Category Archives: Opinions

Defending the honor of ebooks (and innovation)

Is the ebook a dead format? How eBooks lost their shine. The Reason Actual Books Are So Much More Memorable Than Ebooks. US Ebook Sales Decline. These are some of the headlines I’ve seen recently perpetuating the (suddenly popular) notion that ebooks are not ‘in’ anymore. That they have somehow failed us. That nothing compares to the reading of actual physical objects in the world. That the challenges the publishing industry has seen with ebooks (i.e., declining sales) point in the direction of a ‘format’ on the verge of dying.

Such articles aren’t only written by informed bloggers and journalists but also by industry professionals with significant experience in the publishing and library and information science markets, particularly those catering to consumers and public libraries. They exhibit a great deal of knowledge and sensible arguments about the challenges the publishing community (trade, in particular) has had with ebooks, focusing largely on the shortfalls of various business models to deliver revenue as predictable as revenue from print, the technological issues associated with ‘formats’  that haven’t been able to deliver a fully satisfying reading experience, and, not to be overlooked, the fierce competitiveness within the market itself, which has often resulted in ‘the powerful’  thriving even if their offerings were inferior to those by various start-ups (most of which perished in recent years).

In short, technology has not been able to ‘disrupt’ book publishing the way it has disrupted other industries in the not-so-distant past (e.g., music, news), and here we are at a crossroads again, asking some existential questions. Continue reading Defending the honor of ebooks (and innovation)

Not all libraries are created equal. What would the world be if they were?

According to an article I recently read in the New York Times, Merryl H. Tisch, the former chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, and her husband, James S. Tisch, the president and chief executive of Lowes Corporation (who sits on the New York Public Library’s board of directors) will give  20 million dollars to the New York Public Library (NYPL) to “expand and strengthen its education programming, from early literacy classes to technology training.”

The article goes on to explain that owing to this gift, a new position for a director of education will be created and Tisch added that she hoped the money would help the library create more job training courses and other programs to help expose students to the library’s rich collection of resources. Christopher Platt, the chief branch library officer, is also quoted saying that, to his knowledge, “this is the first educational gift to public libraries of this scale in the country.”

Giving money—especially large amounts of money that can make a lasting impact—to support any organization and institution on a mission to promote literacy, education, and access to knowledge is admirable on every level, yet this article (and story) has left me with unsettling thoughts that I wish to share here, in hopes they are not misunderstood or taken out of context. And these are pervasive thoughts, similar to those I have often expressed on NSR in my effort to draw attention to unequal access to knowledge and books permeating our society. Continue reading Not all libraries are created equal. What would the world be if they were?

A librarian’s response to “Dear librarians, please don’t move away from enabling reading”

A librarian responded to NSR Director’s Dear librarians op-ed  with such thoughtfulness, the comment itself deserves to be published as a stand-alone post. Thank you, F Goldsmith, for taking the time to offer a perspective that deepens everyone’s understanding, especially my own. And for writing it so coherently. And for caring enough to take the time to write it so coherently. May the dialog continue. And the learning.


Comment:

It’s good to see how cultural changes look to those who are close and yet not inside the circles where goal setting, strategic objectives, and tactics are discussed. I’m glad to see this eloquent view as it opens a way to broaden understanding.

No one, least of all you, is surprised to hear that reality is ever more complex than one perspective—and a well informed perspective—on its nuances can note without some acknowledgment of other perspectives. In the case of what truly appears to be librarians abandoning the savvy reader and experienced library user to bring services into the larger community, several factors should be noted:

Continue reading A librarian’s response to “Dear librarians, please don’t move away from enabling reading”

If the only necessary people in the publishing process are the writer and reader, shouldn’t libraries serve both?

self-publishingThe concept of a public library as self-publishing platform for aspiring writers isn’t new and libraries across North America are steadily warming up to it, increasingly becoming the go-to places for aspiring local writers to produce, publish and share their work in their community and nationally. In recent years there has been an explosion of self-publishing platforms available to writers all over the Internet and several are used in libraries in the United States and Canada. The three that stand out include Biblioboard, Pressbooks, and Self-E (by Library Journal).

Stratford Public Library (SPL), Ontario, Canada, provides access to all three of these resources for its card holders who may use them through the library’s website. Clearly, the library is trying to position itself as the place where local residents don’t just get free books but also create them from scratch for free.

Just underneath the “Self Publishing Resources” heading on SPL’s website, one notices this quote by Guy Kawaski: “The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader.” Public libraries such as SPL are certainly making the necessary steps to stand as examples of institutions that serve the needs of their patrons in an age that transcends traditional publishing channels and recognize that emerging digital technologies are democratizing the written word like we’ve never seen before. They are making it possible for writers in their community who would normally not be able to get exposure to share their writing and possibly realize their greatest dreams and ambitions. Continue reading If the only necessary people in the publishing process are the writer and reader, shouldn’t libraries serve both?

The flawed (and outdated) art of categorizing books and knowledge in digital formats

books-401896During my years as a Library Journal book review editor, I spent countless hours each week sorting through books (then physical objects only) to figure out what goes where. When I started my editorial career (in the late 1990s), book categories made a lot more sense than they did when I left the book review job in 2010. I can’t count the times I went back and forth with my Library Journal colleagues about whether a newly arrived print galley belonged in my or someone else’s “pile,” to be assigned for review.

Is it Military History or Politics? But couldn’t it also be Law & Crime? Is it Literature because it’s literary or Self-help because it’s about a writer’s spiritual journey? Is it Philosophy or Religion? And what if it’s always at least three categories combined? Questions like these were part of our daily dialog. In retrospect, my colleagues and I made educated guesses every day when assigning books for review and I have no doubt that we didn’t always make the right ones. The way we printed book reviews in the magazine corresponded to the way books were categorized in libraries. Since we were the ones instructing librarians what to buy (by category), we were essentially driving the way books would be made available to patrons in libraries. Quite a responsibility. Continue reading The flawed (and outdated) art of categorizing books and knowledge in digital formats

What readers want [and what we are not giving them]

pexels-photo-196649

For the past many months, I’ve had the privilege of stepping outside the confines of the publishing and library industries (as well as the borders of the United States) to engage in projects that bring books and knowledge to people. There comes a point in every person’s career when we crave to turn our professional jobs into missions, and it simply isn’t enough to earn a paycheck, even amidst the most challenging circumstances. We take a leap of faith and jump.

And jump I did, from New York all the way to Croatia, where I would (not immediately upon arrival but soon thereafter) embark on the project of my life and turn an entire country into an open virtual library (available to all its people without a card and access code and regardless of status, geography, background, citizenship, etc). In early December 2016, Croatia (the country of my birth) became the world’s first free reading country (i.e., an open virtual library) for one entire month. Continue reading What readers want [and what we are not giving them]

Ebook sales continue to decline in 2016. That may be good news [for those who advocate free reading]

read-876536NSR is not big on sharing statistics and reports on its site, since numbers released in them are often used to promote and encourage the status quo as opposed to encourage publishers (and all who work with books) to transform and go beyond traditional sales and marketing methods; to take the lead as opposed to rely on reports to justify reinforcing old practices. This report, just released by the Association of American Publishers today, in and of itself isn’t all that surprising (or newsworthy), telling us that in the first half of 2016 book sales were down ‘slightly’ when compared to book sales in 2015. We do, however, want to draw  attention to one statistic in this document: that in the first half of 2016 vs. 2015, sales of ebooks were down 20 percent (to 579.5 million).

This actually may not be bad news for ebooks and econtent in general. At least for those advocating free access to books online, regardless of geography, status, and membership. Why? Because numbers like this do not confirm that people don’t want to read and access content in digital format. Instead, they confirm that they simply do not want to pay for it. Readers are already used to consuming massive amounts of information for free online, and their expectations will gravitate in the direction of ‘free’ even when it comes to books (including fiction and all types of nonfiction).

It may sound odd, but it actually makes sense. If ebook sales continue to decline, it just may be the signal publishers need to consider opening books online for free consumption while still being able to gain from it (by relying on ebook models that support free reading through sponsorship instead of opting for business models that require people or ebook services to purchase publishers’ ebooks in advance). Publishing industry has always been reactive to change, rather than proactive in its efforts to transform itself. Seeing ebook sales decline year after year will not make ebooks go away—their power to eliminate unequal (and unbalanced) access to knowledge (in all forms) is too real to be denied—but it may lead publishers and libraries to consider (and reconsider) other options. Below full press release.


Washington, DC; Nov. 16, 2016 – Publishers’ revenues (sales to bookstores, wholesalers, direct to consumer, online retailers, etc.) were down 3.4% for the first half of 2016 vs. the same period in 2015. The greatest percentage gains from the first half of the year came from Religious Presses, up 10.4%.

While revenue for Trade Books grew 6.7% in June, the gains were not enough to counter declines from earlier in the year, and the overall category declined 1.1% in the first half of 2016.

“After a tough first quarter — with trade sales down 7.4% from the prior year — second quarter sales have bounced back with 4.6% growth. Sales of adult, children’s and religious books all increased in the second quarter due to a mix of factors including movie tie-ins, a diversity of titles from small and midsize presses, and religious presses recovering from a tough 2015,” said Tom Allen President and CEO of AAP.

Overview

  • For the first half of the year, sales in all tracked categories were down 3.4% to $5.37 billion vs. the same six months in 2015. Tracked categories include: Trade – fiction/non-fiction/religious, PreK-12 Instructional Materials, Higher Education Course Materials, Professional Publishing, and University Presses.
  • Publishers’ book sales for June 2016 in all tracked categories were $1.46 billion, down 4.7% from June 2015.
  • In the first half of 2016, compared to the first half of 2015, trade sales were down 1.1% to $3.03 billion:
    • Adult Books had $2.11 billion in sales, down 2.8%
    • Childrens/YA Books had $689.3 million in sales, up 0.9%
    • Religious Presses had $222.4 million in sales, up by 10.4%

Trends for Trade by Format

  • In the first half of 2016 vs. 2015:
    • Paperback books grew 8.8% to $1.01 billion
    • Downloaded audio grew 32.3% to $126.7 million
    • Hardback books grew 0.9% $989.7 million
    • eBooks were down 20.0% to $579.5 million
  • Interesting trends in June:
    • June 2016 had an unusually high percentage of growth in religious presses’ Paperback Books, which are up 54.6% compared to June 2015; the whole category has grown 16.8% over the past half year vs. 2015.
    • June was also a month of incredible growth for downloaded audio, with 51.7% more revenue than June 2015.
    • In June eBooks had their slightest monthly decline in over a year, down only 9.7%.

Below is a chart that shows the market share of various Trade Book formats for the first half of the year from the past six years. Of note, eBooks have around the same percent of market share in 2016 as they did in 2011, while audiobooks doubled their share. The most consistent category has been hardback books, which has ranged from 33.0% to 36.4%.

20161115aappressreleasechart

Educational Materials and Professional Books

  • Educational Materials had a revenue loss of 2.1% for K-12 Instructional Materials and 5.9% for Higher Education Course Materials, in the first half of 2016 vs. 2015.
  • Professional Publishing was down 23.1% in the first half of 2016 vs. the first three months of 2015. These categories include business, medical, law, scientific and technical books. University presses were down 1.7% in the first half of 2016 vs. 2015.

 

Just Listen

A

Almost all of us know a kid whom we recognize as an inveterate reader, and some of us were that kid or grew up to be litaholics as adults. When you think of such a person, regardless of age, is your image limited to that someone who reads silently, eyes focused on text strewn pages?

A variety of expert groups now are on board with audiobooks both as “acceptable” for supporting literacy attainment efforts.  That has placed them in a kind of literacy medicine cabinet, where the format is simply means to an end that must be in a different format, the silently consumed text on paper page.

Listening well can help us understand concepts and feelings—and thus our world and the others in it, as well as ourselves—that escape our notice when we listen poorly or apply only our own interpretation to a printed page’s text. Audiobooks aren’t a booster chair to get kids to the table of text literacy; they are a rich means of offering the opportunity to build a skill just as valuable and necessary as that: the skill of feeling at home in a world where others are just as real as we are. Continue reading Just Listen

A time to (finally) incorporate indie eBooks into library catalogs

hanckock-opinion-piece

By Emilie Hancock


It’s no secret that technology has impacted reading. As eReading has become more prevalent, readers demand publications in both print and digital formats. Not only has that thirst for varied formats allowed greater freedom for how and when we read — devouring short serials on the bus or listening to audiobooks while running, for instance — it has also allowed more freedom in what, or who, we read. In addition to books available from big publishers, digital publishing has seemingly conjured scores of indie and self-published books out of the shadows. And judging by the success of Hugh Howey and CJ Lyons, among others, readers are happy to include indie books along with those from big-name presses.

However, while most libraries around the country meet patrons’ digital demands by lending eBooks, many have historically been  less than enthusiastic about the idea of adopting indie eBooks. That has been changing in major urban libraries and in the thought leadership of the library world, with good reason. By examining evidence around the consumer demand and affordability of indie eBooks versus eBooks from traditional publishers, we can demonstrate how incorporating indie eBooks into libraries’ catalogs can be good for both patrons and libraries. Continue reading A time to (finally) incorporate indie eBooks into library catalogs

Why audiobook listening expands, rather than derails, our access to literature

headphones-968781_1280

Reading by Ear: Who’s the Model Reader?

We seem to be in the throes of a season of debate about whether audiobook listening can be equated with reading print. Several readers who enjoy listening couple that statement with another that notes they feel “ashamed” or “guilty” for taking pleasure in such literary participation. Print readers who advertise how they are “against” audiobooks note that they themselves read print books with no other accompanying activity while only listen when otherwise engaged; that they don’t attend to detailed passages when they are “only” hearing them. There are even the overly self-confident naysayers who forthrightly declare that those other people who suggest listening to books is participating in literary culture are either pranking themselves or spreading a vile cancer upon the literary landscape. Continue reading Why audiobook listening expands, rather than derails, our access to literature

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

New Zeoli

by Michael Zeoli

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 – PDA / 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. Continue reading Academic libraries are shrinking, while content is growing. How did we get here?

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.

Who decides? [what, how, and when people should read]

This post, recently published on Facebook by NSR Managing Editor, was addressed to book readers (not book professionals). But publishers, librarians, authors, editors, distributors, and all others in the business of creating, selling, and managing books would benefit from asking the same questions. If for no other reason than for the simple fact that they, too, are book readers before they are book professionals.


locked up

Who decides?

In 2016, human creativity is exploding online. Right here, on Facebook. We admire paintings and sculptures from museums in far-away countries, we watch videos, share photographs, listen to music, read articles. Everything is within reach, and everything is free. At the same time, the world’s knowledge is locked up in books, which still carry a high price tag.

In 2016, every man should ask: Why can’t we read books freely online like we read everything else? Are publishers and librarians doing enough to maximize the potential of the ebook in ways we haven’t seen before? Is what we see in bookstores and libraries all there is out there to read? Should others decide what I will read, how, and when? Why are we talking about the love of paper and not about the love of learning and the ability to get to the right information at the right time? What if there wasn’t even competition between the two formats (print and electronic)? What if there was already a way to open up books online so that everyone benefits, including those who create them? How much do I even know about the technologies supporting the growth and development of ebooks as free mediums? Why isn’t anyone teaching me?

In 2016, every man should ask: Why don’t we have free access to knowledge and the written word online? When will we have it? And who decides?


Opinions my own.

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

Writer is Self, Author is Ego [and an Editor would like to apologize]

Writer vs. AuthorWhat is a writer? What does it mean to write? I searched high and low for answers, looked left and write, and came to this conclusion:

Writer is — any man or woman willing, learning, or already able to express him or herself through writing in order to grow spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually and to contribute to a larger community by sharing one’s own experience with others for the sake of augmenting collective consciousness.

What is an author? What does it mean to author? I searched high and low for answers, looked left and right, and came to this conclusion:

Author is —  a man or woman selected by an institution or organization to express him or herself through writing in order for that institution or organization to grow financially and through branding and to contribute to a larger community by sharing his or her experience with others for the sake of augmenting budgets of institutions and organizations and salaries (and titles) of those who run them and who deemed that man or woman ‘worthy.’ Collective consciousness also grows this way, but it is controlled by the institution which exercises tremendous power over that consciousness. This institution can be a private entity which first identifies the author (e.g., established publisher) or a public entity which, often in cooperation with an established publisher, chooses to nurture the author and the spreading of his or her message (e.g., library).

Writer creates. Writer is an artist. Writer is self. Writing is liberty. Writing is personal growth. That which is written only asks to be read.

Author controls.  Author is a brand. Author is ego. Authoring is power.  Authoring is institutional growth. That which is authored only asks to be sold.

Writer =  Creation. Art. Self. Liberty. Personal growth. Reading.

Author =  Control. Brand. Ego. Power. Institutional growth. Selling.

Author =Authority

[As concluded by a professional book editor and book reviewer who spent 20 years of her career telling everyone she believed that a) writing was hard work, b) not everyone can or should write, c) we needed publishers and libraries to tell us what is worthy, and d) being rejected by publishers and libraries means that you are less worthy and you should not write (and therefore not participate in creating). She would now like to apologize.]


Opinions my own.

By Mirela Roncevic

Three Reading Revolutions

3 Reading Revolution

I have been thinking ‘long and mad’ (in the words of my favorite poet Pablo Neruda) about the history of the book. I’ve been thinking about it most of all in the context of how readers consume it. Truth be told, thinking about it as a ‘book professional’ leaves me gasping for air sometimes.

I am not even sure that I can convince most of my colleagues (publishers, librarians, and authors alike) that my thinking about the “three revolutions of reading” (as I see them) makes perfect sense and that it is, indeed, the way it is. But I can say this: these thoughts are persistent and consistent with my experience as editor, writer, content developer, and publishing/library professional. Yet they are NOT the thoughts of an editor, writer, content developer or publishing/library professional. They are the thoughts of a reader living and experiencing the world in 2016 (and beyond). Perhaps also the thoughts of a parent raising a reader living and experiencing the world in 2016.

And I could write many paragraphs and ‘throw’ them between the lines written on this board (to explain each revolution in detail), but perhaps it helps to say as much as possible with as few words as possible.

Perhaps.


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

Technology is not the death of deep reading

river image what is referenceIn the summer of 2016, National Public Radio (NPR) announced a new reason for bibliophiles to celebrate. In an article about publishers returning to serialized fiction, Serial Box Publishing Co-Founder Julian Yap reiterates an all-too-common argument for why most Americans — three quarters of us, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll — don’t read books: not enough time. While we have little chance of decreasing how much time we spend working, caring for family and commuting, the amount of time that could stand the most modification is leisure time.

Continue reading Technology is not the death of deep reading

Why education continues to fail digital content and students

Education Opinion Piece

Making the Move from Print to Pixels in Educational Content

By Kathryn Stewart, CEO, Metrodigi 

The migration from physical to digital content has transformed many industries from entertainment to publishing. Why has education—a market sorely in need of innovation—been so slow to leverage the benefits of digital content, especially given the enthusiasm of today’s tech-savvy students?

As schools and universities are quickly being populated with digital natives, it’s essential that campuses keep up with their technology choices to keep students satisfied. In fact, a recent study found that 73 percent of college students recommend their university review and change its digital strategy. How can the institutions that are preparing tomorrow’s leaders keep pace with the rapid advancements in technology and student expectations today?

I see the challenges/opportunities as three-fold:

Much of the educational content available today does not provide a robust user experience.

Digital textbooks, for example, are often little more than PDFs of the printed textbook under glass. Today’s students (and instructors) are receptive to digital educational content, but a more engaging experience is required to realize the full potential for this content.  A recent survey of college students from Wakefield Research bears this out: according to that survey, 34 percent of students said the greatest benefit of digital textbooks is that they are more affordable and convenient – but not necessarily compelling. In fact, those same students identified various aspects of digital content that would improve their learning experience, including:

  • 61% of students said that homework that is more interactive, containing elements such as video, would improve learning outcomes.
  • 48% of students said their learning would be enhanced by technology that helps them collaborate digitally with students from their class, or from other schools.
  • 61% cited the ability to exchange instant feedback with instructors as something that would improve learning.
  • 55% said digital learning that personalizes their learning experience (i.e. gives instructors the ability to track student progress in real-time) would be useful.

Clearly, there is a market for engaging, educational content, but supply has not caught up with demand.  Which brings us to the next barrier: Continue reading Why education continues to fail digital content and students

The cry of the stories to be free [from all who write, package, and sell them]

Stories not atoms

“Every renaissance comes to the world with a cry — the cry of the spirit to be free.” I discovered this quote by Anne Sullivan (1866-1936) while searching for quotes about the meaning of renaissance. I read at least 50 before I came across the one that came close to conveying what I was feeling when I visited Florence last year: the cry of the spirit from centuries ago to be free.

If Venice (which I visited a day before Florence) was “the depth where the spirit hides,” I wrote, Florence must be where it comes out. If Venice was about closing the soul, Florence was about opening it. If Venice was about concealing the unspoken, Florence was about expressing it.

The more I walked through the streets of Florence, the more I felt my own spirit coming alive. And I wondered: if renaissance means “cry of the spirit to be free,” could it be that the “spirit” must first be “locked up” in some place (or age) before it can even yearn to be free? What if the pain (or inconvenience) of confinement was the prerequisite for experiencing the Renaissance? What if all that I was seeing in Florence couldn’t have happened any other way?

What about the stories we have been locking up in books for centuries? What if the stories we write (and package/distribute/sell/curate in containers we call books) are asking to be free? What if they could give us much more if we would set them free ? What if they want ‘their’ renaissance? What if what we think of as “protection” is nothing more than a human need to guard not the stories but our own professional, culturally-induced identities and financial well-being? Continue reading The cry of the stories to be free [from all who write, package, and sell them]

Are you a ‘reader’ when listening to an audiobook? Yes, of course.

audiobooksThere is really no need to recite numerous reports that have come out recently correlating audiobooks with reading success of children and young adults. There is also no need to convince librarians and publishers that listening is learning and that listening is synonymous with literacy. Those who have been on the frontlines know the benefits of audiobooks and listening to the spoken word.

However, many people outside the library and publishing industry still believe that listening to audiobooks is a form of cheating and not really the same thing as reading.  This is puzzling. All one needs to do to dispel this belief is think back in time and consider how people passed on knowledge to each other for generations. Did they all have the privilege to access urban libraries for books? Or money to buy books on their own? Did they even have a bookstore or library anywhere in the vicinity of where they lived? How did they learn exactly? Continue reading Are you a ‘reader’ when listening to an audiobook? Yes, of course.

A new report on ebook trends is out, but its prohibitive cost makes it affordable only to some. Why?

E-Books - Market Trends & Insights - Product ImageWe learned yesterday from BusinessWire that Research and Markets has announced the addition of the “E-Books: Market Trends & Insights” report to their ‘offering.’ According to the BusinessWire site, the report presents up-to-date insights into the ebook market worldwide, including countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, The Netherlands, and Spain. Featuring 22 data tables, the 18-page report consists of the following sections: an Introduction, a Market Overview, a Competitive Landscape, and an Appendix.

NSR wanted to purchase this report to share its findings with all who monitor the progress of ebooks’ positive influence on the world (the very reason for NSR’s existence), but, alas, the prohibitive cost of the 18-page document makes it impossible to do so at this time.

I am using this opportunity to reflect, with both respect and disappointment, on the cost of a document of this kind. And here it is, as cited on Research and Market’s website.

  • $1495 for a single user (PDF)
  • $2093 for 1-5 users (PDF)
  • $2840 for 1-10 users (PDF)
  • $3588 for 1-15 (PDF)

Investigating trends and researching markets takes time, resources, and a lot of human energy. It almost always involves more than one person and there are expenses along the way for all involved. Those of us who have compiled such reports for publishers and other companies catering to consumers, distributors, and curators of books are no strangers to the process. But on behalf of all independent professionals out there who could use this information today to help them do more with ebooks (not less), I ask: is such a PDF worth $1495 for a single user? And what’s the cost of this same document for an organization of more than 15 users?

People’s and organizations’ efforts should be compensated fairly, but when we — the industry that, at its most fundamental level, is about spreading information based on research and facts — ‘value’ knowledge in a way that makes it inaccessible to all who are willing to ‘move’ the world with it, we are only contributing to keeping the world divided into those who can and those who can’t. We are also encouraging a world in which a Prada purse is ‘worth’ more simply because it costs more.

So, as the title of this post states: A new report on ebook trends is out, but its prohibitive cost makes it immediately affordable only to some.  There are a lot of organizations out there that can easily shell out a few thousand to obtain this data for their employees. And many of them are media outlets whose sole purpose is to serve this information to the consumer. But there are also those of us who want to use this information on our own terms. In our own communities. And with our own peers.

A suggestion for Research and Markets: please reconsider the cost of this and similar reports for those of us interested in using their data to promote and encourage more ebook use around the world (including countries not mentioned). For us, it’s not about p vs e. It’s about digital literacy. What sustains us (and our efforts) is the passion for the idea that ebooks can crack the world open in ways yet to be seen. For us, it’s not just reporting. It’s encouragement.

Meanwhile, we look forward to someone else’s reporting on this.