Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010

20 years of e-readers

A recent posting on features a slideshow of some of the e-readers that have hit the market over the past 20 years. The slideshow includes the first e-reader, Sony Data Discman, which was released in 1991 and designed to read audio CD’s and CD-ROMs. You can view the full slide show here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

B&N Nook Color

Earlier this week, Barnes & Noble unveiled a new color version of its Nook reader. The device features a 7–inch color LCD screen and Android operating system. This is an interesting device because it combines features of an e-reader and a tablet. It has a color screen and on screen keyboard like a tablet but does not include all of the capabilities or the larger device size. It is like other e-readers because it is designed primarily for the purpose of reading. However, this device will not be as easy on the eyes because it features a LCD screen with backlighting rather than a black and white E Ink screen. In terms of price, it also falls between cheaper e-readers and pricier tablets. Jamie Iannone, president of digital products at B&N, described the Nook Color by saying, “This device is the reader's tablet.”

According to an article from The Wall Street Journal, magazine and newspaper subscriptions with color photos will be available on the device. In addition, according to a posting on the Bits Blog, B&N has also introduced a new feature called Nook Friends that will allow readers to share content and notes with friends via social networks.

It will be interesting to see how this new type of device does this holiday season. B&N is expected to begin shipping the devices on November 19th.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Digital Happenings

While the blog highlights many of the digital happenings affecting our industry, there is often more going on than we have a chance to cover. Here are some links to interesting articles from the past few days.

  • Apple sold 4.19 million iPads last quarter bringing its total sales to almost 7.5 million since April. Interestingly, the iPad sales last quarter were greater than the sales for the entire line of Macintosh computers which also hit a record high at nearly 3.9 million units. Some analysts are now predicting that Apple will sell up to 40 million iPads next year.
  • According to an article from Adage, Apple has also expanded distribution for the iPad to retailers such as Target, Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Best Buy. Previously, the iPad was available at 300 Apple stores and now it will be available at 8,000 stores across the country.
  • A recent survey of students by the Associated Press and mtvU found that 57 percent of students said that life without computers and cell phones would be stressful but 25 percent said it would be a relief.
  • An article from The New York Times says that Sharp is scaling back its laptop operations to focus on tablets. Sharp plans to launch 5.5-inch and 10-inch screen Android tablets in December. In addition, Sharp will launch an e-book store that will give users access to 30,000 e-books, newspapers, and magazines. A second article from MacWorld provides more information about the tablets.
  • According to a TechCrunch article, Amazon says that it continues to sell more Kindle books than print books. Amazon says that it has sold more than three times as many Kindle books from January to September of this year than it did for the same nine months of 2009. Amazon also says that sales for its latest Kindle device have already surpassed total Kindle device sales from the holiday season last year (October through December 2009).
  • A recent article from Publishers Weekly discusses the challenges associated with formatting e-books.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Amazon announces a lending program for Kindle e-books

According to an announcement on Amazon’s website, later this year it will introduce an e-book lending program for Kindle users. Users will be able to loan an e-book to a friend that uses a Kindle device or the Kindle app. The loan period will be for 14 days and the lender will not be able to read the book during that time. The announcement notes that publishers and rights holders will determine whether or not their titles are available for lending. Barnes & Noble has a similar lending program in place for its Nook device.

Amazon also announced that it will make Kindle newspapers and magazines available for reading on the Kindle apps. This functionality will be available for Apple devices initially and for Android devices or other apps in the future. This functionality may encourage users to stay within the Kindle app for all of their reading on various devices.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Touch screen technology from Disney Research

An interesting CNN article says that Disney Research is working on a new touch screen technology called TeslaTouch. The new technology would allow users to feel the location of the keys on a flat screen because it uses small electrical impulses to create a pull and push between a person’s finger and the screen. It differs from other touch-sensitive screens because it can actually simulate the feeling of various textures or friction between objects.

Here is a link to a video demo with additional information.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Webinar on Effective Communication in Higher Education

On Tuesday, November 9th, Platt Retail Institute will be holding a webinar to discuss the results from their study on communication effectiveness in higher education. The webinar will include a discussion about the most effective communication methods and how digital technologies can improve the flow of information on college campuses.

In an email about the webinar, Steven Keith Platt, PRI Director and Research Fellow, noted, "Our research study found that 97 percent of students prefer to receive information via digital channels, rather than from non-digital sources. Overall, text messages were found to be the most effective distribution channel, followed closely by digital signage."

For those interested in attending, you can sign up here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Free interactive biology textbook in creation

A recent article from Wired Science discusses the efforts of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation to create an interactive and comprehensive digital textbook for biology that will be available for free. The textbook will be called Life on Earth and it will be created from scratch in the digital format.

Neil Patterson, director of Life on Earth, commented on the effort to revolutionize science education. Patterson noted, “Motion and film are powerful ways of teaching. We’re trying to exploit the human brain, like videogames do, and it’s not a small matter to use technology now available to us.”

The digital book will contain 59 chapters and will be extremely expensive to create so university level editions will be sold for about 10 percent of the cost of an average print textbook. The foundation will also need donations to support the effort.

The Wired article also includes a couple of videos that are worth watching. The first video is a demonstration of the first chapter of Life on Earth and the second video provides more information about the initiative.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

XanEdu and NYU Stern School of Business to conduct iPad pilot

According to a recent press release, XanEdu, provider of custom coursepacks and textbooks, has partnered with the NYU Stern School of Business to conduct a program-wide iPad pilot for MBA students. Instructors at the university will use XanEdu’s system to publish course materials that students can access on the iPads. The course materials will include digital note taking capabilities and collaboration tools. Throughout the pilot, students will be asked to provide feedback to help determine if the iPad app meets the needs of the students.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mobile usage among teens and young adults is on the rise

Nielsen has released a new report about mobile usage in the U.S. that has some interesting statistics.

In regards to texting, teens between the ages of 13-17 far surpass every other age group. Teens send an average of 3,339 texts a month or about six texts for every hour that they are awake. Young adults between the ages of 18-24 come in second at about 1,630 texts per month or about three texts per hour. For both age groups, voice activity has decreased since last year.

According to the report, these age groups are now relying on their phones for many tasks in addition to texting including: the Internet, e-mail, multimedia, games, and apps. Since the second quarter of 2009, data usage among teens (ages 3-17) has quadrupled and among young adults (18-24) it has tripled.

The increased reliance on mobile devices among these age groups presents many opportunities for the mobile industry in the future.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

New type of e-paper

A recent Ars Technica article discusses a new type of e-paper that is currently in development. The screen is being developed by Gamma Dynamics and is said to be more advanced than the E Ink screens that are used on many e-readers today. According to the article, the screen is much brighter but it does not use more power. It is also has a much faster refresh rate than the current E Ink screens. More information is available here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

96% of 18-29 year olds own a cell phone

A new report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project has some interesting findings about the number of Americans that own technology devices. Some of the findings include:
  • 85% of all Americans and 96% of 18-29 year olds own a cell phone
  • 52% of all Americans and 72% of 18-19 year olds own a laptop computer
  • 47% of all Americans and 75% of 18-29 year olds own an mp3 player
  • 42% of all Americans and 62% of 18-29 year olds own a home gaming system

In regards to e-readers and tablets, 5% of all Americans own and e-book reader and 4% own a tablet computer. The report notes that these devices are new but they are proving to be popular with early adopters. The ownership rates of these devices among college graduates and the affluent are roughly double the national average.

The full report is available here

Friday, October 15, 2010

August 2010 e-book sales statistics

E-book sales statistics for August 2010 have been released by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) via IDPF. Trade e-book sales were $39 million for August 2010, a 172.4% increase over August 2009. IDPF reports calendar year to date revenue is up 193%. Note: These figures represent the 12 to 15 trade book publishers who have been willing to supply their data to IDPF.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

HP in-store print-on-demand pilots

This semester, Hewlett Packard (HP) is conducting print-on-demand pilots at three universities. NMS helped to facilitate the pilots with the college stores at Portland State University, The University of Kansas, and Arizona State University. The stores are utilizing HP in-store print-on-demand technology to print and bind course materials. Each college store has worked out agreements with publishers to print a select number of titles. In addition, books in the public domain and open-source books can be printed. More information about each of the pilots can be found below.

A recent article from discusses the pilot at ASU. McGraw-Hill, John Wiley & Sons, and Cengage Learning have all made a limited number of titles available for the pilot. Some professors who own the rights to their books have also made the titles available for printing. As a result of the pilot, the textbook prices for several courses have reduced. Dennis Mekelburg, associate director of ASU Bookstore, estimates that students could save about a half-million dollars each semester if five percent of ASU classes switch to print-on-demand.

In another article Estella McCollum, director of the KU Bookstore, commented on the pilot at KU. She noted, “With this, we’re essentially never out of stock on the printable titles. We just have a more efficient option for purchasing.” The KU Bookstore hopes to expand the print options next semester to include: student projects, books, portfolios, cookbooks, and other projects.

An article about the pilot at Portland State University points out that the program is good for students, the store, and the earth because it reduces prices for students, keeps sales at the store, and reduces wasteful printing and transportation. The store hopes to get more publishers on board by next semester so that they can increase the amount of content that can be printed.

More information about these pilots will be available prior to CAMEX in February 2011.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Student PIRGs report on open textbooks

A new report regarding open textbooks has been released by The Student PIRGs. The report titled “How Open Textbooks are the Path to Textbook Affordability” concludes that “the next step toward textbook affordability is to promote the creation and adoption of open textbooks.” It says that rentals, e-textbooks, and e-readers are limited in the ability to reduce costs and address student preferences because they only match the preferences of some students. However, open textbooks can reduce costs substantially and accommodate the full spectrum of students.

Some of the Student PIRG data that contributed to this conclusion matches data from the NACS Student Watch study however, there are some differences. For example, in regards to student preferences, the Student PIRGs data shows that 75 percent of students prefer print while 25 percent prefer digital. The NACS study found a similar statistic but when students were subsequently asked the primary reason for purchasing print over digital only 42 percent indicated that their preference for print was the primary reason for their purchase choice. The next two reasons were: lack of inventory (19 percent) and that the professor used the print copy (13 percent). This shows that while a majority of students may prefer print to digital, that preference is decreasing in its relevance as a reason not to purchase digital -- suggesting that the preference for print over digital may be lessening in significance. If the content is available and if the faculty chooses digital more students may be ready to switch. Preference for print may have been definitive before but it is more marginal now.

The Student PIRGs report also estimates that students would spend an average of 80 percent less on textbooks each year if they moved to all open textbooks. This compares to 61 percent less for rentals, 52 percent less for e-textbooks, and 39 percent less for e-reader textbooks. While open textbooks may be more affordable now, the model may not be sustainable over the long term. As more faculty adopt open course materials, it may have an impact on overall educational affordability because revenue that goes to support financial aid, tuition sustainability, and other institutional expenses will be lost. This is not an argument against seeking lower cost course materials. Rather, it is an argument that open source still presents enough shortcomings that it is not yet a panacea for the textbook affordability problem.

While open textbooks will certainly play a part in the future, the associated limitations need to be worked out before they can be widely adopted. College Stores should be thinking about ways to incorporate open textbooks into their offerings. College Stores have an opportunity to provide access to the digital versions and offer printed versions through print-on-demand so that the store remains the primary source for student content needs, regardless of format or source.