students, it is likely that others will enter this space with potential solutions for faculty and stores. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

E-Books Not So Popular at CSUF

Here is an article an article from The Daily Titan, the school newspaper at California State University Fullerton, that reports that e-books are not catching on at their campus.  While the bookstore offers e-textbooks, CSFU students are not taking that option when purchasing their course books.  “If there are 100 students in the class, about 3 to 5 will buy the e-books,“ says Text Adoption Manager Mike Dickerson.

One of the reasons for the slow adoption is that there is a significant lack of availability of e-book versions of the most popular textbooks on college campuses, said Jeff Cohen, CEO of CampusBooks.com.  Cohen also said e-book prices aren’t as good as people believe them to be.  Other reason for the lack of enthusiasm about e-books is that publishers make it hard for students to bypass paying for e-books by imposing restrictions that limit e-books’ usage, expiration dates, and printing limits.

Of course, as we have reported on this blog in the past and in presentations elsewhere, there are a variety of other factors also influencing the adoption of digital texts by students.  Many of the larger adoptions are now available through sources like CourseSmart, which has partnered with many campus bookstores.  However, the majority of titles are still not available, or easily available, though a consolidated source.  Digital sales require more consumer and faculty education, due to differences in DRM and licensing terms.  Type of institution also matters, with sales higher among for-profit schools and adult commuting populations.  Student expectations of digital are also not "pdf-equivalents" of the text and in response we increasingly we see more emphasis by publishers being placed on "born digital" versions of course material resources.  In short, there are many reasons why adoption has been slow, but many of those factors are showing signs of shift.

There is also a question around the true size of the digital course materials market.  Take MyMathLab by Pearson as an example.  It probably outsells the leading print textbook product by 3-to-1 (that is in dollars if not units).  It is a top selling product for many stores, but few stores (or publishers) would count that as a "digital textbook sale."  As more products are available in digital format, and as more of those products provide richer learning contexts, digital sales will increase.  There are also a percentage of sales that happen directly through other sources, which college stores cannot track.  A case of "we may not know what we do not know" -- and that relates to market share.  We do not know what percentage of digital sales we are losing to other sources.   Recall that record stores were not seeing big sales of digital music back in 2003.  What a difference less than a decade makes.  What is the true size of the digital course materials market across all digital products (not just .pdf substitutes for print)? 

So my question regarding the original article cited in this story -- were students surveyed to find out if they are using digital course materials, and if so where they were being acquired?  How many students at CSUF are using digital course materials accessed through the library or purchased someplace else?  The number may still be small, but if we are trying to track trends, the data might provide for a more accurate picture.  The move to digital is certainly more a question now of "when" rather than "if." Despite currently low in-store sales it is important for stores to continue to monitor digital sales and experiment to learn how to transition to new forms of content delivery.  Failure to do so will likely mean increased channel obsolescence with time.

BTW -- I tend to consider CSUF a well-managed college store.  My comments are not intended to be a critique of the store's performance around digital, but to provide a different perspective on the low digital sales many stores report.  I know a number of stores take the low sales numbers and use that to justify not doing anything with digital.  Such decisions weaken both the store and the channel in terms of future positioning.  Even well-managed stores like CSUF's find that digital course material sales are not yet comparable to digital trade book sales in other channels, but they are experimenting and tracking so that when the shift does come they will be better prepared with viable solutions.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Platforms to Access University Press E-Books

Wired Campus reports several online platforms for University-Press Ebooks that are about to be introduced into the market.  These include Oxford Press’s University Press Scholarship Online, ProjectMUSE, JSTOR, and University Publishing Online, a Cambridge University Press’s platform.

Oxford Press announced that its University Press Scholarship Online will includes monographs from the American University in Cairo Press, Fordham University Press, Hong Kong University Press, University Press of Florida, and the University Press of Kentucky, with Edinburgh University Press and Policy Press scheduled to join the project in March 20.

According to Wired Campus ProjectMUSE Ebooks will include more than 14,000 titles from 66 university and scholarly presses.  JSTOR, has more than 20 publishers that are participating and expects to reach 30 by the time  it goes live in the summer of 2012, says the article.

University Publishing Online, Cambridge University Press’s has publishers on board like  Books India, Liverpool University Press, and the Mathematical Association of America, as well as Cambridge University Press.

Happy 100th Anniversary to U of Maine Bookstore!

The University of Maine’s Bookstore celebrates its 100th anniversary thanks to its students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends.   The store stays connected to its constituents by getting involved in annual events and donates proceeds from sales of specific items, such as the Holiday Ornament Series, to campus-sponsored student organizations.  The store also regularly help to support fundraisers, volunteerism, alumni events and new student orientation.   The bookstore’s offerings include textbook options such as rentals and eBooks, and the Computer Connection.

Monday, October 3, 2011

2000% Increase in Textbook Rental

eCampus, an online textbook retailer, issued an interesting press release reporting an observed surge of textbook rental to the tune of 2000% increase over the last two years.  eCampus says that one in five of all college textbook purchases online today through their site are textbook rentals in contrast to online rentals accounting for just 1 percent of all sales two years ago.   According to eCampus, new textbooks account for 40 percent of textbook sales on their site  down from 71 percent four years ago.  eCampus also reports that the purchase of used textbooks on their site has grown steadily over the past three years, from 29 percent of all sales in 2009 to more than two-thirds (37 percent) today.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Barnes & Noble Partners with Self-Publishing Company Lulu.com

This week B&N and Lulu.com announced a partnership to help self-publishing authors more easily publish and distribute their works via NOOK eReader.  Lulu.com is a self-publishing company with 1.1 million authors and 20,000 titles in their catalogue each month. The company provides a publishing services for writers in exchange for a percentage of profits. "This partnership is another step in our passionate effort to help Lulu creators reach more readers and sell more books," says Bob Young, Founder and CEO of Lulu.  Barnes &Noble VP of eBooks, Jim Hilt commented: "We are excited to partner with Lulu.com to bring its catalog of fantastic eBooks to our rapidly growing community of millions of NOOK owners and readers.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Will e-books create a bigger digital divide?

“Could Abraham Lincoln have become president of the United States in a world in which poor children lack access to physical books?”

A recent article in Technology Review asks this question.  The piece may be best summed up with the following passage:
I challenge anyone reading this to recall his or her earliest experiences with books -- nearly all of which, I'm willing to bet, were second-hand, passed on by family members or purchased in that condition. Now consider that the eBook completely eliminates both the secondary book market and any control that libraries -- i.e. the public -- has over the copies of a text it has purchased.

Except under limited circumstances, eBooks cannot be loaned or resold. They cannot be gifted, nor discovered on a trip through the shelves of a friend or the local library. They cannot be re-bound and, unlike all the rediscovered works that literally gave birth to the Renaissance, they will not last for centuries. Indeed, publishers are already limiting the number of times a library can loan out an eBook to 26.
Herein resides one of the great challenges to ebooks today:  they do not fit our conceptual model of how books and related content worked in the past.  If I buy a song on iTunes, I can burn it to CD, share it with my friends, and more.  The same is not true with ebooks.  I frequently cannot share them, they are harder to discover, and they may even expire after a time period.  The concept of what it means to own a book is changing, and this could have implications for accessibility as well.