Ebooks in Education

Can Self-Publishing Crack the Academic Market?

14 March 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

In 2016, self-publishing pioneer Lulu.com introduced Glasstree, a new service the company hopes might begin to reshape the academic and scholarly publishing market. Ahead of the London Book Fair, PW caught up with Glasstree’s Daniel Berze to learn more about the company’s plan to crack the academic publishing market wide open.

In announcing Glasstree, you noted that “the existing academic publishing model is broken.” You’re not the first to make such an observation—but explain why you think the market is broken and why Glasstree might be a solution.

The traditional publishing model is broken for a number of reasons. First, because academic authors traditionally have so little control over their own content. When they hand it over to their publisher, they often assign their copyrights and hand over legal ownership. And they have no power to set the market price. Traditional publishing often compels purchasers to obtain content with restrictive policies, at often-extortionate levels.

This is also true for open access content, which usually requires the author to pay unfair processing charges in order to publish. More generally, traditional academic publishers also lack transparency: it is impossible to obtain any insight into the costs associated with the production of a book—or the profit margins earned by the publisher and/or the author. Speed to market is also an issue, as academic content can sometimes take years before being published. Glasstree aims to put power back in the hands of the author.

. . . .

What do you think the main selling point for Glasstree is? And where do you expect the service to be next year, and then, say, five years out?

I think that the biggest selling point is the ability to provide authors and universities with the tools that they need to publish, print, and be successful at a price level that would be unfathomable even a few years ago, with a specific orientation to academics and educators—for example, the ability to track bibliometrics with a DOI, discoverability tools, creative commons licensing, and so on. This year, we will introduce a print API to the market.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Your e-books are about to get a big IQ boost

4 February 2017

From CNet:

Generations of college students have lugged expensive textbooks around campus. But a few years from now, students could shuck that burden as web technology radically changes what exactly a book is.

Imagine a chemistry book with a pop-up periodic table of the elements for instant reference, a sucrose molecule that rotates under your fingertip to show its 3D structure, a video demonstration of titration procedures, a chat box to message the professor and a built-in quiz that directs you to any subjects you didn’t understand. Oh, and it’ll be updated continuously so it won’t go out of date as soon as element 118 gets named oganesson.

Sound far-fetched? This e-book future is possible thanks to the World Wide Web Consortium’s absorption of the International Digital Publishing Forum, keepers of the Epub standard for e-books. On Wednesday, the W3C and IDPF announced their merger plans are complete.

The merger means that e-books are going to get a lot smarter thanks to a deeper embrace of web technology. While it’s simple for web browsers to show video and offer a quiz, it’s well beyond what you’ll see in e-books that you read on your Amazon Kindle. Expect that to change in coming years as e-books play a bigger role on your laptop or tablet.

. . . .

Books printed on paper will remain important, but e-books are where much of the next generation will learn, said Rick Johnson, co-founder of education e-book seller VitalSource, now part of publisher Ingram Content. VitalSource sells 18 million digital titles to 4 million people at 7,000 campuses.

“When you talk about people in college or pre-college or who are learning on the job or as a part of their job, they need web technologies,” Johnson said. “That’s how they’re learning now. I can’t imagine training somebody on a job or in a school without being able to show them video, without being able to quiz them and show them results.”

Link to the rest at CNet

Do ‘Digital Natives’ Prefer Paper Books to E-Books?

23 November 2016

From Education Week:

As digital devices and access to e-books proliferated in schools and homes over the past several years, some ed-tech experts expected that print books would soon become relics—or at least fall out of favor with a generation growing up in an electronic world.

But, in a wrinkle in the digital revolution, that hasn’t transpired—at least not yet.

More children now know what it’s like to read an e-book—61 percent in 2014 compared with 25 percent in 2010, according to Scholastic’s 2015 Kids and Family Reading report.

But most students still opt to turn actual pages. In the Scholastic survey, 65 percent of children ages 6 to 17 agreed they would always want to read in print, up from 60 percent in 2012. And 77 percent who had tried e-reading said that the majority of the books they read were in print. That was especially true for younger readers when reading for pleasure: 84 percent of 6- to 8-year-olds read mostly on paper, compared with 62 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds.

Link to the rest at Education Week

Educational Publishers Confront Tech Disruption

21 October 2016

From Publishing Perspectives:

“I’m sure taxi cab drivers now wish they had been better before Uber came along,” laughs Jim Donohue, executive vice president and chief product officer of Cengage. “However, Uber’s success isn’t down to some wild new idea; they just do it better.”

Donohue was on the Education Hot Spot Stage at Frankfurt Book Fair on Wednesday (October 19) to consider the question: “What Do Pokémon Go, Big Data, and Alt Text Mean for EDU?”

. . . .

A panel chaired by Samudra Sen, CEO of Learning Mate Solutions, discussed not the Pokémon Go game itself, but the lessons educational publishers can learn in using new technologies in an education sector that may stand at least a couple of years behind the cutting edge.

It’s also a sector that could be turned upside down at any time by the giants of Silicon Valley.

“The biggest challenge is to design a product based on the detailed study of how our customers are engaging with the content we produce,” said Joan O’Neil, executive vice president of knowledge and learning at Wiley. “We can now study it in a level of detail that has never been [possible] before. This will make sure that we don’t get ahead of what the customer is looking for and over-engineer our products.”

“Flexibility has become critical for us. The platform has become our differentiator,’ said Cengage’s Donohue. “We’ve invested millions of dollars in content management systems that take all our content to down to a paragraph level. It has set our content free.”


Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

The New Goldmine For Textbook Companies: Charging Students To Do Homework

27 August 2016

From BuzzFeed News:

As universities go digital, students are complaining of a new hit to their finances that is replacing — and sometimes joining — expensive textbooks: pricey online access codes that are required to complete coursework and submit assignments.

The codes — which typically range in price from $80 to $155 per course — give students online access to systems developed by education companies like McGraw Hill and Pearson. These companies, which long reaped big profits as textbook publishers, have boasted to investors that their new online offerings, when pushed to students through universities they partner with, represent the future of the industry.

But critics say the digital access codes represent the same price-gouging ethos of the textbook business, and are even harder for students to opt out of. While they could once buy second-hand textbooks, or share copies with friends, the digital systems are essentially impossible to avoid.

“When we talk about access codes we see it as the new face of the textbook monopoly, a new way to lock students around this system,” said Ethan Senack, the higher education advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, to BuzzFeed News.

“Rather than $250 [for a print textbook] you’re paying $120,” said Senack. “But because it’s all digital it eliminates the used book market and eliminates any sharing and because homework and tests are through an access code, it eliminates any ability to opt out.”

Link to the rest at BuzzFeed and thanks to Kat for the tip.

Amazon grows its education footprint with Amazon Inspire, a free platform for learning materials

28 June 2016

From TechCrunch:

Back in March, we reported how Amazon was poised to up its stakes in the educational publishing market with the launch of a free platform called Inspire for teachers and others to post and share education resources online. Today, the company has confirmed it is doing just that. It has announced Amazon Inspire, an online education resources (OER) platform for teachers to source free learning materials for students from kindergarten to twelfth grade, starting first as a beta in the U.S.

Designed to look and operate much like Amazon’s well-known flagship site — but without the e-commerce back-end — Inspire lets users sort content by relevance, user ratings and popularity, along with several criteria pertaining specifically to the materials at hand (level, skill, etc.).

The content is a mix of “crowdsourced” resources from teachers and other educators — uploaded via an interface that is not unlike Amazon’s self-publishing platform; and primary content posted by third parties like the Folger Shakespeare Library (which is initially adding in 100 plays and related lessons and teaching modules) and the Newseum in Washington, DC.

. . . .

The third-party contributions could be helpful in filling out the platform if educators are slower to contribute, although Rohit Agarwal, who is the GM of Amazon K-12 Education, said so far that has not been the case. “Our early partnerships indicate that educators are more than happy to contribute content,” he told TechCrunch. “Entire districts and states are contributing to Inspire, whether they are creating or curating materials.”

He said the impetus (inspiration, even) for Inspire is the fact that educators are looking for more places to source learning materials, and potentially share some of their own. “There are more than 13,000 school districts in the U.S., and when we’ve talked to them, one thing we heard over and over again is that they have created resources or they have gone out and found that others have created them,” he said, but discovering them can be a fragmented process, “through sites and blogs.”

Link to the rest at TechCrunch

The new digital model that treats books like magazines

24 May 2016

From The Bookseller:

The digital revolution has been something of an asteroid for the whole publishing industry, but it has presented particularly gnarly challenges to libraries, colleges and schools.

How to transfer collections from the stacks to the screen? How does digital lending work, both practically and financially? Which texts would publishers be willing to digitise, and which would languish in analogue ignominy on the shelves?

As institutions have rushed to evolve their offerings, it has become increasingly obvious that e-books are not always the solution – especially when it comes to specialist texts.

“Complicated books need to be digitised exactly as they are,” explains Adam Hodgkin, co-founder of Exact Editions, a digital platform for magazine publishers that was launched in 2005.  “Many books, especially those that are highly designed or heavily illustrated, are not being sold effectively to institutions, mainly because the e-book file format does not work for precisely laid out pages.”

. . . .

Having spent the past decade turning complex consumer magazines into their precise digital doppelgangers, the Exact Editions team is now hoping to do the same for books.

. . . .

Although Exact Editions digital books will look exactly like their print counterparts, they also feature advanced search technology, smart linking capabilities and institutional functionality. They can be read across web, iOS and Android native apps using IP authenticated network access, and when purchased, the institution receives the book as a perpetual access acquisition, including no usage limits and instant availability for all users.

. . . .

“Because book publishers have hitherto been thinking about supplying digital books to universities as analogous to making a print sale, it appears rather illogical or even unfair to charge much more than would be charged for the printed book,” Hodgkin says. “But this mindset ignores the value that comes from granting and delivering campus wide, multiuser, perpetual access to a digital resource.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG wonders if the people who opposed Google Books will have anything to say about this plan.

ASCD/OverDrive survey shows 80 percent of U.S. schools using ebooks, digital content

3 April 2016
Comments Off on ASCD/OverDrive survey shows 80 percent of U.S. schools using ebooks, digital content

From TeleRead:

Educational systems developer ASCD and OverDrive have teamed up to survey “over 2,000 school- and district-based administrators” in the U.S. on their use of digital content. The resulting survey, “Digital Content Goes to School: Trends in K-12 Classroom e-Learning,” found the headline figure that 80 percent of the (large) survey sample are already using “digital content – including eBooks, audiobooks and digital textbooks.” Furthermore, “digital content currently occupies about one-third of the instructional materials budget and the use of digital content continues to grow.”

Out of the 80 percent in the ASCD/OverDrive survey already using digital content, the survey finds 40 percent are actually using it as part of their curriculum.

. . . .

What should be very clear from all of this is that, whatever the print v. digital debate among general readers, and the periodic scare stories about kids’ digital addiction, where content and texts really matter and make a genuine impact on lives, professionals are fully committed to digital solutions.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

E-books are not the answer to a literacy crisis

28 March 2016

From The Washington Post:

When librarian Jennifer Nelson arrives at the tiny library at Crewe Primary School each morning, she is confronted with a cart of first-generation iPads. The detritus of attempts to infuse technology into one of the poorest and most rural schools in Virginia, the tablets are hopelessly obsolete, worth little more than the cart on which they reside.

The White House recently announced the launch of Open eBooks, an app giving access to thousands of free e-books to any educator, student or administrator at one of the more than 66,000 Title I schools or any of the 194 Defense Department Education Activity schools in the United States. It’s an admirable endeavor and recognizes that we have a literacy problem. However, it brings to mind Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous line: “Water, water, every where/ Nor any drop to drink.”

On that list of Title I schools: Crewe Primary. The whole of Nottoway County, Va., is a high-poverty tract; there is no public transportation, no fiber-optic Internet available for the county’s 16,000 residents. In Southside Virginia, the commonwealth’s poorest region, most schools don’t have broadband; Crewe Primary School has DSL but little more than 40 usable iPads (not counting the old and obsolete ones) for its 318 students.

. . . .

Even if our poorest schools had broadband and ample devices, believing that free e-books are the key to ending our literacy crisis is dangerously misguided. Technology is repeatedly touted as a cure for the United States’ educational woes, promising everything from banishing boredom to widespread reform. Interactive whiteboards were the hope a few years ago, and Google Earth was supposed to make our children masters of geography. There is more technology in our classrooms and homes than ever, but too often these expensive technologies yield few gains in learning or gains not commensurate with cost.

Serving as the executive director of the Virginia Children’s Book Festival, in the heart of a literacy desert, has taught me two things: Literacy is an instilled value, and too frequently reading is a luxury instead of a necessity. Reports from the National Center for Education Statistics are clear: Children raised in homes that foster literacy are better readers and better students than children raised in homes where literacy is not promoted. Children who see their parents reading and engage in reading with their families have higher than average reading scores, regardless of their parents’ occupational status.

If a love of reading is not learned in the home, even technologically advanced schools are hard-pressed to make up that deficit.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post and thanks to Nate for the tip.

E.A. White Elementary students self-publish as part of writing initiative

3 March 2016

From Bayonet & Saber:

Each year Fort Benning schools must establish two school improvement goals. This year E.A. White Elementary School seeks to enhance students’ language usage and writing skills.

Students within each grade level will have the opportunity to practice different writing styles.

“Our students are writing creative, informative, expository, and even persuasive pieces,” Mallory explained.

As part of their new writing initiative, E.A. White offers an after school program to students that will give them the opportunity to self-publish. Gifted teacher, Jasmin Probst, oversees the Self-Publishing Book Club. The end result is to have students publish their work using the self-publishing site createspace.com.

The opportunity to self-publish, however, isn’t limited to her gifted class or the after school club, she said. Probst described the process that students undergo as entirely creative.

“I enjoy watching them complete their process,” she said.

Before coming to E.A. White, Probst practiced the same methods at the Fort Campbell schools in Kentucky. In the future, she would like to collaborate with other Fort Benning schools as well.

“The students have complete creative control over the interior of their books as well as the cover. I can’t wait to see the finished products,” said Probst.

Link to the rest at Bayonet & Saber

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