All posts by Mirela Roncevic

Book of the Week: The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen; Volume II by Collins Hemingway

No Shelf Required is an ardent supporter of independent authors around the world writing and producing their work on their own terms and with their own resources. In an effort to draw attention to quality independent literature (fiction and nonfiction published by independent authors and indie publishers around the world), and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews of a wide variety of titles published on BIR’s site each week. Enjoy this week’s pick.


The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen: Volume II

 

About Author

collins-hemingwayCollins Hemingway notes that his approach to fiction is to “dive as deeply into a character’s heart and soul as possible, to address the root causes of their behavior rather than to describe superficial attitudes and beliefs.” He also notes that “his sentiment regarding the importance of literature is only slightly mellower than that of Jane Austen, who observed that the gentleman or lady who fails to find pleasure in a good novel must be ‘intolerably stupid.’” Hemingway lives in Bend, Oregon. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas and has a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Oregon.


 

About BlueInk Review

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

 

Book of the Week: A Curious Host by Nanette L. Avery

No Shelf Required is an ardent supporter of independent authors around the world producing their work on their own terms and with their own resources. In an effort to draw attention to quality independent literature (fiction and nonfiction published by independent authors and indie publishers), and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews of a wide variety of titles published on BIR’s site each week. Enjoy this week’s pick, a novel by a Nashville-based writer, educator, and researcher.

A Curious Host

 

About Author

Nnanette-averyanette L. Avery lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is a writer, educator, and researcher. Her first novel, Orphans in America, was named a “Best Indie Book” by Kirkus and “A Reviewer’s Choice Indie Book” by Foreword Reviews.

 

 

 


About BlueInk Review

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

(Dare to envision) a world where books and knowledge flow freely, and publishers and libraries enable it

free-readingOn September 22, news broke out across the book industry that a well-known café in Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, became the first café in the world turned into a Free Reading ZoneSM—an open virtual library that can be accessed by its guests and enjoyed free of charge. All they need is to log into a free reading app via an access code found on the receipt. Within seconds they have immediate, uninterrupted access to 100,000 quality books in several languages (including the native Croatian). Once they register via the access code, they may read at the café or continue reading at home.

The collection, which now grows by 1000 titles weekly, comprises the catalogs of a wide range of established brands,  300 and counting. The books are as diverse as the imprints on their covers—including everything from children’s literature and YA fiction to spirituality and self-help; from genre and literary fiction to poetry and philosophy; from science and technology to professional literature and study aids; from business and computers to travel and cooking.

How is this possible? How can a café with less than 50 tables on its premises provide free access to a virtual library bigger and richer than the city’s main library system can afford its patrons? How can this little business give Zagreb’s residents and tourists more knowledge than a government-funded institution? How is this even sustainable?

The Free Reading Zones (FREZ) initiative, which I have the privilege of running in cooperation with Total Boox, an Israeli/U.S. company known to publishers for its pay-as-you-read ebook model, is an effort to spread reading around the world to public and private places that want to be endowed with culture. Reading is supported by any business or organization that wishes to take part; it can but it does not have to be the library. Powered by the Total Boox technology, FREZ is an effort to maximize the potential of ebooks not seen before, especially not in or by libraries.

Just when we thought there was nothing left to say about ebooks other than that the book industry managed to beat the ‘bad tech guys’ (by making it difficult for most people to access ebooks unless they were willing to pay a lot for them, then using people’s disappointment as false proof that there was no interest in the first place), FREZ stands as a reminder that the book industry—and its dogged refusal to transform itself and the world through the power of the digital medium—ended up not serving anyone’s needs but its own, ultimately betraying itself and the reader.

FREZ turns beaches, hospitals, cafes, museums, airports, parks, trains, hotels, and airplanes, to name a few examples, into ‘zones’ where knowledge flows freely. Imagine that. Any business becomes an open virtual library. Imagine a world where knowledge flows freely in all directions. Hasn’t that been the promise of the digital book all along? To unleash the written word, detach it from institutions, and afford everyone free access regardless of their zip code, financial status, or education background? The kind of access that transcends publishers, libraries, bookstores, distributors, and even authors. The kind of access that places the power of the book in the hands of the reader and those willing to support the reading. FREZ is the fulfilment of that promise.

The reader decides

When Total Boox entered the ebook and library market over three years ago, the idea behind the model was quite simple—everything in its collection is always exposed for reading. Every publisher who signs with Total Boox makes its entire catalog available upfront for discovery. This was, and still is, a radical concept and a far cry from what libraries are used to (and really prefer)—purchasing ebooks in advance and making them available for reading under the conditions dictated either by publishers or the services they subscribe to and have, over the years, become attached to. Total Boox did not ask them to purchase anything in advance. It did not ask them to curate. It asked them to simply make the content instantly available and then get out of the way.

With the Total Boox model, nothing would stand between the book and the reader. Not publishers, not librarians. Its reading-centric approach meant that libraries would only pay for what was read (not downloaded or purchased in advance). There would be no restrictions of any kind. Readers would not be ‘triggering’ purchases by clicking on books in their library collections that they would then not read. Their reading would be monitored and available via a live dashboard every step of the way. And libraries would be able to control their budget while spending every cent of that budget on reading.

Total Boox’ disruptive ebook model finally gave libraries the tool to appear powerful in the digital arena, since it gave their patrons the illusion that the 100,000 ebooks (and counting) ‘belonged’ to the library (when in reality they were simply ‘staged’ for reading). And this same collection was available to a patron in a small rural library in the South and a patron in the affluent Northeast. Suddenly all patrons were equal because they could read and enjoy the same content. In essence, Total Boox asked libraries to embrace their patrons’ freedom of reading, to place the trust of what would be paid for in the hands of the reader wherever he/she may be, and not to rely on the faulty process of curation. It asked them to transform themselves from institutions that housed a very small percentage of the world’s books (even the biggest of them) to agents that enabled reading and empowered their communities through no-barriers access (even the smallest of them).

At the same time, publishers who signed with Total Boox understood that they, too, would need to embrace the people’s freedom to read on their own terms. They, too, were asked to place the power in the hands of the reader, whose reading would be measured and would determine the ultimate revenue, and this revenue no longer would depend on a sales person ability to charm the librarian. Total Boox also gave publishers the tool to monetize the backlist, bring long-forgotten titles back to life and in a virtual space that knows no ‘old’ from ‘new’ and allows backlist titles to compete with bestsellers. But most of all, Total Boox asked publishers to take responsibility for their ‘product’—to trust the product itself—because they’d be paid only if people ‘consumed’ it.

A tech company on a mission

Why wasn’t this enough for Total Boox? To simply continue supporting the mission of libraries to be the institutions that give us knowledge while allowing publishers to expose their entire titles for reading and paying them for it? Why bring cafés like Velvet into the picture and give them the power to morph into open virtual libraries bigger than their government’s? After spending the past four years helping Total Boox work with publishers and libraries, I can give at least 20 reasons why it’s logical for such a company to stretch its legs beyond government institutions and most of these reasons are not sympathetic to either libraries or publishers.

Here is a basic one to start, and I say it respectfully but without hesitation: through its Free Reading efforts, Total Boox’ mission becomes ‘bigger’ than that of libraries and ‘bigger’ than that of publishers and bookstores. Does that mean that people will stop buying print? Of course not. Those of us who’ve stepped outside our airless industry to explore the possibilities afforded by the digital medium know that that’s never been the case, and that’s not the point. This is: it will actually enhance it. But more than that, it will finally open the last create medium online not available for free consumption: the book. And with the support from sponsors, millions of books that no one can keep up with anymore—not libraries, not bookstores—will be set free to find their readers in a virtual space that does not discriminate. This is nothing short of revolutionary. And now that the technology can support it, there is no stopping it.

The win-win-win-win model behind FREZ is, in fact, so effective Total Boox does not need to rely on the presence of ‘the Big 5’ content in the collection to justify its worth. I will go on record here to say that libraries often base their decisions on the presence of ‘the Big 5’ bestsellers to determine what ebook services to buy, even if the service itself is an inferior solution. They will often chose a dysfunctional model (supported and controlled by the Big 5) over an all-access model even if it makes patrons wait for months before getting to a title. I will also add here that the only reason an all-access model does not have ‘the Big 5’ content is because it does not play by ‘the Big 5’ rules. FREZ does not need or want to be caught in the middle of dysfunctional relationship between ‘Big 5’ publishers and libraries, both of whom have equally contributed to the mess they found themselves in with ebooks. Put simply, it has outgrown it. And as I’ve had the privilege to uncover, the world is full of progressive, forward-thinking publishers of all types and sizes eager to go beyond the traditional one copy/one user approach. The world is also full of gifted independent authors of all backgrounds whose voices will not remain silent.

FREZ simply leverages technology to reduce the cost of reading to zero, and it’s doing this outside libraries. This is the first time that long-form reading has ever been supported through sponsorship. And this goes beyond even ad-supported music, since songs are short and the ads are sandwiched between them. It also goes beyond publishing short stories in ad-supported magazines.

A Free Reading Zone gives users the ability to read a book from cover to cover without interruption. Thus, the experience of reading books is not shattered by the distraction of an ‘ad.’ The benefit for the sponsor is likewise superior, because it can get its brand name in front of the customers without offending them. Implementing FREZ empowers the sponsor to provide a benefit of true value. It is a gift of culture for its customers, and everyone’s customer is a reader in one way or another. For publishers and authors, too, the benefit is unique and multilayered. They can get their books in front of multitudes of people who would otherwise never get past the decision-point barrier of buying or not buying. They can help them create monetary opportunities not afforded to them in physical environments where authors get a few seconds, it seems, to make an impression before their books are replaced with titles from the ever-in-demand ‘new’ catalog.

A café on a mission

Velvet is a very special cafe that residents of Zagreb associate not only with first-rate coffee and cake but with celebration of human creativity in every form: paintings, photographs, pottery, antique furniture, flower arrangements, and books. It is a well-regarded literary establishment that has hosted countless publishing events over the years. It is not the place where books are curated or managed. They simply are there, waiting for the reader to find them on wooden shelves and on every table. And now books are also waiting to be read inside the guests’ mobile devices. Velvet does not ask its visitors to become members of their establishment. It doesn’t pre-order titles for them by guessing what they’d probably like. It gives them the freedom to choose what matters to them at the point of their need or want. And it places its trust in the collection in the reading app to deliver quality literature for all tastes and ages.

Velvet will not stop serving excellent coffee and cake. It will not stop paying attention to all the other details its guests already admire. It will not remove books from the tables because of the virtual library. It simply wants to support even more reading and add another layer to the ‘Velvet experience.’ FREZ helps this café grow its brand. It helps it expand its horizons but remain true to its character. Velvet sponsors their guests’ reading but does not stand between them and their choice of books.

It took one hour with the café’s owners for them to agree to turn Velvet into a Free Reading Zone. It took a week to sign a short agreement, and another week to set it all up. It takes many months of excruciating back-and-forth with government employees to get one library to sign a deal with a vendor like Total Boox. Likewise, it can take years to court and sign a publisher hesitant to work with ebooks without even being able to articulate why. Much of my work the past four years has involved dealing with unanswered emails, unreturned calls, cancelled meetings, lifeless webinars, uninspired panels, and endless entertaining and small talk at book and library shows where everything matters but reading. Even authors are treated as pop culture celebrities to be worshipped rather than simply writers whose work we admire. A publishing executive once told me he didn’t care if the books were read as long as they were sold. Dear publishing executive, many of your colleagues do care, including authors. Have you taken the time to talk to them about it?

Working with this café (and other places and businesses we are now turning into Free Reading Zones) has given me and my colleagues at Total Boox and all others participating in this endeavor a new purpose. We aren’t in this business to beat the competition. If anything, we want to find ways to partner with it because what FREZ has to offer is bigger than all of us combined. If there is an all-access model out there that can support free reading like Total Boox and help us enhance the offering in Free Reading Zones, please step forward and let us join forces. We have the privilege (and responsibility) to make the world a better place now—and in this world people simply read, and those of us who make it possible do not perish because of it. Like Velvet Café and all others helping us spread free reading, we have a mission, and we accept it — and part of this mission is to create a world where books and knowledge flow freely in all directions, and nobody stands in the way.

_______________________________

Mirela Roncevic is Director of Free Reading Zones and Managing Editor of No Shelf Required, non-profit portal advocating for free access to books in digital format. She was formerly Book Review Editor at Library Journal, editor of ALA’s journal eContent Quarterly, instructor of ALA’s course, What Librarians Need to Know About Ebooks, and contributor to a wide range of publications. She divides her time between New York and Zagreb, Croatia.

News Roundup [September 23, 2016]

end-of-week-e-news-round-up3

How a café in Croatia became an open virtual library (and what it teaches us about the future of books) (No Shelf Required)

Kindle Unlimited Funding Increases Slightly in August 2016 (The Digital Reader)

Research Tools: USDA Releases New Database with Nutrition Info For Over 80,000 Brand Name Food Products (Infodocket)

Kobo Aura 2016 vs. Kobo Glo HD vs. Kindle Paperwhite (comparison) (Password Incorrect)

The Kindle Reading Fund will make books more accessible around the world (Ebook Friendly)

Creative Commons licenses under scrutiny—what does “noncommercial” mean? (Ars Technica)

Download our new #Frankfurt @Book_Fair preview magazine free (Publishing Perspectives)

2016 Trend Report: What publishers need to know (The Average Joe)

Copyright Is Not an Inevitable or Divine Right, Court Rules (Torrent Freak)

e-Book Cover Design Awards, August 2016 (The Book Designer)

Comic Book Readers Still Prefer Print Over Digital (InfoDocket)

Facebook begins using artificial intelligence to describe photos to blind users (The Verge)

NSR Post: A time to soar above the level plain of tradition (No Shelf Required)

New Partnership between EBSCO and Mackin Makes Accessing eBooks Easier for Schools (Library Stuff)

Google Books will now make better suggestions on what to read next (Techcrunch)

Former Disney Digital Boss Says He “Loves Piracy” (Torrent Freak)

Keio University Offers “Introduction to Japanese Subcultures Post-1970” Online Course For Free (Crunchyroll)

Stop Piracy? Legal Alternatives Beat Legal Threats, Research Shows (Torrent Freak)

Students and universities set to reap the benefits of market-leading e-book pilot (JISC)

Aberystwyth University share their digital storytelling experiences (JISC)

News Roundup [September 16, 2016]

end-of-week-e-news-round-up3

Every Friday, NSR releases a compilation of news stories related to ebooks, epublishing, elibraries, and digital literacy from around the world and from various news sources. The goal is to help information professionals (of all walks of life) keep up with what is happening in the world of ebooks and econtent beyond the confines of their organizations, institutions, countries, and continents.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list of the most important news that occurred this (or any other) week. But it is a curated list, and a way for NSR to not lose sight of the big picture.  Enjoy this week’s compilation.


Academic libraries are shrinking, while content is growing. How did we get here? (No Shelf Required)

Hop in and fire up ‘Citroen Origins’ virtual museum website (Autoblog)

80,000 Students Receive Digital Library Card (Good Ereader)

One of the most frequently overlooked cornerstones of effectively #publishing digital content is semantic tagging (Aptara)

Europe’s biggest and best digital publishing conference is coming. Here’s @philipdsjones on #FutureBook16. Join us! (The Bookseller)

Comic book readers still prefer print over digital (USA Today)

Bonnier Books CEO Jacob Dalborg: ‘Digitization Is Not Necessarily Evil’ (Publishing Perspectives)

Streaming, abonnement : 25 % du marché de l’ebook d’ici 3 ans (Hélène Merillon, Youboox) (Actualitte)

Amazon adds another Prime benefit: Audible Channels and free audiobooks (Techcrunch)

Bookboon Brings Free eBooks to South African Commuters (The Digital Reader)

Open Ebooks Announces Compatibility with Clever (Digital Book World)

Pearson, Follett Partner on Digital Textbook Program (Campus Technology)

Copyright reform fails EU citizens in favour of industry (Open Rights Group)

It’s official — ebooks really are books and Euro tax could plummet (Roger Packer)

A Promising New eBook Reader for Linux Appears (OMG Ubuntu)

Download: Publishing Perspectives Fall 2016 Magazine (Publishing Perspectives)

European Commission introduces copyright on links… that’s right, hyperlinks (Privacy Online News)

This Ebook Publisher Doesn’t Have Authors. It Has Writers’ Rooms (Wired)

Museum of Modern Art Digital Archive Goes Live Tomorrow, Thousands of Images, Documents Will Be Accessible Onlin (Infodocket)

Shelfie Announces Launch of Ebook Deal Finder (Library Stuff)

Paul Klee, for Kids | Touch and Go (School Library Journal)

Snakes, Mandrakes and Centaurs: Medieval Herbal Now Online (Medieval Manuscripts Blog)


Paul Biba is former Editor-in-Chief of TeleRead. For his curated ebook/elibrary/epublishing news, follow him on Twitter @paulkbiba.

Mirela Roncevic is Managing Editor at No Shelf Required. For all NSR-related news and reviews, follow her on Twitter @noshelfrequired. For her creative and all things related to creativity and literacy, follow her on Facebook.

Book of the Week: What Remains by Tracey Lee

In an effort to draw attention to quality independent literature (fiction and nonfiction published by independent authors and indie publishers from around the world) and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week. This week’s pick is Tracey Lee’s novel What Remains.

What Remains

About Author

tracey-lee

Tracey Lee is a former schoolteacher from Southern Australia. After 32 years of teaching, she is now pursuing her love of writing fiction. Lee notes that she finds inspiration for her work from observing human behavior. Many of her stories relate to ordinary people and their response to extraordinary events.  The author received her Master’s in Creative Writing from the University of Canberra, and is currently living in New South Wales with her husband.

 


About BlueInk Review

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

Academic libraries are shrinking, while content is growing. How did we get here?

 

zeoli-op-image

In this week’s opinion piece, Michael Zeoli (of YBP Library Services) takes a close look at how collection development practices have evolved in academic libraries in recent years, especially since the advent of the ebook and proliferation of digital content. Regardless of how familiar book professionals are with complex purchasing models in academic settings, it is important that we understand how we ‘got here’ before we can understand how best to move forward. We also must acknowledge that we all willingly participated in the creation of complex business models for buying and managing content. We must now all participate in simplifying them. The reality is, as Michael explains, that the academic library book world is shrinking, even as more content is created and new technologies are implemented. This raises serious questions about the future of the academic library and the roles we all play in shaping it. Perhaps the most important sentence in the piece is: “All parts of our ecosystem have an active role to play; none should act out of fear and remain passive.” Full article below. —Ed.


Academic library staff has been shrinking for 2 decades, while the quantity of scholarly content has grown exponentially.  In the 1960s Richard Abel & Company began the Approval Plan service as a systematic approach to help libraries manage the volume of new books published.  Libraries rely on vendor services (i.e., companies catering to libraries) to discover and acquire much of scholarly content.  Since the 90s, libraries have also depended on vendors to provide shelf-ready services for print books, customized cataloging, to manage financial transactions electronically, and to maintain online interfaces to support collection development and acquisitions processes.  Ebooks brought another layer of labor and complexity to library workflows.

Ebooks elbowing their way into the landscape

Within a decade of their birth, ebook aggregators entered mainstream library collecting.  Initially, the ebook appeared as just another format or manifestation of the print book; the library choice expanded beyond paper or cloth to include ‘e’ versions (in many cases PDFs).  Technology changed this: ebook models have upset the balance in traditional library collecting and continue to challenge traditional understandings not just of collection development, but of the role of the academic library.

The ebook aggregators’ business models exist outside the realm of print books – except as a distribution model on which to piggyback for just as long as necessary (think ‘the scorpion and frog’ fable).  The business of the aggregator is to sell ebooks, not books.  Aggregator ebook platforms are designed for this purpose.  Each is different from the others in design (technical as well as strategic):

  • User interface & experience
  • Library acquisition models
  • Library control of patron access
  • Publisher control over: 1) Library acquisition models; 2) License terms for each model; and 3)  ‘Triggers’ to purchase and loan (Patron-Driven Acquisitions – DDA / Short-Term Loan – STL / Evidence-Based Acquisitions – EBA)

‘Standards’ in the industry exist only to the degree necessary for one company to compete with another (‘not-for-profits’ are not exempted!).  Focus has been split 3 ways:

  • Competition to win market-share
  • Sustainable development of the market
  • Alternatives to ‘unsustainable models’

To a large extent, the futures of libraries and publishers live at the margins of these considerations.

Competition is driving complexity.  Beyond complexity, competition does not always favor clarity or transparency, even when possible.  Libraries and publishers struggle to gain full vision into some of the forces acting under the surface of a rapidly evolving landscape. Continue reading Academic libraries are shrinking, while content is growing. How did we get here?

News Roundup [September 9, 2016]

News Roundup

Every Friday, NSR releases a compilation of news stories related to ebooks, epublishing, elibraries, and digital literacy from around the world. The goal is to help information professionals (of all walks of life) and ebook supporters keep up with what is happening in the world of ebooks and econtent beyond the confines of their organizations, institutions, countries, and continents.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list of the most important news that occurred this (or any other) week. But it is a curated list, and a way for NSR to not lose sight of the big picture. Here’s the thinking behind what we choose to highlight. Enjoy this week’s compilation.
New York: “Queens Library Launches Digital Archives” (Infodocket)

Preview ICER 2016:Ebooks Design-Based Research & Replications in Assessment & Cognitive Load Studies,by @guzdial (Computing Education Blog)

How to add fonts to the Aura One or other Kobo ereaders: Why won’t Amazon let us do this? (Teleread)

Major Publishers are hurting. It’s easy to see why: (Hugh Howey)

eBook pricing resembles three dimensional chess (Idealog)

Reabble is an RSS Feed Reader for Your Kindle (The Digital Reader)

BookShout and T-Mobile Partner to Distribute 237,000 Ebooks (The Digital Reader)

A Return to Print? Not Exactly (Bloomberg)

Whale Math: If Reasonable eBook Prices Devalue Books, Then What About This? (The Digital Reader)

New report by Bowker: Self-Publishing in the United States, 2010-2015, Print and Ebook (Bowker)

Start Saying Goodbye to eBook Pagination (Go to Hellman)

Kobo, OverDrive Post Instructions on How to Use Library eBooks on the Aura One (The Digital Reader)

BookShout Partners With T-Mobile to Distribute 237,000 eBooks (The Digital Reader)

Survey on E-Book DRM Licensing (Copyright and Technology)

Why PRH Sold Author Solutions: Business Dropped by a Quarter in 2015 (The Digital Reader)

Colleges making up English and maths GCSE shortfall given lifeline with free e-books (JISC)

Why the Hammer Museum’s new free digital archives are a game changer (Library Stuff)


Paul Biba is former Editor-in-Chief of TeleRead. For his curated ebook/elibrary/epublishing news, follow him on Twitter @paulkbiba.

Mirela Roncevic is Managing Editor at No Shelf Required. For all NSR-related news and reviews, follow her on Twitter @noshelfrequired. For her writings related to books and all things creativity and literacy, follow her on Facebook.

Unlocking knowledge means empowering people, and MIT is setting a powerful example

MIT OPenCourseWare

No need for an elaborate introduction here about what exactly MIT is doing by opening up their digital content online. Best to start by simply quoting Dick K.P. Yue, Professor at MIT School of Enginnering: “The idea is simple: to publish all of our course materials online and make them widely available to everyone.”

If you haven’t heard about MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW), here is the scoop. It’s intended not just to help educators at MIT improve curricula and make learning more effective for those enrolled at MIT, but to invite independent learners anywhere in the world to use the school’s course materials in their own educational pursuits and at their own pace. In other words, they are free to ‘take’ the course in the privacy of their own home by following full notes and having full access to materials every step of the way.

This is admirable. Truly admirable. And this is what the leaders among us who recognize the true value of digital content do: they open it up to the world. They eliminate all frictions and find ways to bypass man-made rules and institutions and simply make knowledge available to all. They have outgrown all unnecessary discussions of print and digital competing, and about complicated models that serve the select few, they recognize that unread/unused content has little to no value, and, most of all, they are pushing their own ‘institutional’ status quo by embracing the idea that learning never stops and that it is our collective responsibility to educate the world beyond the confines of university walls at a time when, despite all of the technological advances the world has seen, more than 90 percent of its population is not college-educated.

In a way, one can even argue that the same way the print book (the physical ‘paper’ object) is the container we buy, while consuming the content inside for free online (well, not really, but we hope to get there one day, don’t we?), the brick-and-mortar institution becomes the ‘experience’ we now buy (to directly engage with others, including professors and fellow students), while consuming the content (from course materials) online for free. So if we can’t afford to ‘be there’ in person, we can still afford to do it on our own terms.

Everything related to one’s ‘physical experience,’ then must come at a price, for obvious reasons: books must be printed (and before that, they must be written and produced); professors’ time must be paid, and the school’s expenses must be covered. In the same way, we are now able to listen to music for free online, while we must pay to attend a concert or by a CD or an LP (those of us who still collect them).

If we are able to recognize that digital content helps us open up knowledge to the world virtually while doing no harm to the ‘physical experience,’ we are able to create a circle in which everyone benefits. In fact, digital content and its widespread availability enhances the value of the ‘physical’ experience. All other creative mediums have caught on to this but books and textbooks. Initiatives like the one at MIT are a step in that direction.

Materials from 2340 courses are available, and the site is visited by millions. Each course includes lecture notes, slides, videos, instructor insights, Further Study listings, and much more. Here is a list of the most visited courses. MIT accepts donations to keep the operation running. For more info, go here.

Unlocking knowledge means empowering people not only beyond the university but beyond the borders of the United States of America. MIT is setting a powerful example.

Book of the Week: The Cannabis Revolution by Stephen Holt

In an effort to draw attention to quality independent literature (fiction and nonfiction published by independent authors and indie publishers), and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews of a wide variety of titles published on BIR’s site each week. Enjoy this week’s pick.

The Cannabis Revolution©

About Author

Stephen HoltStephen Holt, MD, has written over 25 books relating to medical issues such as aging, osteoporosis, weight loss, and sleep deprivation. He is the founder of Holt Institute of Medicine in New York and an emeritus professor.  Holt holds a medical degree from Liverpool University Medical School and is a board certified Internist and Sub Specialist in the US, UK, and Canada.

 


About BlueInk Review

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.