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, April 30, 2012

OpenStax Helps Steamline Open Ed

It seems there’s news of another open education resource (OER) initiative every other day. All show promise at providing students with quality material at little or no cost. Now, Rice University has launched its OpenStaxCollege program to make the process easier for students and faculty.

“We realized that if the open ed movement was ever going to go mainstream, it needed to cross this chasm, and it needed to evolve in a way that isn’t just focused on sharing,” said Richard Baraniuk, the Rice professor who founded the open education initiative Connexion, in Campus Technology. “There needs to be a focus on creating quality, turnkey, adoptable solutions.”

The answer to Baraniuk is free materials written by professional content developers, that go through peer and classroom review, and include ancillary items such as PowerPoint presentations, tests, and homework keys. Faculty using the materials are urged to report errors they can be constantly updated and can customize the information to suit their needs.

“The problem is that there’s not enough open ed recourses in people’s hands yet,” he said. “We first need to get books into people’s hands; then we can get faculty on board with customizing their books. Ultimately, we’ll be moving from a world of better access and cheaper materials to a world of vastly improved learning outcomes.”

Friday, April 27, 2012

Merging Content Approaches Can Lower Textbook Costs

College stores know all too well that students complain about the prices of textbooks. They’ve been doing it for years, but the noise has gotten much louder over the last decade—so loud that state and national legislators keep churning out laws and regulations in an effort to provide solutions.

Advances in technology have only increased the amount of criticism because most assumed that digital would automatically reduce costs. It hasn’t turned out that way because those assumptions never considered the price of content, according to Caroline Vanderlip, CEO of SharedBook Inc., in this Inside Higher Education essay. The prices have students staying away from digital format, when the cost is nearly the same as the printed version and rental is available as an option.

Some see potential in open educational resources to lower costs, but there’s work to be done in developing a system that delivers both the “free and open” OER content and commercially produced materials to students.

Vanderlip says merging traditional and free content has the best chance to make a quick impact on textbook pricing. Such merging would allow students to purchase only the material an instructor deems necessary, which would lower costs regardless of the format.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Readers Browsing Library E-Book Catalogs in Drives

Studies continue to show that college students have yet to warm up to e-textbooks.

That’s not necessarily the case for the general reading public, according to the Big Data report released at the London Book Fair by OverDrive. In the study, the distributor of e-books, digital audiobooks, music, and video found that more than five million visitors browsed its catalogs in libraries around the world. The catalogs logged more than 408,000 visits each day, with viewers looking at 11.6 pages for an average of nine minutes, 34 seconds.

According to the study, nighttime is the right time for browsing, with the 8-9 p.m. window the most popular hour, followed by the 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. windows. Nearly half of all e-book readers (49%) did their browsing on Windows computers. Apple iOS devices, such as iPhones and iPads, were a strong second at 28% of users, with Android devices used by just 5% of visitors.

“This report gives a sample overview of the type of data we’re collecting, and we’ll customize future reports to meet the individual needs of our library and publisher partners,” said Michael Lovett, an OverDrive spokesperson. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Print Preferred by College Instructors

Students are not the only ones on campus reluctant to embrace digital course materials. A new study from the Book Industry Study Group and Bowker Market Research found that print is the format of choice for faculty as well as for students.

In Faculty Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education, a survey of college faculty perceptions on classroom materials, 93% of the instructors surveyed equated success in the classroom to use of assigned materials. However, only 32% of faculty make e-book options available and just 2% of students select that format.

Comparing the faculty survey with BISG’s Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education survey shows just 12% of faculty prefer digital to print, while 16% of students would choose electronic options. The faculty research also suggests a high level of satisfaction with e-textbooks once they are adopted. Of the 20% of faculty members who reported using digital course materials, 90% said they were likely to adopt an e-text in the future.

“The emergence of e-books has led to a lot of confusion in the marketplace about what faculty want from publishers,” said Angela Bole, BISG’s deputy executive director. “While students may be the ultimate consumers of course materials, professors are not only influencers, they are decision-makers. Understanding where they fit on the e- vs. print continuum is essential for any organization serving this market.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lexington Passes New "E-Literacy" Test

Priceonomics, a San Francisco online firm that offers price-searching and price comparisons, recently posted on its site results of its “e-literacy” study in the United States.

It turns out that Lexington, KY, and Ann Arbor, MI, are the “most electronically literate places in America,” based on Priceonomics’ database of eight million electronics for sale by city. The company looked at the sales figures of Amazon Kindles in each city, then found the results didn’t change when sales of the Nook e-reader were examined. The data also suggest dedicated e-readers are not a big part in the total landscape of consumer electronics and sales of the Kindle barely register on the resale market that Priceonomics tracks.

One thing that did stand out was that major metropolitan cities, such as San Francisco and Seattle, were soundly beaten by midsized cities in the Midwest and South when it comes to e-literacy.

Washington, D.C., was the largest city in the Top 10. Washington was also named the most literate city in America for the second straight year in a study released earlier this year by Central Connecticut State University. The CCSU research was based on very different criteria, including data on the number of bookstores, library resources, newspaper circulations, and Internet resources for each city. Seattle finished second in the CCSU study, compared to a distant 43rd in the Priceonomics data.

College towns also appear to have an edge when it comes to Kindle ownership, while the Kindle was the least popular in places with the best weather. That brings to mind the old adage about statistics: They can mean pretty much anything you like. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Stores Need Ways to Join E-Text Discussion

Educause added to its “7 Things You Should Know About…” series, this time focusing on the evolution of textbooks. The PDF offers the scenario of an art teacher who receives help creating “textbooks” that are animated and interactive. The brochure discusses the many new ways to craft an interactive book and the implications this type of resource has for teaching and learning.

A number of colleges and universities have already begun exploring some of the many tools now available for creating media-rich formats for both iOS and Android devices. Boston College, the University of New Mexico, and English students at Montclair State University are all working on iBooks Author projects. Instructional technologists at Chatham University are designing a text on the Vook platform, while those at Michigan State University are developing open-source options on an HTML5 framework.

College stores appear to remain largely out of the loop so far, but Services is one of the four core retail requirements of the College Store of 2015 and a possible way for stores to become part of the interactive textbook discussion. Store staffers can become the go-to sources on campus for things such as technology. Take the time to understand how these online publishing tools work and offer that expertise to faculty.

Legal Experts Question Antitrust Claims Against Apple

After weeks of hints, the U.S. Department of Justice finally brought antitrust charges against Apple and the publishing industry over the agency pricing model for electronic books. Apple, Macmillan, and the Penguin Group were hit with lawsuits April 11 claiming they conspired to raise retail e-book prices and limit competition in the market. The DOJ also announced it had settled the same complaint with Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster.

Then on April 18, the Toronto Globe & Mail reported a class action suit is being filed in British Columbia charging Apple, the publishing companies, and their Canadian subsidiaries of fixing e-book pricing.

The complaints have caused a predictable stir around the industry. Some argue that agency pricing forces consumers to pay more for their e-books than necessary. Others claim the pricing model actually created competition and the DOJ move only makes it easier for Amazon to finish off its opposition, namely the other publishers and booksellers big and small.

Amazon has been pretty quiet about the whole thing, although it has announced a new round of aggressive price cuts on e-book titles. That has many predicting a new round of doom-and-gloom for booksellers, as well as the suggestion it might ultimately lead to a DOJ investigation into monopoly claims against the retail giant.

The really interesting twist to the current debate is experts saying Apple will likely win its part of the case.

“The case against Apple will be more difficult to prove given that Apple was a new competitive entrant into that market and was trying to find a way to compete with a dominant market player, Amazon,” attorney David Vance Lucas told MacNewsWorld. “Apple’s attempt to enter the market actually was pro-competitive, long term.”

Apple also appears to have legal precedents on its side and wants its day in court. The DOJ had to admit its 1982 antitrust case against IBM was “without merit” and federal appeals courts ruled against the DOJ when it tried to use antitrust laws to split Microsoft into two companies.
“The DOJ knows its case is not a slam-dunk, so, all things being equal, might very well prefer not to go to court, so you would expect there to be continued discussions between the holdout publishers, Apple and the DOJ over terms of settlement they could all accept,” said Geoffrey Manne, executive director of the International Center for Law and Economics.

One question remains: What does this all mean to the average reader?

First, e-book readers will likely see lower prices, but probably not until June, the earliest that the DOJ settlement with Simons & Schuster, Hachette, and HarperCollins can go into effect, according to an article in paidcontent.org. In addition, all the legal sparring does not mean an end to agency pricing because the model was not declared illegal, just the way it was created.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Back on Track

It took a bit longer than planned, but the hiatus for The CITE is over.

Mark Nelson gave his reasons why he was passing the blog he created over to the publications team of the National Association of College Stores in this space yesterday. The publications team has helped Mark in the past and looks forward to keeping this blog useful to its readers. But taking over is quite a responsibility, especially considering the thousands of visitors who have made it one of the top textbook blogs over the last four years.

Cindy Ruckman, publications director; Michael von Glahn, editor of The College Store magazine; Dan Pender, news editor of Campus Marketplace, the e-newsletter of NACS; and Dan Angelo, assistant editor, will all post to the blog. Mark will continue to contribute as time allows and the mood strikes.

Our focus will be on information and ideas to serve our NACS members. Our hope is that those reports will continue to be of interest to all readers of The CITE. We encourage you to participate with your comments and suggestions, and look forward to your feedback and ideas that will help us better serve your needs.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Passing the Torch

Hi Everyone,

Let me begin by saying thank you to all of the regular and occasional readers of this blog.  The CITE turns 4 this week, and in the past 4 years we have had 1240 posts, and more than 73,000 visitors from 175 different countries.  We received recogition as being among the top textbook blogs, and I have appreciated the many kind emails and comments people have shared with me about how they enjoy reading The CITE. 

When the blog began, there was little news and discussion out there about the future of course materials.  Now that discussion appears to be everywhere, and new informational items come out a few times a day. It is hard for anyone to deny that that the transition is underway.

As the volume of activity increases, I have found it increasingly dificult to keep up with blog posts on a regular basis.  Thus, I have decided that it is time to "pass the torch" and step down from managing The CITE. 

Within the near future the NACS publication team will take over as owners of the CITE.  They have an excellent staff of writers and they follow developments in this space quite effectively.  They will ensure that The CITE remains a useful resource for folks looking to understand or have awareness of the latest course material and retail technology innovations. I am sure the blog will continue to be as good -- and most likely even better -- under their ownership. 

It has been a great four years and I hope this resource has been valuable to many of you.  Thank you again for your continued readership. 

Keep innovating!