March 1, 2011
As regular readers will know, we participated in the Startup Showcase at O’Reilly’s Tools of Change for Publishing conference a couple of weeks ago. It was pretty overwhelming: we picked up some great information, met a lot of interesting people, renewed old acquaintances, and received tons of positive feedback. Some observations (warning, may include significant randomness):
- Starting conversations with “We’re an open source college textbook publisher” is a great way to grab people’s attention these days. More on our OER effort coming soon.
- Said the CEO of another textbook publisher: “I know you…you’re the guys who quit math.” Thanks for reading our blog!
- The mix of companies at the Startup Showcase was interesting. Some were disruptive, but most were enabling technologies. Overall, it was the right combination for an event such as this one. The audience was fantastic: we were pleased to learn that there were a couple potential authors in the crowd, too.
- Our favorite bit of advice came from media entrepreneur and investor Linda Holliday, who said “Your mix of free and revenue-generating content is a dance you do with your customers.”
- If you weren’t able to make the conference and want to check out some of the presentations, here they are. This conference really is the bleeding edge of the industry. We’re smarter just for having been in the building.
Finally, we were presenting opposite the Westminster Dog Show. Fluffy dogs are hard to compete with. As we headed back to Boston, we saw a bunch of them outside of Penn Station…
September 3, 2010
It’s Friday, and here’s what I learned this week. Hope you’ll share what you learned with us, as well.
- Daytona State College is moving to an e-book-only model starting in January, 2011. Students will no longer purchase “textbooks” for their courses, but will instead pay a “digital materials fee” to Daytona State for the use of the e-books the school has licensed from the various publishers. Significant? You bet. Academics will still control book selection, but pricing and delivery now fall squarely into the per-course cost model used by the for-profit institutions like DeVry and University of Phoenix. Guess who’s not happy about the new deal? That’s right…the campus bookstore.
- On a related note, our friends at fellow “upstart publisher” Flat World Knowledge are doing something similar at Virginia State University in the business school, although they’re trying a purely “free” model.
- Coincidentally, 5 Cal State campuses signed licensing agreements with the Big Publishers this week for all-digital course materials. In this scenario, however, students make the purchase through the campus bookstore.
Sensing a trend here? Do you think initiatives like these will result in lower textbook prices for students over the long term? Is this disruption, or just a new edition of the same old model?
Your comments are welcome and appreciated.
August 27, 2010
It’s Friday…time for another edition of “What Did You Learn This Week,” where I drop a couple of quick hits on you, and ask you to do the same.
Here’s what I learned this week:
- That there have been more than 300 million downloads from iTunes U, Apple’s education-related portal that’s a part of the iTunes store. Draw your own conclusions. My conclusion is that we’re definitely on the right track with this little publishing company idea.
- In addition to making it legal to jailbreak your iPhone, the Library of Congress has also given you the legal right to hack your e-books. Check out item 6 at the bottom of the notice. Note to self, don’t spend a whole lot of money on DRM at the moment.
- What’s next, single-use versions of e-books that disappear when you shut off the device you’re using to read them? (University of Michigan Press announces e-book rentals.)
What did you learn this week? We need your comments and feedback, so please post up your own items.
August 20, 2010
It’s Friday, and time to share some quick things I learned this week:
- Educators are dreaming up some pretty creative ideas for using technology to free up more time for personal instruction in large intro courses;
- Advertisements are coming to an e-book near you, sooner rather than later;
- One management prof at Texas Tech replaced his “boring” textbook with a graphic novel and saw student success rates increase significantly;
- And finally, the University of Phoenix is once again under fire for recruitment practices.
August 17, 2010
A survey done recently by ReadWriteWeb indicates that educators are spending a lot of time thinking about the roles and uses of popular technologies in the classroom. While it’s clear that a couple of the things that made the top 5 on the list are still in the “nice to have” category (I’m not sure I can see many school districts springing for iPad or Android tablets at this point), it’s heartening to know that teachers from the elementary school ranks all the way up through those in higher education are actively envisioning the future of the learning experience.
In a lot of ways, this makes our job as a publisher harder, because it forces us to pay very close attention to what our customers are doing, and, by extension, to what they want (or will someday want) from us. It also makes our job more rewarding, knowing that we’ll have a genuine opportunity to contribute to the intersection of technology and learning.
July 25, 2010
The Connecticut state university system announced yesterday that bookstores at Eastern, Western, Southern, and Central Connecticut State Universities will offer students a textbook-rental program designed to help curb costs and comply with the Higher Education Reauthorization Act.
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