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

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Surveys Show Digital Migration on the Rise

The latest information released from the Book Industry Study Group’s Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education survey shows that students’ textbook rentals and online purchases are up, while the college store share of course material sales slipped.

The study reported that 11% of students in the survey were renting textbooks, a three-point rise from 2011. The number purchasing new textbooks slipped from 59% to 55%. At the same time, the Amazon share rose from 25% to 31%.

In addition, almost 48% of students said integrated learning systems help more with studying, compared to 45% using printed textbooks and 37% using e-textbooks.

“Our research shows that students are looking for greater value from their textbook-purchasing dollar,” said Angela Bole, deputy executive director of BISG. “How they define ‘value’ is rapidly evolving as they’re exposed to new services and products.”

CourseSmart also released information on students’ reliance on technology. The company’s survey showed that of the more than 500 college students responding, 98% use their electronic device for school and 67% can’t go for more than an hour without using digital technology.

The CourseSmart survey found that students are more likely to bring a laptop to class than a printed book by a 51% to 39% margin. It also showed that 58% of the students in the survey have taken an online course, 79% have submitted assignments online, and 71% have taken a test or quiz online.

“The survey underscores the undeniable influence technology has on today’s college experience,” said Sean Devine, CEO of CourseSmart. “As technology continues to evolve and digital devices become integral to the evolution of higher education, it’s encouraging to see the positive impact on learning outcomes as students utilize advanced devices and digital course materials to streamline and improve their learning environment.”

The OnCampus Research study, Student Watch 2012: Student Attitudes and Perceptions found that just 17% of students surveyed currently own an e-reading device and that 62% of those who own the gadget bought it for leisure reading, compared to just 39% using it for school. Additionally, just seven percent of the students who currently do not own an e-reader have plans to buy one in the near future.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Is Google Getting into the Tablet Business?

While some may question why, rumors are heating up that Google is set to launch its own tablet computer soon. Reports claim Google is working with Samsung on source code for the device, which will use the Nexus operating system.

Questions about the Google initiative revolve around the fact that Android devices are not doing well in the market. The Amazon Kindle Fire sold briskly during the holidays, but sales have fallen off from that point. In the meantime, the Apple iPad continues to dominate with no end of sales growth in sight.

Another problem facing Google is a lack of Android applications for users to download. And it remains to be seen whether Google can fight off Amazon, or Verizon for that matter, for those Android app customers in the first place.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Debating the Right Price for E-Books

There’s clearly a cost associated with producing an e-book, but does anyone, other than publishers, really care?

Author Chuck Wendig makes that case on his blog, terribleminds, while Matthew Ingram said e-book costs don’t matter in GigaOm and Mike Masnick wrote that nobody cares about the “fixed costs of books, movies, whatever” in his TechDirt blog. It’s not hard to see their point, considering Amazon’s aggressive e-book pricing policies, coupled with the assumption many consumers have that publishers have cut their manufacturing and distribution costs yet are still trying to keep e-book prices near that of a printed book.

But there are real costs of publishing that can’t be brushed aside so easily, according to Ryan Chittum, deputy editor of the business section in the Columbia Journalism Review. It’s a balancing act between paying expenses and offering a price consumers are willing to pay.

“In reality, as in theory, the market for books is only so big—we only have so much time—so a 99-cent price point might move a lot of units, but not enough to justify the cost of production,” Chittum wrote. “Obviously, a $50 price point would crush sales and also bring in much less revenue overall.”

The thing is, e-book pricing really isn’t different from any other pricing strategy. Consumers always look for the best price and a good value. It’s up to the publishing industry to find a way to deliver that value and make money at the same time.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Leadership in Technology

This video, entitled Educational Leadership & Technology Integration: An Investigation into Preparation, Experiences, and Roles takes a brief look at current educational training in technology and finds it lacking.

It also provides information from a survey of administrators and teacher leaders that suggest states should demand administrators have a better understanding of the uses of technology. The video is quick (just two minutes) and very quiet.

Have a wonderful and safe Memorial weekend.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

True Cost of iPad Textbooks Considered

A couple of months ago, an infographic from the San Jose Mercury News detailed the cost of switching students from traditional textbooks in four core secondary school courses to two digital books through Apple’s iBooks. The graphic showed how using the iPad textbook program would cost an estimated $36,000 over four years, more than three times the amount spent for print books over a six-year stretch.

About the same time, Lee Wilson, president and CEO of PCI Education, used a graph in one of his blogs that showed the annual cost of a printed textbook per student per class was $14.26, while the iText would cost a school $71.55 per student. It’s not that Wilson was against using the technology in the classroom. He was just pointing out how unrealistic it is to think schools have the funds to implement such a program.

In a later post, Wilson noted that the actual difference in cost may actually be even higher. One reader pointed out that the lifespan of an iPad is closer to two years than four, while another questioned Wilson’s initial assumption that five books would be used by a student during a school year, saying seven or eight is much more likely.

Wilson says he would like to make the case for digital in the classroom as a powerful learning tool that is worth the cost. But he’s quick to point out that objective data on improved outcomes is only just becoming available.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ruling Handed Down in GSU Copyright Case

A ruling in the copyright infringement suit against Georgia State University was announced May 11, with the judge rejecting 95% of the specific readings challenged by the publishers that took GSU to court.

The judge also outlined the ways institutions can continue to cite the “fair use” doctrine when making electronic copies of material for use in classes and rejected publishers’ contentions about how to regulate e-reserves. However, she also imposed strict limits about how much of a book may be covered by fair use and that a publisher may have claims against university e-reserves if that publisher offers reasonably priced systems for getting permission to use book excerpts online.

Examinations of the decision started almost immediately. Kevin Smith, the scholarly communications officer at Duke University, blogged about the decision mere hours after it was released. Posts also appeared on the Inside Higher Education web site from editor Scott Jaschick and Barbara Fister, a librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College, before the sun was up on Mother’s Day morning. The Chronicle of Higher Education also chimed in.

Appeals appear to be certain, but in the meantime, neither side goes away completely happy with the decision.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bad E-Book News or Just a Quiet News Day?

News from the e-book industry hasn’t been all that rosy of late. Profits are down at Harlequin, the Association of American Publishers announced numbers for e-book growth in February that were less than expected, Simon & Schuster digital sales continue to decline, and even sales of the Kindle Fire from mighty Amazon fell off in the first quarter of 2012.

Is this a harbinger of things to come, or just evidence of a slow news period in the digital market?

“I’m not hearing alarm bells from publishers yet, so I can’t say whether there is an overall softening or just unevenness in the data or just that each of these things is potentially explainable as due to circumstances specific to the players involved,” said James McQuivey, principal analyst at Forrester who covers the book industry, in this article from Digital Book World.

In the first place, those huge increases the e-book market was seeing could not last forever, said Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publishing services at Bowker Market Research. He also opined that the new group of e-book consumers may not be as devoted to e-reading as early adopters.

“The early-adopter, heavy book buyers who make up over 60% of volume of all e-book sales have continued to slow in their migration to digital,” said Gallagher. “Without the ongoing influx of these key buyers, the market is more reliant on a greater increase of casual to moderate buyers to move the needle.”

In addition, a recent study by the Book Industry Study Group suggests consumers are buying more tablets than e-readers, but are not buying e-books at the same pace as those who read on dedicated e-readers. Over the last six months, consumer preference for e-readers has slipped from 72% to 58%.

“Tablets will adversely affect the e-book business in that the tablet is a multifunction device and will therefore draw the reader into nonbook activities and therefore cause them to consume books slower and therefore buy fewer books vs. a single-function e-reading device,” said Gallagher.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Inkling, Follett Deal Expands Store Reach

Inkling set out to reinvent the way people learn. The San Francisco-based start-up wanted to create a better, interactive, and engaging textbook by taking advantage of new technology the Apple iPad provided.

Now, Inkling is teaming with Follett Higher Education Group on a distribution partnership that will make hundreds educational titles available online and in Follett-managed campus stores. Inkling also provides content through Verba, an NMS partner, making its titles available to any store that uses the Verba price-comparison tools.

The new Inkling agreement provides students with the option to buy entire Follett e-titles or use Inkling’s “Pick 3” pricing method that allows the purchase of just three digital chapters instead of the entire book, along with the flexibility to pay for the titles using financial aid or campus cards.

For the moment, only students using iOS devices, such as the iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, will be able to access the titles. But Inkling is working on an HTML5 application that will expand availability to other gadgets.

“I think the important part here is that Inkling is making its content available via stores,” said Mark Nelson, chief information officer at NACS and vice president of NACS Media Solutions. “Previously, it was only available from them directly or through the Apple channel. It is an interesting example of a company who has become more in favor of working with the stores once they learned more about us as a retail channel. There are other avenues through which they can reach stores as well—and if they want their content adopted, ultimately they need some help from the stores.”

Friday, May 18, 2012

McGraw-Hill President Talks e-Books

Textbooks have been part of Brian Kibby’s life for most of his professional career. As president of McGraw-Hill Education, Kibby’s thoughts on textbooks, and particularly e-textbooks, carries significant weight. Kibby recently sat down with John Biggs, editor of TechCrunch.com, for a video interview for TCTV.

He’s ready to embrace the future of bookless learning where costs are reduced and learning is improved.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Blogger Weighs in on E-Book 'Rush'

The CITE featured a blog from University of Virginia professor Daniel Willingham who wondered what the rush is to adopt digital course materials (scroll down to May 8). His point was that course materials are more difficult to read than books for pleasure. Besides, digital he added textbooks aren’t much cheaper than print editions in the first place.

That post brought a reply that led to a different and perhaps more cynical conclusion on the reasons behind the push for digital. This blogger questions why both the federal and state governments are pushing digital materials so hard and finds the answer in big business. He says he wants to believe that all the legislation is about making things better for students, but is concerned it’s just about money for publishers.

“The thing is, if my conclusion about how digital textbooks got so hot so fast (is right), then it raises serious doubts as to whether they really have so many virtues,” writes Nate Hoffelder. “What if all the supposed advantages of digital textbooks are really the invention of a sophisticated marketing department and not the observations of enthusiastic adopters?”

Clearly, these are very different points of view. So what’s your thoughts?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Are Libraries Latest Threat to e-Booksellers?

Amazon has been the Goliath of the e-book battleground. Booksellers, publishers, authors, and libraries have all taken turns bemoaning the buying power and aggressive price strategy employed by the Seattle company. But that notion may not be correct any longer, according to Chris Rechtsteiner, blogger and publisher of the weekly newsletter Thinking Out Loud, who suggested four months ago that libraries were the real threat to e-book sales.

Now, Rechtsteiner, who is also the founder and chief strategist for research firm BlueLoop Concepts, says people simply not reading is now the biggest challenge facing booksellers, publishers, and libraries. They’re not reading because there are so many low-cost alternatives to capture their attention, whether accessed via television, tablet, or smartphone.

In a recent post for digitalbookworld.com, he speculated that libraries have dealt with the issue of people not reading for quite some time and have been forced to adapt more quickly. Creating programs to lend e-books and e-readers is the sort of innovation booksellers and publishers have not been doing with the same sense of urgency.

Booksellers and authors are trying, but need help from publishers, according to Rechtsteiner.

“Publishers (both old and new) must step up and provide the platforms (and rights-management frameworks) for innovation needed by booksellers (all types of booksellers) and authors to push reading forward,” he wrote. “If they don’t, publishers will fall by the wayside as true innovation will be limited to a few (one?) large players investing on their own behalf (see Amazon, Barnes & Noble + Microsoft), while authors take their storytelling to completely new platforms that are altogether outside of the bookselling and library frameworks.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cool Hardware Won't Win Educational Tablet War

There’s little debate about the potential electronic devices have in the realm of learning. The problem comes in realizing that potential, says to Mehdi Maghsoodnia, CEO of Rafter, the parent company of BookRenter.com, in this guest post written for Forbes.com.

Cost is one large stumbling block to reaching that potential. At this point, the cost of the device and the educational content assigned doesn’t ensure a savings for students compared to printed textbooks, which is a primary reason why e-books remain less than 5% of all textbook sales.

There is also the issue of supporting the device and getting educators to use digital content effectively.

“Simply putting digital books on a device is not enough to truly digitalize education,” Maghsoodnia writes. “In order to make real inroads at colleges and universities, devices must be accessible for students, and adopted by their professors and administrators.”

Becoming the device of choice for education will not be a race to the coolest features or content. It will be a race to solve the problems of cost and scale to help institutions find their way into the digital future, according to Maghsoodnia.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Amazon Turns its Sights on High Fashion

Chances are this is the first, and last, time high fashion will be discussed on this blog. But it’s a story that bears watching since Amazon is using its “go big and spare no expense” philosophy on the fashion industry.

“It has the latitude to set prices and charge whatever it wants,” Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst for Forrester Research, said of Amazon in The New York Times. “That is a huge threat for brands.”

Sound familiar?

Amazon’s investment of millions into high-end fashion has the potential for much higher gross profit dollars per unit than books or CDs. The company is hiring photographers to produce 3,000 images a day for shoppers to browse. It’s also offering free shipping and returns on apparel to attract online customers to its online storefront. Amazon is working to recruit high-end fashion firms, such as Michael Kors, and was even a sponsor for the Costume Institute Benefit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Many in the industry worry they will not be able to compete with Amazon’s purchasing power and its willingness to undercut traditional retail markups. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezo has said his firm will not take the low-price approach it’s used to disrupt other industries on its high-fashion project, but most are unconvinced.

“A manufacturer does not want to kill a business, and the best way to kill a business is to have the same product selling for less on Amazon,” said Ron Friedman, a retail accountant at Marcum LLP.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Incorrect Metadata Is An Issue for Publishers

Publishers understand the information about their e-books, such as author, title, and ISBN number, needs to be right. But, new Book Industry Study Group findings show that 95% of the metadata publishers use on their e-book titles is incorrect by the time it reaches the point of sales of online booksellers.

The research shows nearly half of the responding publishers use an automated system to check if their metadata on an online site is correct. A third check manually, while a fifth don’t bother to check their information at all. The study also suggests that when publishers are aware their metadata has been changed, about half have no idea where the change has occurred.

“When something is wrong at retail, it can be hard to fix because it isn’t clear where the change took place,” said Brian O’Leary of digital publishing consultancy Magellan Media, who is authoring the study. “If you don’t fix it at the source, it keeps coming back.”

Thursday, May 10, 2012

E-Book Nation

This very cool infographic about the shift from print to digital reading material appeared at Online University.com. Scroll down to find who those e-consumers are, along with statistical information on e-reading habits. Americans seem to like e-readers when they want a book quickly, but still prefer print when reading to their kids or sharing the title.

E-book Nation
Brought to you by: OnlineUniversities.com

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Interest Builds in IU's eText Initiative

A used-textbook market, piracy, and students opting to not buy assigned course materials are issues the Indiana University is addressing with its eText initiative. The solution IU created negotiates deep discounts on textbook list prices from publishers in return for a guarantee that every student will buy the e-text.

The system appears to be working, according to Nik Osborne, chief of staff for IU’s office of the vice president for IT, in this Q&A with Campus Technology. He said he believes the program saves students money and allows publishers and authors a fair price for their work. Other universities around the country are showing interest in setting up a similar NET+ service that provide McGraw-Hill e-texts, Courseload readers, and a platform to add notes, combined with their learning management system.

“We're pretty sure that a shift to digital and print is going to happen,” Osborne said. “It seems to be where the publishers are going. It seems to be where the Department of Education is trying to push people, as the software and the devices get better. There are just going to be things in the next three to five years that you can do on an e-text that you can't do on a textbook. Not only in higher education but in the K-12 market there's going to be even more of a push to digital.”

The college store is not part of Osborne’s equation. Store professionals should be exploring every possible way to leverage their expertise in course material adoptions, coursepacks, retailing electronics, and delivering print-on-demand options to become part of the discussion.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Blogger Wonders What's the Rush to E-Text?

It's probably shouldn't be a surprise that students aren’t flocking to electronic textbooks. After all, most have been handed print textbooks at the beginning of every school year for most of their academic lives. Besides, they are consumers who tend to look for low price first, and e-textbooks don’t always offer much savings.

Now, Daniel Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, weighs in on the subject on his blog. He observes that while popular e-books are written in a narrative style and are read for pleasure, textbooks deal with difficult material that is being read to learn and remember.

Willingham points to research which shows that while all the videos and hyperlinks that e-texts are able to provide can certainly be an advantage to students, they can also be a distractions that actually limit understanding.

He’s not trying to suggest there’s no reason to replace the printed format. He’s just asking what the rush is.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sony Courting Higher Ed Market

Sony Electronics is making its pitch to the higher education market with its Sony Digital Academy, a partnership with nine institutions to “foster and fuel innovative approaches and facilitate new expressive applications of digital media technologies,” according to the Sony press release.

The nine schools participating in the initial stage of the program developed digital projects for the upcoming year which Sony will support with camcorders, computers, cameras, and its tablet device. The schools are:
  • American University, School of Communication, Washington, D.C.
  • Drexel University, Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Philadelphia, PA      
  • New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, New York
  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
  • The Florida State University, College of Motion Picture Arts, Tallahassee
  • UCLA, School of Theater, Film and Television, Los Angeles
  • UC San Diego, Division of Arts and Humanities
  • University of Central Florida, College of Arts & Humanities, Orlando
  • University of Southern California, School of Cinematic Arts, Los Angeles
"The program is designed to expose students to the latest Sony technologies and equipment, building on mutually beneficial goals, in order to help education to stay ahead of the curve and evolve with the ever-changing landscape of technologies," said Steve Zimmer, business development manager at Sony Electronics. "There is a shared commitment and investment with the schools and we will help facilitate the development of production, research and curriculum with new Sony products."

Friday, May 4, 2012

Harvard, MIT Partner on edX

Following on the heels of the MITx online learning project launched last December, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has teamed with its Cambridge, MA, neighbor, Harvard University, to launch a new nonprofit partnership offering free online courses from both schools.

The project, know as edX, is the latest venture into the world of massively open online courses, or MOOCs. Stanford, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan announced in April their partnership with Coursera, a for-profit company that started with Stanford’s experiments in offering free online courses.

“Through this partnership, we will not only make knowledge more available, but we will learn more about learning," Harvard President Drew Faust said at a news conference on edX. “Anyone with an Internet connection anywhere in the world can have access."

MIT and Harvard have each committed $30 million to the project, which will offer its first five courses in the fall. The courses will be free and certificates will be available on completion with no college credits. EdX classes will not only focus on engineering, math, and the sciences, but also include humanities subjects that require grading by peers or essay-grading software.

According to the edX web site, the platform is based on MITx, which offered video lessons, embedded testing, real-time feedback, student-ranked questions and answers, and student-paced learning.

“If I were president of a midtier university, I would be looking over my shoulder very nervously right now, because if a leading university offers a free circuits course, it becomes a real question whether other universities need to develop a circuits course,” said George Siemens in a New York Times article. Siemens is a MOOC innovator teaching at Athabasca University, a Canadian school that offers distance online education. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

TED to the Rescue

TED (technology, entertainment, design) is coming to the aid of teachers who want to use the educational resources on YouTube in their classrooms. TED, a nonprofit organization that promotes ideas through conferences and free online video, has developed a web site that helps instructors find educational videos and provides a tool for “flipping” them.

“Flipping” refers to a blended learning method that makes use of technology to allow instructors more time to interact with students rather than lecture. Students are encouraged to move around the room, helping each other, while teacher-created videos keep the lesson going outside the classroom.

The new site, the second part of an effort called TED-Ed, is a portal that organizes the videos by themes and tags them to traditional subjects taught in school. The site also offers additional material, including multiple-choice questions, open-answer questions, and links to more information.

The site allows instructors to “flip” the videos, or edit them in a way that customizes the lesson. Each flipped video creates a web link for the instructor to distribute the lesson and track student answers.

There’s also a special tool that allows teachers to create a lesson from any video on YouTube that permits third-party embedding. These enhanced videos can be offered for wider distribution and the best will be featured on the TED-Ed site.

“We didn’t want to limit what people might want to use to teach,” Long Smalley, TED-Ed director, said in an article that appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Breathing Room for B&N in Microsoft Deal

The partnership between Barnes & Noble and Microsoft is providing the bookseller with an infusion of capital it needs and the software giant with the foothold in the e-book and college textbook market it wants.

The deal calls for a new B&N subsidiary formed by spinning its digital and B&N College Booksellers divisions together into a new company, temporarily named Newco. Microsoft is investing $300 million into Newco for a 17.6% equity stake.

The infusion of money will allow B&N to grow its e-book business, while at the same time fending off shareholder calls for it to sell the Nook business or the whole company. In addition, it ends speculation that B&N doesn’t have the funds to go head to head with Amazon.com in the e-book business.

“Our biggest concern for Barnes & Noble has been its ability to compete against Apple and Amazon, two of the deepest-pocketed players in the technology and media world,” said Matthew Fassler, a Goldman Sachs analyst. “Newco now has an equally deep-pocketed partner.”

The investment also gives Microsoft a path into the e-book business and a presence on college campuses to compete with Apple. It was reported that a Nook app for the Windows 8 operating system would be developed, but B&N CEO William Lynch told Forbes that the only plan at this moment is to embed NFC chips into the device.

The deal should also give consumers greater confidence in the Nook, according to David Carnoy, executive editor at CNET News. Speculation about the future of B&N had Nook readers wondering about the titles they’ve purchased and if those would vanish if the company were to fail. But Microsoft’s willingness to invest millions means the Nook will remain.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

University of Minnesota Launches Online Open Text Catalog

An issue facing open educational resources (OER) is having a collection of open-content textbooks in one, easy-to-use site. The University of Minnesota is doing its part, recently launching Open Academics textbook catalog that allows students to read textbooks online for free or order a printed version for a nominal fee.

The site has 90 open-license titles available from the school’s largest entry-level courses. It also lists reviewed texts and awards a stipend to faculty members who review or adopt an open book.

“Faculty share student concerns about high textbook costs and are willing to consider high-quality, affordable alternatives like open textbooks,” said Irene Durancyzk, associate professor of the College of Education and Human Development at the university.

The hope of the Minnesota project is to attract not only the tech-savvy instructors, but all faculty members looking to lower the cost of adopted textbooks. OnCampus Research’s Student Watch 2012: Student Attitudes and Perceptions found that 52% of students responding did not buy at least one of their required textbooks for the fall 2011 semester and price was the main reason for the majority of those students.

“High textbook costs are one of the many factors that are contributing to the increasing financial burden that students are facing,” said Lizzy Shay, the undergraduate student body president at Minnesota. “Affordable open textbooks would go a long way in relieving that burden.”