Sunday, June 28, 2009
In a prior posting, Arrington explains the device, “This machine isn’t for data entry. But it is for reading emails and the news, watching videos on Hulu, YouTube, etc., listening to streaming music on MySpace Music and imeem, and doing video chat via tokbox. The hardware would consist of netbook appropriate chipsets (Intel Atom or Via Nano), at least a 12 inch screen, a camera for photos and video, speakers and a microphone. Add a single USB port, power in and sound out, and you’re done. If you want more features, this ain’t for you.”
TechCrunch is currently working to bring the device to market and plans to discuss the CrunchPad next month at a press event in Silicon Valley.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
ScrollMotion partners with LibreDigital and several publishers, including textbook publishers, to bring digital content to the iPhone
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
In other news, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing has just launched a book focused social networking site for teens called Pulse It. According to the press release, the website will give teens the opportunity to read entire books online, create personal profiles, communicate with authors, write reviews and rank books, create blog posts, participate in message board discussions, watch video book trailers and author interviews, and share reviews with friends on Facebook. Simon & Schuster will make two books available each month and members can choose to access one title for 60 days. Pulse It members will also be rewarded for their involvement on the site. Jon Anderson, Executive Vice President and Publisher, Simon & Schuster Children’s Division commented, “The new Pulse It provides its teen members an instantaneous, shared reading experience. We have also made it very easy for them to buzz our books by spreading the word to their peers on other networks and sites.”
Monday, June 22, 2009
While the colleges and universities participating in the Kindle DX textbook pilots have provided some information about the initiative, we are left wondering how all of the details will be worked out. The answers will be revealed in the coming months but in the meantime, here is a list of questions that we would like to know the answers to.
- Has the number of students involved in the pilot been determined? (Some reports say that each school will have about 50 participants while Laura Porco, director of Kindle Books, commented that the pilot would include “hundreds to thousands” of students and “hundreds to thousands of books.”)
- Were students aware of the courses participating in the pilot prior to registration? If so, was there an increase in the number of students that signed up for the course?
- For schools that plan to compare Kindle DX participants to a control group, how will the participants be chosen?
- What happens if one of those students drops the class?
- Will students be: charged for the device, given the device, or loaned the device? If the devices are on loan, will they be loaned from the university or Amazon?
- Will the devices come pre-loaded with content? If not, how will the content be downloaded? Will the rumored Kindle DX textbook store play a role?
- Who will pay for the content? If students are required to pay, will they be able to pay via financial aid?
- What will the content prices be like? (It has been reported that Amazon does not plan to discount the e-textbooks used in the pilot.)
- How much content will each of the publishers make available? Will only the content for the specific courses in the pilot be available?
- Can university content be downloaded to the devices?
- Has the college store been involved in the pilot discussions?
Thoughts? What questions are you thinking about?
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
According to another posting on The Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog, Bezos said that of the 300,000 books that are available for the Kindle and in traditional format via Amazon.com, Kindle unit sales represent 35% of total Amazon book sales. Bezos commented, “Internally, we are startled and astonished by that statistic.” He went on to say, “I didn’t understand all of the failings of a physical book, because I’m inured to them. But you can’t turn the page with one hand. The book is always flopping itself shut at the wrong moment. They’re heavy. It’s had a great 500-year run. It’s an unbelievably successful technology. But it’s time to change.”
An article from CNET says that when asked about Google Book Search, Bezos commented, “We have strong opinions about that issue which I’m not going to share. But clearly, that settlement in our opinion needs to be revisited and it is being revisited.” He added, “There are many forces of work looking at that and saying it doesn’t seem right that you should do something, kind of get a prize for violating a large series of copyright.” Google responded to Bezos’ comments via a posting on their Public Policy Blog that suggests that the comments were likely motivated by its Google Edition initiative. The new initiative will let publishers sell in-print e-books direct to consumers and therefore put Amazon in direct competition with Google for control of the e-book market. Note - Some sources have referred to this initiative as “Google Edition” but it is referred to as “Google Books” in the posting.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Well known and widely respected marketing guru Seth Godin published an entry on his blog this week entitled “Textbook Rant." He notes that he received more comments on this post than any other he has ever made. Since he got such a reaction, we can probably expect him to start publishing more on the topic, or being more vocal on it elsewhere. Here are a few of the “quotable quotes” from the piece:
- This industry deserves to die. It has extracted too much time and too much money and wasted too much potential. We can do better. A lot better.
- As far as I can tell, assigning a textbook to your college class is academic malpractice.
- Any professor of intro marketing who is assigning a basic old-school textbook is guilty of theft or laziness.
- The solution seems simple to me. Professors should be spending their time devising pages or chapterettes or even entire chapters on topics that matter to them, then publishing them for free online. (it's part of their job, remember?) When you have a class to teach, assemble 100 of the best pieces, put them in a pdf or on a kindle or a website (or even in a looseleaf notebook) and there, you're done. You just saved your intro marketing class about $15,000. Every semester.
Among the responses, I thought this comment related to stores was interesting: The textbook industry does need to die. Especially the privatization of textbook and textbook resale stores...
Rants like these are not uncommon. It would be pretty difficult for anyone involved with the textbook industry to deny that as an industry we have problems. Like health care, autos, or banking. As a colleague of mine observed in response to Seth's "simple solution":
While in theory this all sounds great, but do all professors (or adjunct professors) really have the expertise, time, desire, etc... to "devise" pages or chaperettes and for that matter, who ensures the validity and accuracy of the content? While technology will certainly allow for "anything goes" it would seem like there still needs to be some "control and validation" of content to be taught and that a college or university would not want to create an environment of the "wild wild west".
My opinion is similar to this articulation. I believe Seth's comment is a fairly over-simplified interpretation of what faculty are “paid to do” as part of their jobs. Many faculty do not have the expertise to write a textbook in the style he is asking for – or even if they do, there is little or no reward for most faculty to spend their time in the way he asks. The example of the faculty member who made over $20M – I am pretty sure that is the very rare exception. If they want tenure or promotion, or recognition within their field, that time is better spent on research related publication, or grant work, or even working directly with students in the class.
I always viewed the textbook more as a reference supplement. I typically made it optional. I then usually picked a set of more up-to-date articles or a professional book (depending on the course) which were the required readings. Some students really like having the reference textbook – and it can often cover topics I do not have time to cover in class, or provide additional examples or an alternative perspective. If I did have time to work on improving a course, I much preferred to spend that time finding better ways to use in-class time to maximum benefit, such as creating new active-learning approaches and exercises that would reinforce core concepts.
Writing chapterettes or entire chapters well takes time and research and is a very different skill set that many of us do not have. And frankly, that is not part of the faculty member’s job per se (and certainly not before one is tenured). The accrediting process also typically looks at what books or readings faculty assign in different courses as one means of ensuring that the curriculum is delivering on what is expected. If 20 of us are teaching different sections of the same course, it also helps to ensure some standardization among courses. Or, if I am teaching a course that builds on a prior course, or have to approve a course a student took at another institution, knowing what textbook was used in the prior course gives me some understanding of the approach and content the faculty member in the course was likely to have followed.
I also share the concern about the control and validation process. Faculty already get in trouble for inserting their biases into classes. Without the editorial checks and balances, or review process, how are standards of quality monitored? “Free” does not necessarily mean “equal” or “better.” I think there are some good approaches emerging out there, but worry that we might “throw the baby out with the bathwater” in an over-fixation on price.
As a former student (with 11 years of college education), a former faculty member, a former administrator, and now as someone in the textbook industry more directly, I think we would all agree that the textbook industry has some significant problems when it comes to price, and perhaps some additional issues related to value. It is a tough challenge. Yes, many textbooks are out of date because fields are developing far more rapidly today and the old processes do not work so well. Yes, there are faculty who do not do their job, or their students, justice when it comes to selecting course materials. Yes, the industry needs to change – die? I don’t think so. But change? Yes. There are a number of creative ways in which educational publishing could reinvent itself to continue to produce relevant and current texts, and perhaps at lower cost – but such change will not come quickly or easily. It may be outside organizations and influencers who drive a new generation of course material content. That will likely start with open educational resources (OER), and eventually evolve into new revenue-based models as products mature and the value of having enterprises to assist with the process resurfaces – since there are limitations to true OER as well. Organizations like Flat World Knowledge, Connexions, MERLOT, and others are examples of how such organizations are needed if OER is to be successful. As such organizations emerge there is an eventual need to support the organization, which means revenue. That could come directly or indirectly, but eventually it must come or the organizations are unlikely to be sustainable for the long term.
Okay – I will stop my textbook rebuttal rant there.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The six colleges and universities involved in the Kindle DX pilots have yet to announce the full details of the pilot but some information has been provided. Here is a round-up of what we know so far:
- Arizona State University: Selected first year students in ASU’s Barrett Honors College two semester Human Events course will use Kindle DX devices, while a control group of students will use traditional paper textbooks. An article from ASU’s The State Press says that the course requires approximately 50 books and Ted Humphrey, professor of the course, proposed the use of the Kindle for reduced textbook costs and paper consumption. According to Humphrey, when it was announced that his course would use the Kindle, the course roster filled up very quickly. In regards to the pricing details, Kari Barlow, assistant vice president for the University Technology Office says that students will not be required to buy the Kindle but the details have not been worked out. As for the future, Barlow added, “The goal is to offer the Kindle to the whole ASU community.”
- Case Western Reserve University: Kindle DX devices will be distributed to about 50 students enrolled in first-year chemistry, computer science, and electrical engineering courses. The student reactions to using the Kindle DX for reading textbooks will be compared to a control group using traditional textbooks. The university will also launch a project to evaluate the impact of the device on the learning experience, determine if faculty delivered the information in new ways, and determine if students approach their reading and assignments differently.
- Pace University: According to an article from the New York Times, Pace will distribute new Kindles to about 50 students and compare them with 50 students studying from traditional textbooks, to determine if there is a difference between how the two groups learn. The provost of Pace, Geoffrey Brackett, expects that the university will split the cost of the Kindles with Amazon but it has not been determined if the students will keep the device or if they will be borrowed. In another article Brackett noted, “We are excited to be participating with Amazon and other universities in this endeavor. We will be fielding discrete groups of students in different disciplines to use the Kindle this fall, working with Amazon to test the market and viability of this enterprise. It fits perfectly with our commitment to technology and pedagogy, convenience and support for our students, and important issues of sustainability. Our world-class master’s program in Publishing, known for its success in digital media, will be a key part of our team."
- Princeton University: Students and faculty in three courses will receive the Kindle DX devices. The Princeton pilot, known as “Toward Print-Less and Paper-Less Courses: Pilot Amazon Kindle Program" will differ from the other pilots because it will be part of a sustainability initiative that focuses on reducing the amount of electronic reserve course materials that are printed by students. It is reported by Serge Goldstein, OIT director of academic services, that over 10 million pages were printed at the university last year. According to an article, the Princeton University library is working to scan material in Optical Character Recognition form so that students can search and annotate their readings on the Kindle DX. Princeton has also setup an E-reader Pilot Program website that provides more information about the initiative.
- Reed College: Students in three or four humanities and social science classes will be given the option to use Kindles or traditional textbooks. According to a discussion list posting, all students participating in the pilot will receive the Kindle free of charge but it has not been determined if the students will be able to keep the device at the end of the term. It has also not been determined if the students will be required to pay for the course materials and how the materials will be loaded to the device. Some of the possible options for acquiring the content include: the Kindles are shipped to the university preloaded with all course materials, students download all the course materials including Reed-owned course packs and third-party journal articles from Amazon.com, or Amazon controlled materials are downloaded from Amazon.com. In an article from Oregon Business News, Marty Ringle, Chief Technology Officer at Reed commented on the reason for doing the pilot, "We see a lot of upside to this. We're doing the pilot to see if the upside is true and whether there are downsides we aren't aware of."
- Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia: The business school plans to make the device available to a group of students in its MBA program and another group of students in its MBA for Executives program. According to Michael Koenig, Darden’s director of MBA operations, “A neutral, third-party will develop and administer survey and online research throughout the program to determine effectiveness. The Darden School will also conduct its own research. There will be much to learn in the next academic year.”
The universities still have many details to determine, with one of the major questions relating to how the content will be acquired. One answer to that question might be a Kindle DX textbook store. According to a posting on the KindleBoards blog, a KindleBoards member learned that Amazon could launch a Kindle DX textbook store by July. This information has not been confirmed by Amazon and there is no word yet on which textbooks will be available.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
The second phase of the initiative is still in development but aims to incorporate interactive content and make digital textbooks available for all grades. A statewide website with all of the available books will also be created.
The webpage notes that the initiative has the potential to save California schools millions of dollars which would free up funds for other spending priorities. In addition, it will give students the opportunity to learn about technological advances as they happen because digital textbooks can be updated more often. Other articles and postings point out that while this initiative could help reduce costs, there are still costs associated with the on-going production of e-books. Additionally, California has a very thorough selection process for educational materials and it is questionable if the materials will be approved by August.
A video of the conference is available on the governor’s webpage.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
According to an article from The New York Times, the Justice Department is in fact investigating the antitrust issues and has now issued civil investigative demands to Google, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild, and individual publishers. Michael J. Boni, a partner at Boni & Zack, who represented the Authors Guild in negotiations with Google commented, “They are asking for a lot of information. It signals that they are serious about the antitrust implications of the settlement.” The article notes that the formal requests for information do not necessarily indicate that the government will oppose the settlement but it could delay the approval because the judge is no likely to approve while an investigation is pending. While several prominent library associations have already commented on the settlement, for the retail community there is still uncertainty regarding how to respond.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
On Monday, at one Apple’s biggest events of the year, the WorldWide Developers Conference, Apple demonstrated just how popular e-reading has become by featuring a new e-reader app during the keynote. The new app is an upgraded version of ScrollMotion’s original Iceberg e-reader. Previously about 500 Iceberg titles could be downloaded as standalone apps but now the new centralized app will offer in-app purchasing and much more content. With in-app purchasing, users can make their content purchases within the app and are not directed to external content providers to complete the transaction. According to a posting on the Kindle 2 Review blog, the Iceberg app will soon feature:
- Over a million books from popular publishers but more importantly textbooks from: Houghton Mifflin, Harcourt, and McGraw Hill
- 50 major magazines including those from: Harvard Business Review, Conde Nast, Hearst Publications, and Time Inc.
- 170 daily newspapers
- Film, television, and educational content
The new app will also have a copy/paste function and in-app e-mail to allow users to e-mail notes or passages of text. These features give the Iceberg app several advantages over competitor apps such as the Kindle iPhone app. Currently, the Kindle app does not offer these functions or the convenience of in-app purchasing. It is unlikely that in-app purchasing will be added because then Apple would receive a portion of Amazon’s book purchasing revenue.
Another posting from the Fiction Matters blog points out the great position that Apple is now in. Apple will become a partner for one of the largest e-book stores, receive 30% of the revenue from Iceberg Reader purchases, and be able to collect great purchasing data. The posting notes “It’s the kind of data that anyone making a large business decision would love to have, and Apple is getting paid to collect it. This data puts Apple in a terrifically advantageous bargaining position. If they do decide to become a first party eBook distributor, they know what works and what doesn’t in an ecosystem they already have invested in. If they don’t, they will continue to make money from eBooks.”
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Recently the JISC released the initial results from their first user survey. The results suggest that giving students access to e-books does not affect print sales and e-books actually supplement traditional textbooks. In addition, e-books improve the way students learn by broadening their analytical and evaluation skills. The JISC has also released an analysis of two open ended questions from the survey. The analysis shows that accessibility is the main attraction for e-books and students enjoy the ability to access the books at any time, wherever they are.
In addition to the surveys, the JISC has also announced that they will partner with the Learning Skills Council (LSC) to fund an e-books for further education project. For the next five years, the project will make 3,000 e-books freely available to every college in the UK. The titles will cover a variety of subjects including: Heath and Social Care, Engineering, Fashion Design, and Automobile Electronics. The students will be able to access the e-books at any time through an ebrary e-books platform. Colleges will also be able to purchase additional e-books at discounted rates to build their digital libraries to meet the specific needs of students on their campus.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
- Judge e-books by their covers – The various device options and software used to display e-books should be considered because the ability to highlight and easily flip pages affects user satisfaction.
- Learning curves ahead – Students need time to adjust their reading and note taking to digital reading.
- Professors are eager students – Professors were eager to participate in the pilots. The university hoped to have five or six professors but instead had 54 volunteers.
- Long live batteries – Battery life was an issue for some students who forgot to charge their laptops or had several classes in a row and the battery did not last.
- Subjects are not equally e-friendly – Some subjects display better in digital format than others. Science and medical books are full of illustrations and do not display well on black and white e-reader devices.
- Environmental impact matters – Students reported that they would choose e-books over printed books because of environmental concerns. Administrators were surprised at the degree to which these concerns affected students’ opinions.
The university reports that they are continuing to conduct several experiments with different types of e-books and all four major textbook publishers are interested in participating in the university’s experiments. The university’s president, Dean Hubbard noted that campus adoption is “going to come fast” once user-friendly books and readers are introduced.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Another posting on Wired, features more information from the report in regards to the addition of social networking capabilities to e-readers. Rotman Epps predicts that within the next few months, e-reading will become more of a collaborative experience when social networking is added to e-readers. Rotman Epps commented, “Buying and reading books is an inherently social process and the lack of robust sharing capabilities on the (Amazon) Kindle is an obvious weakness that competitors will address.” E-readers will need to give users the ability to view others recommendations and ratings through social networking communities such as Facebook and Goodreads. The posting notes that an e-reader startup company in Germany is focusing on this idea and plans to introduce a device this fall at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
A third article from ReadWriteWeb features another interesting chart from the report that shows the drivers of growth for e-reader devices and content. The figure shows a significantly lower price point for e-readers in 2010 and an even further reduction in cost by 2012. It is also predicted that color devices will be available by the end of 2010 with full frame video available in 2011-2012.
The charts and information presented in the report confirm that the e-reader space is becoming more complex everyday with new entrants and incumbents all vying for a piece of the market. As new technologies are introduced and e-reader adoption shifts beyond the early adopters, we must prepare for the effect that e-readers will have on our industry.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
At the recent Twtrcon conference, Michael Della Penna, co-founder and chairman of Participatory Marketing Network commented, “If [18-24 year olds] are texting, using social networks, what is the social value of Twitter?” He went on to say, “This is a classic ‘glass half full’ scenario for Twitter because it’s clear that Gen Y has an appetite for social networking, but still hasn’t fully embraced micro-blogging. There is a tremendous opportunity now for marketers to develop strategies to get this important group active on Twitter too.”
Some other interesting findings from the study show that 89% of 18 to 24 years olds have downloaded an application for their social networking profile page and 38% own an iPhone or iPod Touch.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Vinita Jakhanwal, an analyst from iSuppli commented, “The market for electronic book devices such as the SONY Reader and Amazon Kindle is forecasted to grow from 1.1 million units in 2008 to 20 million units in 2012, a cumulative annual growth rate of 105% over the four-year period.”
Dr. Jennifer Colegrove, Director of Display Technologies for DisplaySearch noted, “The ePaper display module market will grow to over $3 billion by 2013. This market will see further growth with the emergence of color displays and flexible displays, serving eBook/eTextbook, eNewspaper/eMagazine and eDocument markets.”
These statistics support other recent predictions that e-readers will have a considerable impact on our market in the near future.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Note: The New York Times posted a correction to the original piece and this posting has been updated to reflect the correction.