Ebooks in Education

Researchers find free textbooks are just as effective as costly ones

26 May 2017

From the Provo Daily Herald:

In a result that will make college students rejoice, a group of researchers at Brigham Young University have found that a free textbook is just as effective as an expensive one.

BYU’s Open Education Group studies open educational resources, free and open-access educational resources they’ve found that can teach students just as well as paid resources.

The group’s research not only showed that students using the free materials do just as well, and in some cases better, than if they were using a pricey textbook, but that the students were also more likely to stick in a course and not drop out.

. . . .

Lane Fischer, a BYU counseling psychology and special education chair and member of the Open Education Group, said many students will wait to buy their textbooks until weeks after classes begin when their financial aid comes or until they decide they need the textbook for the course. By the time the students get their books, they’re behind and might drop the course.

“That cycle continues for these folks who have lower educational resources,” Fischer said. “This is our most vulnerable group who most need an education and we are making them slow down and hurting them in the process.”

At community colleges, the price of textbooks can be half of the price a student pays for their education.

Fischer said the cost of textbooks over time, compared to inflation, has grown astronomically and that the textbook market in general doesn’t follow traditional supply and demand.

“It is a broken economic system because the normal laws of supply and demand don’t apply,” said John Hilton III, a professor of ancient scripture at BYU and member of the Open Education Group. “The professor doesn’t have to pay for it, and the students don’t have a say in which one they chose.”

Fisher said about half of professors know how much their required textbooks cost.

. . . .

“If students perform just as well without the textbooks, it is like giving every student a $1,000 scholarship if students are using open education resources,” Hilton said.

With new editions constantly coming out in subjects that don’t change, like algebra, once a student buys a textbook, a new edition can make it nearly impossible to sell the used one.

Link to the rest at Daily Herald

Labyrinth Books is a local store with a worldly mission

10 April 2017

From CentralJersey.com:

The French booksellers (known as “bouquinistes”) and their stalls along the Seine are fixtures in Paris, dating from the 16th century. Tour guides call them “literary entrepreneurs.”

The one and only bookseller on Nassau Street, Labyrinth Books, has become a Princeton fixture, dating from the 21st century with its “stalls” in the form of tables pushed out onto the sidewalk. It too is a literary entrepreneur, as indicated by the fact that in spite of enormous changes and challenges in the bookselling industry, the store is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

. . . .

“Four or five years ago, many thought that e-books would spell the end of print as we know it,” said von Moltke, who lives with Cliff and their two daughters in Princeton. “Maybe because we operate in a bit of a niche market that values print as its own . . . we were perhaps less nervous than others about this trend.

“And in fact, publishers have seen their e-book sales not only level off, but decline of late, so it seems that both e-books and print books are here to stay. Interestingly, there is now a substantial body of neuroscientific study that confirms what many readers experience: retention when reading from a page is markedly better than when reading from a screen. Add to that the persistent interruption and auto-interruption when reading on a connected device, and it becomes easy to see how reading a book is a far more immersive experience than reading a data file can be. Students everywhere, too, are showing a clear preference for a printed book over an e-book when price is not the overriding factor.”

. . . .

Labyrinth came to Princeton at the invitation of Princeton University and has had a very close partnership with the university as its official book provider. “Princeton University truly went against the trend of the day in bringing an independent, scholarly and community bookstore to town for all their book needs and has remained an incredible partner and supporter over the years,” von Moltke said.

. . . .

Even though Dorothea acknowledges that the printed book is preferred over e-books “when price is not a factor,” price is a “huge factor when buying textbooks,” and the partnership with the university has been invaluable in helping to keep the price under control.

“For better or worse, students have become very savvy at finding ‘free’ books online, at circulating pdfs of textbooks, at substituting video tutorials for textbooks, and at using social media for buying and selling from each other. So you can see why our course book operation has needed to adapt,” she said. “Fortunately, in all of this Princeton University has remained always willing to sit down with us to come up with joint solutions that benefit the students and the university while helping to support the store. As a result since 2012 we’ve been able to offer an across-the-board 30 percent discount to all students, which keeps us in the mix as a competitive option for students when they are deciding what and where to buy. As for our non-course book sales, we are happy to have been able to either hold steady or grow a little each year, and are grateful to our varied customer base, without whom we would not be here.”

. . . .

Finally, the close relationship with the community is in the store’s equivalent of bookbinding glue. This spring, the store will be averaging three to four events per week. “The events are central in allowing the store to engage with the community we serve and, we hope, in creating dialog around books that also connects people with one another,” von Moltke said.

Link to the rest at CentralJersey.com

How a Browser Extension Could Shake Up Academic Publishing

8 April 2017

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Open-access advocates have had several successes in the past few weeks. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation started its own open-access publishing platform, which the European Commission may replicate. And librarians attending the Association of College and Research Libraries conference in March were glad to hear that the Open Access Button, a tool that helps researchers gain free access to copies of articles, will be integrated into existing interlibrary-loan arrangements.

Another initiative, called Unpaywall, is a simple browser extension, but its creators, Jason Priem and Heather Piwowar, say it could help alter the status quo of scholarly publishing.

“We’re setting up a lemonade stand right next to the publishers’ lemonade stand,” says Mr. Priem. “They’re charging $30 for a glass of lemonade, and we’re showing up right next to them and saying, ‘Lemonade for free’. It’s such a disruptive, exciting, and interesting idea, I think.”

. . . .

Unpaywall, by contrast, has focused on creating a browser extension. “We want to do just one thing really well: instantly deliver legal, open-access, full text as you browse,” says Mr. Priem, who also started the altmetrics site Impactstory with Ms. Piwowar.

When an Unpaywall user lands on the page of a research article, the software scours thousands of institutional repositories, preprint servers, and websites like PubMed Central to see if an open-access copy of the article is available. If it is, users can click a small green tab on the side of the screen to view a PDF.

“We’re able to deliver an OA copy to users more than half the time,” says Mr. Priem. “We’re really excited about that, because that’s when you start hitting critical mass. That’s when people start thinking, Hey, why are we paying millions of dollars to subscribe to tens of thousands of journals when our researchers have about a better-than-even chance of reading an article with no subscription at all?”

Link to the rest at The Chronicle of Higher Education and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

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.

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