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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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Grow Custom: Pearson

Today's sponsor highlight of the Grow Custom Initiative is Pearson Learning Solutions (CAMEX Booth 5309).  CAMEX starts in just a couple days, please be sure to visit all of our Grow Custom sponsors!

1)              What do you see as the future of custom course materials?
a.      The marketplace for custom content will continue to be defined by engaging material that addresses students' unique needs. In the future, customized materials will play a leading role in evaluating student performance in the course. Pearson Learning Solutions (PLS) is at the forefront of this movement towards greater personalization. Our ability to help professors create new content and manage existing Pearson content that specifically addresses these issues is unparalleled. Content, whether print or digital, and technology will exist side by side for the foreseeable future and increasingly, we'll see digitally-based solutions for placement, learning and evaluation of student performance in the course.
2)              What role do you see for stores with custom course materials in the future?
a.      PLS engages with the college store as the concierge for all students' course needs. Whether it's print, digital, or a hybrid solution, the college store on-site or online is the venue of choice for a campus-based or distance learner. The store management team will likely become more proactive in helping faculty and students recognize the value of customized material as a superior offering for all stakeholders in the campus community.
3)              What makes your product or service unique?
a.      PLS takes a holistic approach to the creation and delivery of custom content. Our editors, in conjunction with a talented PearsonONE sales team, make every effort to "dig deep" and find the right solution for every instructor in every course. We partner with faculty to adapt existing materials and find and create additional resources that result in an enhanced print/digital solution that's tailor made to the instructor's individual course. We call those CUSTOM+ solutionsIn addition, we offer a range of world-class educational services "beyond the book" that provide cost-effective and pedagogically sound solutions for almost any adoption at a variety of price points. 
4)              What products or services do you offer in this space?
a.     PLS offers a variety of print and digital solutions that can be customized to individual faculty needs. For example, we can publish a simple book of third-party readings in black and white with an attractive cover.  Or, if an instructor wants to personalize his or her own textbook, the Pearson Custom Library offers state-of-the art, on-demand publishing solutions. Pearson Custom Library uses a simple user interface that allows an instructor to select from thousands of textbook chapters and third-party readings. Instructors can even upload their own material for additional levels of customization.  For online courseware, Pearson's CourseConnect offers customizable online courses with recommended course descriptions, syllabi, lessons containing rich media, graphics and interactivities, discussion questions and assessment banks.  
5)              Who should stores contact for more information?
a.      More information about PLS products and services can be found at www.pearsonlearningsolutions.com. Don Golini is the PLS Director of Bookseller & Vendor Relations and can be reached via email:  don.golini@pearson.com.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Developing a Digital Textbook Strategy

The Florida Distance Learning Consortium recently hosted a symposium titled Developing a Digital Textbook Strategy for Your Campus.  The videos from the symposium can be found at YouTube.  You can also access the videos as well as presentations and other symposium documents here at the Open Access Textbooks Project website.  We encourage you to check out the videos to learn about what is happening on other campuses and also to hear from industry people who are working with digital materials.

Here is one particular video of a faculty member from Dayton College speaking to his experience working with e-books in the classroom.  The professor has three main messages he wanted to convey.  First, he says faculty should take ownership of the e-books and provide technical instruction to the students instead to sending them off to the helpdesk.  Second, decision to adopt digital course materials should be driven by student learning outcomes.  He thinks that if you get more success using digital than you should use it but if you are not seeing improvements than maybe you should rethink digital adoption.  Third, students need something more than saving money when it comes to e-books.  The students want clear demonstrative academic benefits and some form intellectual payoff that they would not get if digital was not being used.

The take away from this video is that schools should not make any hasty decisions about mandating e-textbooks across campus.  Rather the schools should focus on assessing whether e-textbooks provide improved learning outcomes before launching a campus-wide digital textbook policy.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Grow Custom: John Wiley & Sons

Today’s highlighted sponsor of the Grow Custom Initiative is John Wiley and Sons (CAMEX Booth 4800).   CAMEX is now just a few days away.  Be sure to attend the Digital Update on Saturday afternoon, or visit the NMS area within the NACS Opportunity Hub to learn about these and other developments.   We will have information at the booth to help you find your way to each of the Grow Custom sponsors. 

1)         What do you see as the future of custom course materials?
The demand for Custom course materials continues to grow because it answers a need.  Custom publishing allows instructors to create a product tailored to their specific course needs allowing the students to only pay for the content that will be used- whether that’s select textbook chapters, readings, professor created content or some combination.  We foresee Custom moving from Customized Content to Customized Curriculum.   These offerings will integrate assessment elements and media components with the customized print or digital content.

2)         What role do you see for stores with custom course materials in the future?
The campus bookstore provides a one-stop shop for students to easily get access to their custom materials.  Often it is the best (and usually only) place carrying the product.  Wiley continues to see the bookstore as a partner in delivering quality material to students.  

3)         What makes your product or service unique?  What products or services do you offer in this space?
Wiley Custom Learning Solutions is our full-service custom publishing department that offers an array of tools and services designed to put content creation in instructors’ hands. Our suite of custom products empowers users to create high-quality, economical education solutions tailored to meet individual classroom needs. For example, Wiley Custom Select is a revolutionary custom textbook system that allows the instructor to “build” customized materials tailored to their course needs. In a simple 3-step process, instructors create a textbook containing the content they want, in the order they want, and delivered in a printed or digital format of their choice.  To view a demo of this site, visit www.wiley.com/college/wcsdemo.

4)         Who should stores contact for more information?
At CAMEX, please look for Rich Bigger (rbigger@wiley.com), Director of Customer Relations, at the Wiley booth.  Bookstores can also work with their local campus sales representative (www.wiley.com/college/rep).

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Digital requires teamwork

"Etextbooks attracting involvement of the FFC, Education Department, and Higher Ed" highlights several initiatives currently underway that is transforming this country into a digital nation.  Examples such as the Digital Textbook Collaborative, the MUSE project, and institutional “bulk-purchases” of etextbooks are mentioned in the story.  But the main takeaway from this article can be summarized by quoting FCC chairman Julius Genachowski,

“We will all win if the players in the digital learning ecosystem—including publishers, device manufacturers, platform providers, internet service providers, schools—work together to accelerate the adoption of digital textbooks.”

If the leadership on college campuses is serious about adopting digital course materials, all players in the campus community should be involved to make that change.  A successful digital campus requires a coordinated effort from across the campus and the discussions surrounding this topic should include as many people who are affected by the change.  This includes folks from the college stores, as much as faculty, students, IT, library, and other areas.  Given that we are still in a period of trial and error, this is a good time to bring others on board to get their insights. Remember, it take a whole campus to educate a student.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

New Start-Up Publishing Company

Booktype is a new device-agnostic open source publishing company that allows anyone to publish a book by themselves or with others through the web.  Booktype’s tool allows easy attributions, remix and reuse content, translate, use of preset book formats, and sets ISBN numbers for new books.
To read their press release and watch their video click here.

Booktype’s entry into the publishing world is yet another sign that change is happening in this industry and an opportunity area where campus stores need to pay close attention.  With Amazon, Apple, and more recently, Inkling, all offering new publishing tools for authors this is a clear signal that the way and how content is being created and delivered is transforming the publishing industry.  Stores ought to consider how they fit into this new model if faculty wants to adopt content developed in this way.  Some of these models could make it easier to produce and manage OER content as well.

This new trend creates opportunities for stores to engage and educate faculty and students.  Stores, working with these and other vendors can provide publishing services for the faculty on campus in order to better establish its relevancy on campus.  NACS Media Solutions will be announcing a partnership in this area at CAMEX to help stores begin building community-based publishing services.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Grow Custom: Virdocs

Today’s Grow Custom highlight is on Virdocs (CAMEX booth #2521).   Virdocs is a new sponsor of the Grow Custom initiative. 

1)      What do you see as the future of custom course materials?

-           We see the textbook market as a whole moving towards custom. As digital textbooks become more of the norm, they’ll become more flexible. We’ll move away from a digital text built off of the structure of a paper text and into a more malleable content delivery platform. The biggest hurdle is getting the content to be written to stand alone and then producing a very fluid, simple process for professors to package their desired course materials. There will always be a place for the one-stop-shop standard textbook, but going custom tailors the content to your course and that is good for students.

2)      What role do you see for stores with custom course materials in the future?

-          In our opinion, right now is a very important phase for stores and their involvement in the future. As things move towards digital, they have the opportunity to get on board or be passed over. The biggest asset a store has is its proximity to the content creators, Professors; and that isn’t changing. If they can implement an effective digital platform, that absorbs custom materials, they’ll be in a strong place to control their future.

3)      What makes your product or service unique?  What products or services do you offer in this space?

-          We give stores the tools to do what they otherwise could not. We have built a cost-efficient, cloud-based platform tailored to higher education, which allows stores to make their custom course materials available digitally. Our mission is to provide stores with a digital platform that seamlessly integrates into their current operations. The stores maintain control; we don’t take over permissions, we don’t take over printing, they are still the contact with professors, etc. Simply, we are a technology company that partners with bookstores and print shops so that they can offer a digital option to their customers. 

4)      Who should stores contact for more information?

-          Greg Fenton, Co-Founder & CEO, sales@virdocs.com
-          Tim Haitaian, Co-Founder & CFO, admin@virdocs.com

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lessons from the magazine industry

The NY Post recently featured an article about the decline of magazine sales.
In 2011, overall newsstand sales of magazines declined by 10 percent, capping off three straight years of decline. Magazine publishers are currently faced with a shrinking industry, and many are indeed turning to digital sales. 45 percent of magazines titles are now in digital format.
One quote in the piece caught our attention in paticular.  It reads, “If you’re not thinking about how to creatively destroy your business and recreate it, you’re in trouble because someone else is thinking about it.”  It is a good lesson for college stores to hear and consider.

The magazine industry is undergoing transition and upheaval as organizations try to bridge the gap from traditional paper to new electronic formats -- formats that are still somewhat "in development."  The changes reported in the story are not unlike those facing other industries along a spectrum:  the newspaper industry, the music industry, and the college textbook industry or publishing in general.  The traditional core products and revenue generation models are changing and those wishing to survive must learn to adapt.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Grow Custom: AcademicPub

Today’s Grow Custom highlighted sponsor is Academic Pub (CAMEX Booth #7028).  CAMEX is now about one week away.  Please be sure to visit the Grow Custom sponsors and learn more about where custom is headed so that you can think about the custom course material strategy for your campus.

 1)            What do you see as the future of custom course materials?
Our message has always been simple to higher education professionals: your book, your way. And through experience we know that means the future of custom course materials lies in lower prices and the largest possible selection of up-to-the-minute materials for students. Furthermore, ease of use, quality, and efficient distribution methods will continue to grow in importance.

2)            What role do you see for stores with custom course materials in the future?
Custom course materials are growing at a faster rate than the overall textbook market.  So, as custom materials increase proportionally they will help drive traffic into stores.  We also anticipate bookstore staff and management will be in a position to provide specific assistance to faculty in the development of their custom textbooks and the smarter stores will thus provide a level of 'service' for faculty that will help grow the proportion of custom materials used on campus.  A virtuous circle: the more store management support faculty in building custom materials (using platforms like AcademicPub) the more custom materials are sold in the bookstore and the better are the prospects for the campus store long term.
3)         What makes your product or service unique?  What products or services do you offer in this space?
AcademicPub is unique in its ability to aggregate pre-cleared content from many different publishers in a manner that’s not only self-service (although with ample support if requested), but easy. The inclusion of real-time copyright clearance for articles outside of the Library increases the breadth of content that can be provided immensely. At the same time this allows professors to be highly selective in creating textbooks that only have the necessary information, and this lowers costs and thereby increases the likelihood that students will actually purchase the assigned material…and learn!
4)         Who should stores contact for more information?

Todd Anderson will be attending CAMEX and would love to hear from you, you can e-mail him at toddande@gmail.com

Alternatively, our Customer Service staff is ready to help:  1-888-212-3120

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ten Things Stores Can Do

With the ICBA meeting just past us, and CAMEX just a couple weeks away, I thought now might be a good time to highlight Jeff Nelson's recommendations for "Ten Things Stores Can Do To Drive the Course Materials Future." The list originally appeared on the ICBA blog a few months ago, and I have been meaning to blog on it for a while. Across the documents I have seen Jeff produce, I continually admire much his careful thinking and way of capturing ideas in a parsimoneous way -- while still hitting the important stuff.  The full essay is worth the read. 
Here is the original introduction:
Those without the experience of working outside the institution can easily overlook the established advantages we can capitalize upon, campus services that can be enhanced, and value-added strengths that can be built upon. The basics include offering convenience and customer service, facilitating communication with faculty and students, collaborating with strategic partners, managing consolidated transactions, and controlling costs.
While offering valued services to faculty, students, administrators, and other course material stakeholders proves competency, capability, and credibility, this is not enough. To ensure a position of strength for the course materials future, collegiate retailers must consider forward thinking strategies and be open to new ways of thinking. The list that follows represents contemporary actions that can be taken to drive the future of course materials.
Here is the list:
     1. Think & Read Strategically.
     2. Pursue Digital Options.
     3. Pursue Textbook Affordability Initiatives.  
     4. Engage Actively with Higher Ed.
     5. Seek Collaborative Opportunities.
     6. Consider Alternative Success Measures.
     7. Seek Customer Satisfaction & Loyalty
     8. Track Market Share Not Just Top Line Revenue.
     9. Don't Be Afraid to Act Decisively.
     10. BE Your Future.

This is a great list, with even better content to go with it.  The full essay should be required reading for most stores.  #10 really sums the others up though.  There are basic business practices we should be engaged in because they are the right thing to do -- both as mission-driven organizations, and business managers concerned with providing value to our stakeholders -- starting with students and faculty.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Grow Custom: LAD Custom Publishing

Today's Grow Custom highlight is on LAD Custom Publishing (CAMEX Booth #5003).

1)      What do you see as the future of custom course materials?
LAD is very optimistic about custom materials for the future. It's a huge benefit for the professors and students, as well as the bookstores. You'll  never hear a student complaining that the professor only used 3 chapters out of a 15 chapter book. We're already seeing many new faculty make the switch to custom as the processes to do this have become much easier over the years. The digital migration has begun as well and we're helping many faculty and bookstores make the transition. Don't get left behind and choose partners that are willing to keep the bookstore as the main channel for content.

2)      What role do you see for stores with custom course materials in the future?
 LAD has always viewed the bookstore as the key channel to distribute content and we still believe that's true today and in the future. We'd like to see bookstores get much more aggressive on campus in providing information to administrators, IT and faculty about digital content and how the bookstore can facilitate the process. There are many companies like LAD that will partner with bookstores to be the expert on custom and digital on their behalf. You are the "expert" so just let everyone on campus know about it.

3)      What makes your product or service unique?  What products or services do you offer in this space?
LAD has always been known for great customer service,  high quality printed material and on time delivery, but we want bookstores to know that we can also assist them in delivering content in several different digital formats. We have a very simple solution for delivering course materials online as well as a branded iPad App that allows our bookstore partners to compete with anyone on campus trying to by-pass them. We handle all copyrights and payment of royalties, communicate with your faculty, deliver a branded print, digital or print+digital format and we still offer the industry's only true 100% Return Policy.

4)      Who should stores contact for more information?
We'd love to see you at our booth so stop by 5003 and say hello. We'll show you why over 550 campuses nationwide trust LAD for all their custom needs. Please contact Lance Liggin for more info at: lliggin@ladcustompub.com or toll free 877-318-8800. Our website is: www.ladcustompub.com

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Six Technologies to watch for by the 2012 Horizon Report

The latest Horizon Report for Higher Education (2012) is out.  The annual report identifies emerging technologies that are likely to have a significant impact over the next five years in higher education. 

According to the most recent 2012 report, mobile apps and tablet computing are expected to be a mainstream for higher education institutions within the next twelve months.  This is not a surprise and what this means is students are accessing learning materials through many devices.  Laptops still remains the most popular learning tool for the campus, but other devices are beginning to gain traction.  Other than content delivery, this also provides opportunities for stores to making available the myriad of accessories related to these devices.

In two to three years out, the report predicts game-based learning and learning analytics in higher education will become more prevalent.  Right now, publishers and e-textbook providers are gathering data on how students are using digital materials and when that data becomes available there will definitely be a shift to different learning styles.  It will be easier in the future for institutions and other companies to make the connection between course material selections (and faculty performance) to student outcomes.
Four to five years away, gesture-based computing and The Internet of Things will be widely adopted, according to the report.  Gesture-based computing is basically controlling a computer or handheld device using the motion of the body.  The Internet of Things is basically having all the devices connected seamlessly.  So for example, being able to control your household appliance from work or simply monitoring your house through your smartphone is what is catching the attention of the higher Ed market.

For those who remember, E-texts and mobile computing topped last year's list.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Inkling Announces New Publishing Tool

Inkling recently announced the launch of their new Inkling Habitat, an e-book publishing tool.  According to the company, the new tools are more versatile, faster, and have more interactive capabilities than Apple’s iBooks Author.  The functions of Habitat include 3-D rendering, guided tours, HD Videos, interactive quizzes, and more.  What the company claims is amazing about Habitat is that with a click of the button it can push updates to every target platform at once, with customized, device-specific layouts.  It also allows for collaborative authoring since all work is taking place in the cloud.  Inkling will be offering Habitat products and services to publishers.

This is not a tool for stores, so why should we care?  Well, such tools continue to make it easier to create and package Native Digital content for course materials.  One thing disruptive technologies do when entering an industry is make the prior process or approach easier, faster, cheaper, or just plain better.  These and similar technologies could represent a shift in how course materials are created by publishers in the future.  Stores must ultimately determine how they gain access to and then help sell or distribute the content that tools like these produce. 

On the Inkling side, as we see them do more work with retailers, it could provide a future opportunity that allows the store to help faculty create more Native Digital content.  At the same time, Inkling has mostly been on Apple devices up to this point.  If they are going to start producing content, particularly educational content, for other platforms it raises the risk that they may need to do more direct work themselves to address accessibility requirements and concerns. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Grow Custom: Cengage Learning

Once again we are highlighting one of the sponsors for the NMS Grow Custom initiative.  Today’s highlight is on Cengage Learning (CAMEX Booth #4414).  If you are attending CAMEX please remember to visit the Grow Custom sponsors and stop by the NMS area within the Opportunity Hub to learn more about this initiative.

1)      What do you see as the future of custom course materials?
We expect even more faculty to want to adopt course materials that are customized to fit their syllabus.  We are currently starting to experience faculty demand for customized digital content as well as print.

2)      What role do you see for stores with custom course materials in the future?
Given the great advantages that stores realize from custom materials – especially the excellent student sell-through – we expect more and more stores will work with publishers to identify the best custom opportunities on their campuses (those traditional adoptions with low sell-through) as targets to reinvent as custom.  Stores will also partner with publishers to emphasize the student and faculty value through in-class and in-store marketing.

3)      What makes your product or service unique?  What products or services do you offer in this space?
Cengage Learning recently installed state-of-the-art printing capability in the distribution center which is designed to reduce turnaround time on custom titles.  Cengage Learning also has twice the return limit on custom as compared to our competitors (20% vs. 10%) even though the actual returns rate has remained below 10% in spite of larger initial orders from stores.  This reflects the excellent student sell-through that stores are experiencing with custom materials.

4)      Who should stores contact for more information?
Please contact Susan Stout, Cengage Learning’s College Store Marketing Manager at susan.stout@cengage.com, or contact your Cengage Learning reps for more information and to work together to drive more mutually-beneficial custom business.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

BISG Presents Data on Higher Ed Textbook Market

Here are some recent statistics that came out the Book Study Industry Group (BISG) Making Information Pay in Higher Education conference last week. 

Overall, the higher education textbook market saw a decrease of 2.5%, the first decline in six years.  It was noted that the recent numbers did not capture some of the e-commerce companies.

Kelly Gallagher from Bowker reported that about 5% to 7% of the e-textbook market is digital, versus the 15% to 20% that many major trade publishers reported.  Gary
Shapiro from Follet Higher Education Group reported that sales of e-books are less than 5% of its revenue but this is misleading because it does not account for digital sold in a bundle which makes up 25% of its textbook revenue.  Follett also saw growth in interactive digital textbook at around 5% and expects that segment to grow the most in the future.  Cafescribe, Follett’s online textbook business estimated to be at $400 million is the 56th largest e-commerce in the U.S.

Kent Freeman from VitalSource Technologies, Inc. reported on data they collected which found that e-textbooks are available for a course 23% of the time, 53% sometimes, 9% rarely, and not available 14% of the time.

Some of the stats reported here and others presented at the meeting reinforce that the availability and impact of digital is growing.  It also points to "PDF equivalents" being less attractive and that the future will be more the "native digital" -- course materials that are part of an integrated learning solution with interactive components that enhance student learning skills or outcomes.  The true volume of digital being sold, often as part of a package, suggests growing penetration of technology-based course materials solutions. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Grow Custom: McGraw-Hill

Next in our continuing series on the Grow Custom Initiative, today's highlighted sponsor is McGraw Hill (CAMEX Booth

1)         What do you see as the future of custom course materials?

The adoption and use of custom course materials will continue to increase rapidly because custom course materials can better meet the needs of students and instructors. Instructors can combine their own materials with publishers’ content to create custom course materials that meet the specific needs of their courses. Custom materials allow students to purchase only the materials they actually need for a course.

2)         What role do you see for stores with custom course materials in the future?

Because custom materials are customized for a specific course at a specific school, the best (sometimes only) place for a student to acquire them is their college bookstore. Online and national distributors will not carry custom materials because they cannot be sold at other schools. Students trust the college store to have exactly what they need for their courses, so there is no uncertainty or confusion about which product to buy. Stores are trusted by faculty as well and are a valuable resource when working with instructors to customize course materials.

3)         What makes your product or service unique?  What products or services do you offer in this space?

Our Create custom book-builder product offers instructors the ability to create their own customized textbooks. Create includes McGraw-Hill content as well as valuable “Special Collection” content from third-party sources. Instructors may also upload their own content and include it in their custom text. Create is the easiest custom publishing site available today, with an intuitive and clean user interface. In addition to create, McGraw-Hill’s Learning Solutions team also offers complete print and digital custom capabilities as well as curriculum design and original content creation services.

4)         Who should stores contact for more information?

Please contact Carter Alligood for more information:

Carter Alligood
Channel Manager
McGraw-Hill Higher Education
1333 Burr Ridge Parkway
Burr Ridge, IL 60525

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

E-books and Tablet Rental Pilot

Augustana College experiments with Kindle Fire rental program to deliver e-textbook, according to this article. The college is charging $35 a term to rent a Kindle Fire, and the cost of purchasing the books they'll need is about $18. The print versions of the books cost about $40.  This will be an interesting study to follow since not many schools with e-textbook pilots have included tablet rentals as part of the program, although a number of campuses have given away devices as part of the pilot programs.

This pilot is somewhat reminiscent of earlier e-reader device pilots on campus.  A number of those pilots ended in response to challenges that the devices did not meet accessibility requirements for course materials in the classroom. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Grow Custom: University Readers

In our continuing series on the Grow Custom initiative, today's highlighted sponsor is University Readers (CAMEX Booth 3323 -- New Exhibitor Area).

1) What do you see as the future of custom course materials?

The future would be for providing students and faculty more choice. Today's students are growing up in middle and high school with access to wide variety of educational resources, beyond off-the-shelf textbooks. They will have different expectations about materials, options, and what kinds of tools best mach course objectives. Custom is a natural fit for these new expectations. For faculty, not being bound by pre-set content, and having the flexibility to choose what best aligns with the course, opens the door for creativity and higher engagement. And, technology and publisher awareness is making the process of starting custom much easier. I see a wider adoption of custom as younger faculty matriculate up through the ranks as well, because younger faculty we speak with relish the opportunity to express their points of view.

2) What role do you see for stores with custom course materials in the future?

Stores can be a facilitator, champion, and proponent of custom. Not only is custom is good for the classroom environment, but it's also a value-added service stores can provide to faculty. "Smart custom", materials that are uniquely designed and 100% relevant for the course, create a stronger, recurring revenue stream for the stores, with a product that is relatively closed-circuit. The challenge, of course, is that it's tough to scale a robust marketing and fulfillment operations with custom being only a part of the bookstore services. The bookstores support the entire university for materials and supplies; while custom is a terrific approach to course materials, it also requires some commitment and time-share. We think that closer working relationships with custom partners can be positive, helping stores scale their services and grow custom on their campus.

3) What makes your product or service unique? What products or services do you offer in this space?
University Readers provides full course pack and custom textbook services. Like you'd expect, we do full copyright clearance and indemnification, a variety of print and digital formats (laptops, iPads, droid tablets, etc.), and an exceptional turnaround time of 2-3 weeks. What makes us unique is 3 benefits to stores: 1.) our publisher partnerships, which provide about 120,000 readings from top academic publishers like Routledge, University of Chicago Press, Perseus Books, and more in our online library. Faculty can mix-and-match on content online, and order their course pack; 2.) our one-on-one reference consultation services with faculty, which help bridge syllabi and learning outcomes to readings. This helps bring brand-new faculty to custom; 3.) our targeted marketing approach can find faculty teaching courses more apt to custom, with suggestions for content based on the tens of thousands of readings and projects we've done over the years. We're ready to partner with stores to help them grow custom on their campus.

4) Who should stores contact for more information?
Contact Christopher Foster, General Vice President at cfoster@universityreaders.com, or Mike Simpson, Vice President Sales and Acquisitions at msimpson@universityreaders.com. We will also be at CAMEX and the New Exhibitor Hall at Booth #3323, and presenting ourselves during the Technology Product Spotlight.
Thanks so much!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Robots in Campus Stores

Thinking about 24/7/365 service to students? Buy yourself a robot.  That’s what SUNY New Paltz did.  Well, not really, but close.  This story highlights a self-contained, refrigerated vending machine that looks like an aisle in a supermarket.  The machine offers up to 200 items that are must needs for campus living.  Referred to as the “ultra-convenience store” the system accepts cash, credit cards, dining cards, and flex cards.  The article mentions that there are other university locations including Ohio Northern University.  Perhaps soon we can start offering textbooks this way too. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Faculty Stipend to Create Course Materials

A few months back we posted an article about UMass Amherst giving faculty stipends to create open educational materials, now Temple University is doing something similar.  Details are not clear whether Temple is following an open textbook model but they are encouraging faculty to develop digital alternatives to a traditional textbooks.   Temple is awarding $1,000 grants to faculty to find ways to give students low cost course materials that faculty can build from scratch, according to this story.  One of the goals of the program is to create new kinds of learning experiences while keeping costs down for students.

What’s happening at Temple could be a new trend in higher Ed.  As more downward pressure is put on keeping college affordable faculty and institutions are going to find ways to deliver better quality with less money.   This model is very similar to our message about growing custom course materials that gives the students exactly what they need to succeed in the classroom. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Grow Custom: Flat World Knowledge

Over the next few weeks leading up to CAMEX we will provide a brief highlight on each of the sponsors of the NMS Grow Custom initiative.  Today’s company is Flat World Knowledge (CAMEX Booth 3223 – New Exhibitor Area).

1)   What do you see as the future of custom course materials?
I think the future of custom is unfettered control of classroom content no matter size of your class, your teaching focus, or how that content is delivered.  We believe every instructor’s course is unique, and we believe it is important to give instructors tools that allow that uniqueness to be reflected in their core teaching materials, including their textbook, no matter what format that textbook is needed in.  The key to unleashing that textbook control is license and platform.  Flat World Knowledge is redefining the market for license, formats, and platform.

2)   What role do you see for stores with custom course materials in the future?
Stores will need to continue to evolve to handle all formats.  Print distribution (custom or original) through the on campus store hasn’t worked for the publishers and authors for years.  It’s been a “wack a mole” strategy of publisher vs. bookstore and has been unsustainable for both, and certainly unfulfilling to the student.  So it needs to change.  It’s not clear who will win the battle for digital distribution and/or custom distribution on campus.  While “custom” might help in the battle against the off-campus distributors, it’s likely to create other local distributors who want a piece of the action. 

3)      What makes your product or service unique?  What products or services do you offer in this space?

Our product (MIYO – Make It Your Own) is unique in at least four ways:
·         Unfettered control of content no matter if you have one student or 1,000;
·         DIY platform puts you in charge of your content daily, weekly, monthly, or only once in your lifetime – it’s your book, Make It Your Own!
·         Output in five (5) formats (print and digital) so your students have maximum choice around consumption.
·         Share so others can benefit from your MIYO and also so you as MIYO author can make some money.

4)      Who should stores contact for more information?
Bookstores can call (877) 257-9243 or bookstore@flatworldknowledge.com for more help.  Thanks.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Used Digital Market

No, it’s not what you think.  This new company isn’t about used digital textbooks but used digital music -- but could the idea for one be used for the other?  (At that statement, I am sure there is more than one blanching publisher out there).   The online company Redigi is creating a marketplace for pre-owned digital music.  The company’s proprietary cloud service technology allows for legal transfer of used digital music to a secondary market.

This idea was discussed several years ago for textbooks but did not get any traction as the timing was not right and the technology not quite ready.  Perhaps, the music industry will shed light on the success of this concept to the publishing world.  It is perfectly foreseeable that a student would want to buy a digitally books with underlines and notes on them if the used digital could be sold that way.  Again, it's all about value and choices for students.  What's old could be new again.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Rice Offers OER Textbooks

Rice University announced it will partner with OpenStax College to deliver a free online book for its students.  The textbook is peer-reviewed and designed to compete with major publishers’ offerings.  Using Rice’s Connexions platform, OpenStax will make available free course materials for five common introductory classes.  According to the article, the materials are open to classes anywhere and it could save students $90 million in the next five years if the books capture 10 percent of the national market.   OpenStax is funded by grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the 20 Million Minds Foundation and the Maxfield Foundation.
According to the post, students and professors will be able to download PDF versions on their computers or access the information on a mobile device. Paper editions will be sold for the cost of printing and as an example, a 600-page, full-color sociology book is expected to sell for $30 for those who want a print version -- those wanting digital will pay nothing.  Leading introductory sociology texts routinely cost between $60 and $120 new.
The free textbooks can also be altered by faculty allowing the flexibility to add local content or modify content so it aligns with a faculty member's syllabus.  Another benefit is that the books can be updated constantly, and don’t require a new edition to expand a chapter or correct a typo.
Again, as most of us already know, free is not free.  Here’s a great piece that captures this point by looking at different OER initiatives and the cost associated with it.  Below are some examples.  Would it be more cost effective if the money spent on OER was used to just subsidize books for students, or something more sustainable such as improving supply chain efficiency?
  • Carnegie Mellon OLI:  More than $6.5 million 
  • MIT Open Courseware:  More than $7 million with an annual operating expense of $3.5 million.  MIT requests donations on its website.
  • Yale University’s Open Yale Courses are recorded lectures as taught, and are available in video and audio formats from the Open Yale Courses website. For each course the university Yale has spent $30,000 to $40,000 for each course it puts online.   Yale has approximately 36 courses and has plans to add more. Yale requests donations on its website.
  • Kahn Academy: $16.5 million with a $3 million annual operating budget

Monday, February 6, 2012

The e-book in education: jackpot or snake oil?

The Obama administration recently announced a challenge to schools and companies to get digital textbooks in students' hands within five years.  This is comparable to initiatives in other countries to move to all-digital textbooks -- with prominent examples being South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Bangladesh.  The announcement was made by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski. 

The administration noted that digital books are viewed as a way to provide interactive learning, potentially save money and get updated material faster to students.  "Potentially" is a key word here, as there is little evidence that digital will save money, particularly over the long term.  While there is some evidence that interactive digital tools by some of the traditional textbook publishers do improve learning outcomes, there is still much question about the educational value of technology.  One news story uses the following quote to point out this challenge:
Clifford Stoll, the author of "Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway," may have made the best point for the opposition when he compared computers to the filmstrips of his youth. "We loved them because we didn't have to think for an hour, teachers loved them because they didn't have to teach, and parents loved them because it showed their schools were high-tech. But no learning happened."
The news story goes on to question the true affordability of digital, which requires access to technology which may not be evenly distributed among public schools.  The administration hopes that digital course materials and the technology they run on will become more affordable in coming years. 

According to the original Associated Press story, the government also released a 67-page "playbook" to schools that promotes the use of digital textbooks and offers guidance.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

10 Higher Ed Metatrends

Marking the 10 year anniversary of the Horizon Project, the New Media Consortium recently released a report that identifies 28 important metatrends in technology in education.  The ten most significant are listed here:

1. The world of work is increasingly global and increasingly collaborative. As more and more
companies move to the global marketplace, it is common for work teams to span continents and time zones. Not only are teams geographically diverse, they are also culturally diverse.

2. People expect to work, learn, socialize, and play whenever and wherever they want to.
Increasingly, people own more than one device, using a computer, smartphone, tablet, and ereader. People now expect a seamless experience across all their devices.

3. The Internet is becoming a global mobile network and already is at its edges.
Mobithinking reports there are now more than 6 billion active cell phone accounts. 1.2 billion have mobile broadband as well, and 85% of new devices can access the mobile web.

4. The technologies we use are increasingly cloud-based and delivered over utility networks, facilitating the rapid growth of online videos and rich media. Our current expectation is that the network has almost infinite capacity and is nearly free of cost. One hour of video footage is uploaded every second to YouTube; over 250 million photos are sent to Facebook every day.

5. Openness- concepts like open content, open data, and open resources, along with notions of transparency and easy access to data and information-  is moving from a trend to a value for much of the world. As authoritative sources lose their importance, there is need for more curation and other forms of validation to generate meaning in information and media.

6. Legal notions of ownership and privacy lag behind the practices common in society. In an
age where so much of our information, records, and digital content are in the cloud, and often clouds in other legal jurisdictions, the very concept of ownership is blurry.

7. Real challenges of access, efficiency, and scale are redefining what we mean by quality and success. Access to learning in any form is a challenge in too many parts of the world, and efficiency in learning systems and institutions is increasingly an expectation of governments- but the need for solutions that scale often trumps them both. Innovations in these areas are increasingly coming from unexpected parts of the world, including India, China, and central Africa.

8. The Internet is constantly challenging us to rethink learning and education, while refining
our notion of literacy. Institutions must consider the unique value that each adds to a world in which information is everywhere. In such a world, sense-making and the ability to assess the credibility of information and media are paramount.

9. There is a rise in informal learning as individual needs are redefining schools, universities,
and training. Traditional authority is increasingly being challenged, not only politically and
socially, but also in academia - and worldwide. As a result, credibility, validity, and control are all notions that are no longer givens when so much learning takes place outside school systems.

10. Business models across the education ecosystem are changing. Libraries are deeply
reimagining their missions; colleges and universities are struggling to reduce costs across the board. The educational ecosystem is shifting, and nowhere more so than in the world of publishing, where efforts to reimagine the book are having profound success, with implications that will touch every aspect of the learning enterprise.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

New Mobile Shopping Stats

A new report says more time is spent shopping on tablets than smartphones and PC users.  According to Interactive Advertising Bureau UK, 72 percent of tablet owners use their devices weekly to shop.  The average time spent on shopping on tablets was 4.4 hours compared to 2.2 hours for smartphones and 2.9 hours for PC users.

The survey shows that when people buy physical items, 78% respondents use a PC, 63% use a tablet and 39% use a smartphone.  When purchasing a ticket or service 55% use a tablet, 47% use a PC, and 44% use a smartphone.  Other results from the study include:

o   69% of consumers used a tablet to purchase digital downloads, 43% for PC, 44% for smartphones
o   38% use smartphones in the store with 55% conducting search about a product while in the store
o   49% did a price comparison check
o   27% use the smartphone to find shops in their area
o   24% scanned product for more info
o   20% used an app for more product info

The report’s research director says,
 “The research clearly demonstrates the importance of a cross device digital marketing strategy. The more connected devices consumers own, the more their behaviors change and the more complex their purchasing habits become. Those brands and retailers that can best accommodate this changing dynamic will be best placed to generate new sales and capitalize on consumers’ desire to use their smartphone for research and purchase more in the future.”

The study was conducted using the general consumers college students but it gives us some indication where the trend is headed.   This study means that the next generation of students on campuses will expect and want more services that they can access remotely.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Custom is the Next Rental

There is a great article on the Grow Custom initiative in this today's Campus Marketplace.  The piece compares the current developments in Custom to what occured in college stores with Rental textbooks over the past two years.  Stores are well positioned to retain and grow market share in this space, but as with all things there is a window of opportunity.  

The Grow Custom Sponsor's page is also now live with links to each of the companies who are sponsoring this initiative and their booth number at CAMEX.  Check them out.  The new smart custom and tools to help faculty create them may not be the custom you remember.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Grow Custom Campaign and Initial Sponsors Announced

At NMS we have often in the past spoken about shifting store focus from "margins" to "market share" in recognition that our business environment and core product are changing.  A common question has been, "Well, how do we do that?"  

In response, starting this month and going through the coming year we will be focusing on a Grow Custom, Grow Green  initiative.   Through blog postings here, a range of activities at CAMEX later this month, subsequent webinars, articles, and other communications, NMS will be encouraging stores to explore options to grow the volume of custom course materials and other custom product sold through campus stores.

To be clear, we are not talking about "dumb custom" here, which traditional has been viewed as a poor product, and justifiably so. For more on smart versus dumb custom, please read our prior post on that topic from a couple weeks ago.

The Grow Custom initiative is about growing good value, good products, and good business.

We know that many stores have traditionally resisted custom course materials for a range of reasons.  Today's (and tomorrow's) custom is not what it once was.  The data we are observing suggests that the custom movement, whether stores choose to participate or not, will be larger than the recent shift to rental -- a model which transformed some aspects of the North American college store industry over the past two years.  Stores that forgo engaging in growing custom will see further market share reduction.  Stores cannot pass on this opportunity to help students acquire the "just what you need to succeed" course materials for the classroom.  The future of custom is not just a "win-win" for stores and their communities, but a "win, win, win."

We are NOT alone.
The good news is that there are many companies and organizations -- both old and new to our industry -- which can help stores be more successful with growing custom.  Even better, they recognize the value of the college store in the custom equation. 

NMS is excited to announce our first TEN sponsor partners of the Grow Custom initiative.  At CAMEX they will be highlighting their solutions and NMS will be coordinating a range of activities to give stores exposure to what is happening in the custom space.  We will soon be providing links to additional information about each of these sponsors and will provide additional information through the NMS website.  We strongly encourage you to take the time to attend product spotlights, visit booths, watch demos, and talk with these organizations about what they are doing in the custom space. 

Our initial 10 sponsors include the following organizations:

We thank these sponsors of the Grow Custom initiative.  At CAMEX and in the coming weeks be prepared to hear more about the Grow Custom initiative and these organizations.  Watch for more information throughout this month and 2012.  Be sure to check out our sponsors of this initiative at a later date, and view the NMS Grow Custom information page often as information about our sponsors and other opportunities or resources will be added regularly.  You can also complete an Interest in Participation Form to learn more about this or other current NMS initiatives.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Freeing books using Crowdfunds

Here a story about a new company using crowd funded approach to putting books under Creative Commons licenses.   The company allows individuals or institutions to join together to pay rights holders to re-license the works under a CC license.

In this process, the book’s digital rights holder sets the price to make a book as a Creative Commons, DRM-free e-book.   Then the company starts a crowd funding campaign to raise money to set the book “free.”  Once the money is raised the book is released and the company takes a commission.

Not sure that this business model will work beyond a select set of content, but it is yet another interesting twist on the content market.