In an article for Fast Company, Steven Melendez writes:
“The digital revolution has been rocking the academic publishing applecart for years. Students bristling at the price of books—an intro biology text can cost hundreds—have been turning to alternatives like book rentals and e-texts.
Increasingly, there is a new challenge from the growing Open Textbook Revolution—and traditional bookmakers, after years of opposition and lawsuits alleging copyright infringement, are trying to get a piece of the action as their glossy hardbacks get tossed aside.
Open texts are free academic materials written by educators and professionals that are peer-reviewed and licensed to be freely downloaded…Thanks to investments by universities and private foundations, many of the free online peer-reviewed texts are on par with the big bucks’ books in terms of depth and production values—and they’re rapidly gaining traction.”
Read the full article here.
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.
VitalSource, Ingram Content Group’s educational technology division, and Clever have announced that they are collaborating to reinforce security and convenience for K-12 users of VitalSource’s digital content delivery platform, Bookshelf®.
BookShelf allows students to access course materials on iPad, Android and Kindle devices, online or offline. Highlights include ability to move between pages and sections including linked Table of Contents; highlight text with one click in any color; add notes to highlighted passages; subscribe to classmates’ and instructors’ highlights and notes; scale images and text to any size; and customize page display.
According to the press release, VitalSource is incorporating technology from Clever to create “seamless and secure data integration between Bookshelf and a K-12 school’s or district’s student information system, all with single sign-on access.”
The rest of the press release below:
The news is now old, but a lot of what we learned last week about Amazon “winning” a $30 million contract to sell e-textbooks to New York City schools remains vague. While I applaud the idea of ebooks being widely available to students in schools everywhere (not just in NYC, and not just in the United States), some questions beg to be answered:
- Why are these books mostly referred to as e-textbooks (or digital textbooks)? Is that all the schools will be buying? What about other types of books?
- Are educators still insisting that the best (and only) way to learn is from pre-packaged textbooks?
- Since these ebooks will be fully owned by the schools (just like print textbooks are now), does this mean that the 1.1 million kids in NYC public schools will be able to access them instantly and simultaneously? What restrictions, if any, will be necessary?
- What publishers and brands are behind these e-textbooks, if any? Who decides?
- Where does this leave libraries? School libraries in particular. What role do they/will they play in the process? No article I came across last week mentioned libraries and ways in which they may take part in all this.
- Where does this leave other ebook vendors trying to enter (or already engaging with) schools and libraries with alternative (perhaps even more effective) business models?
- If children can read the ebooks on all portable devices, as the articles are claiming, who will be providing those portable devices? And how? If no child is to be left behind, then someone somehow must be supplying the hardware as well, since many of these children own no portable device.
- And how will the technological aspects be handled? How will these e-textbooks be “housed?” Who will provide the technology to keep the machine working?
As noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “schools are an attractive target for tech companies because of the opportunity to modernize what many consider to be outdated and inefficient classrooms.” I have no doubt that deals such as this will modernize what is outdated, but, ironically, what is less than “modern” about those same deals is that books in digital format are essentially being purchased (and handled) the same was as print books. And there is a whole lot of ‘control’ in place. Given what digital books can do for education and literacy — given their true potential — the deal doesn’t appear to be all that groundbreaking beneath the surface.
But I look forward to learning more before making further assumptions.
eTextbook Leader RedShelf Raises $2M in Series A Funding With Support From Higher Ed Heavyweight
National Association of College Stores and previous investors participate in Series A as RedShelf demonstrates rapid market traction
CHICAGO, IL–(Jan 27, 2015) – RedShelf, a Chicago-based startup spurring digital adoption in higher education and one of the fastest-growing distributors of eTextbooks in the U.S., has raised $2M in Series A funding from the National Association of College Stores (NACS) and previous investors. The company considered a variety of funding sources, including VC, but ultimately determined that NACS along with its current investors would be the best fit. RedShelf will use the funding to launch new features and products, improve upon the existing platform, and support new relationships with both publishers and educational institutions. Continue reading RedShelf raises Series A funding, plans to expand to 350 bookstores in 2015
A new report from SRI Education evaluates Gates Foundation’s investments in digital courseware over the last five years. Executive Summary available. Abstract below. Report offers lessons learned, gaps in knowledge base data, and nine recommendations for future courseware investments.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Postsecondary Success initiative seeks to understand what is required for technology applications to produce positive student impacts at scale. SRI analyzed the features of 137 different courses from 12 major postsecondary courseware-related projects and performed a quantitative meta-analysis of student outcomes to estimate the impact of digital courseware on student learning. Follow-up analyses examined the design features, conditions, and practices associated with differences in student outcomes. A conceptual framework relating evaluation approaches to stages of learning technology investment is provided.
MCHENRY, Ill., Dec. 3, 2014 —Follett this week introduced Destiny Resource Manager, a new, universal system that enables K-12 districts to track and manage all school assets. Destiny Resource Manager represents an evolution from Follett Destiny Asset Manager as it will monitor barcoded textbooks in addition to traditional assets such as laptops, tablets and equipment. Continue reading Follett’s new Destiny Resource Manager will manage textbooks, equipment, and more
RedShelf is a leading supplier of digital learning materials, dedicated to providing paramount technology to the learning community in order to accelerate the transition to digital. In collaboration with strategic partners, publishers, institutional bookstores, and other content creators. RedShelf streamlines the discovery and distribution of eBooks and other digital course materials for today’s students. Utilizing a seamless browser-based eReader solution along with a powerful eCommerce engine, RedShelf provides easily accessible and cost-effective learning materials to learners everywhere. Continue reading eTextbooks have high satisfaction rate says RedShelf survey
BiblioBoard will host the innovative new textbook being created jointly by Liverpool University Press, the University of Liverpool Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and the University Library. This project, funded by Jisc, seeks to address the question: can a university working as an e-textbook creator and publisher better serve students and promote a more sustainable information environment in higher education? Continue reading Liverpool University Press partners with BiblioBoard for eTextbook
Ingram has had a number of announcements in the last couple of weeks about new international initiatives as well as new features and enhancements to the VitalSource Bookshelf platform. Check the Ingram site for the full press releases. Here are some of the highlights:
- Ingram Content Group expanded its distribution reach to Russia and the former Soviet Union with the launch of its third Global Connect alliance with EE Media, the largest media publishing and distribution group in the country.
- Vital Source E-Textbook Platform Expands To The Philippines Through Work with C&E Publishing
- Vital Source Technologies, Inc. announced the international expansion of its VitalSource Bookshelf® platform with a new digital store in the U.K. The store offers tens of thousands of e-textbooks from leaders in academic publishing
- VitalSource Bookshelf® e-textbook platform now includes software client support in 25 languages, new and improved functionality and performance enhancements, the addition of international resellers, and worldwide support for integration with institutional systems like Blackboard Learnâ„¢, Moodle, and others. Continue reading Ingram Content Group expands international reach and offers new features to VitalSource Bookshelf
School Library Journal has published two recent articles about the eBook market in schools. The first is the “School Ebook Market Directory.” This piece features a snapshot of 19 eBook vendors for school libraries. Some of these include ABC-CLIO, Capstone, Rosen, OverDrive, Gale, StarWalk Kids, and Tumblebooks. The second article is “E. It’s Complicated. How Two Schools are Riding the Transition to Ebooks.” SLJ talked to academic experts and visited librarians, teachers, and students at two high-performing Illinois high schools: New Trier Township High School in Winnetka and Northfield, and Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire. The article is in a Q/A format and discusses topics such as why go digital, will ebooks help kids learn more, who owns and pays for devices, what are the hurdles to adoption, and many more. Both are worth a read.
From an Ingram Press Release:
NASHVILLE, TN — Vital Source Technologies, Inc., an Ingram Content Group company, today announced that Panworld Education, a leading e-learning solution provider, has selected Ingram’s VitalSource Bookshelf® platform to power e-textbook solutions for their customers throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions. Continue reading Ingram’s VitalSource Bookshelf platform available in the Middle East and North Africa
Streaming video is huge in my academic library, so it’s nice to see innovation and awards in the library/information community for this area. There is quite an esteemed list of previous Telly winners so congrats to Ingram.
NASHVILLE, TN — Ingram Content Group Inc., today announced that Vital Source Technologies, Inc. has been awarded two Telly Awards for their innovative work in educational video production. The prestigious Telly Award honors the finest video and film productions, outstanding cable TV commercials and programs and online commercials, video and films.
“The Telly Awards has a mission to honor the very best in film and video,” said Linda Day, Executive Director of the Telly Awards. “Vital Source’s winning videos illustrate their creativity, skill, and dedication to their craft and serves as a testament to great film and video production.” Continue reading Ingram’s Vital Source receives Telly awards for educational video production
From an Ingram Press Release on March 12, 2013
NASHVILLE, TN — Vital Source Technologies, Inc., Ingram Content Group’s leading e-textbook solution, and Taylor & Francis, a global publisher of quality academic books, journals & online reference content, today announced an innovative product alliance, Routledge Interactive. This collaborative e-textbook initiative gives the education community greater control over their learning experience through media-rich interactive content.
Just received this press release from Ingram about textbooks. I can’t help but wonder if this will be the future of textbooks – wrapped in a course fee so that all students have access to the course materials. Coventry is providing these materials at no cost to students for their first year. No word on what the upper level course fees will be.
Coventry University and Ingram collaborate on innovative textbook program for students
RINGWOOD, UNITED KINGDOM — To ensure undergraduates get the best value for their money, first year students at Coventry University will have core textbooks and materials provided as part of their course fees in 2012 and 2013 through an innovative program developed between Coventry University and Ingram Content Group’s UK library supply company.
“The higher education system is undergoing unprecedented change, and this collaboration with Ingram demonstrates how we’re adapting to the developments so that the focus remains on what’s best for our students,” said Philip Vaughan, Assistant Director of Learning and Research at Coventry University. “Coventry prides itself on being an innovative university, and initiatives like this are exactly the kind of innovations which places of learning should be embracing as the education landscape evolves and students’ expectations change.” Continue reading Ingram and Coventry University collaborate on textbook program
From an Ingram Press Release:
NASHVILLE, TN — Vital Source Technologies, Inc., Ingram Content Group’s leading e-textbook solution for publishers, academic institutions, and students, today announced that sixty new publishers have added more than 35,000 new digital textbooks and online course materials to its VitalSource Bookshelf® platform.
“The students of today are using technology to their advantage, and we are experiencing significant growth in the number of publisher, institutional, and reseller customers using the VitalSource Bookshelf platform,” said Kent Freeman, Chief Operating Officer, Vital Source Technologies, Inc. “We will continue to nurture our publisher relationships and expand and diversify our title selection to provide the digital content that’s in demand by students and educators worldwide.” Continue reading 35,000 new digital items from 60 publishers added to Ingram’s VitalSource
I’m really disappointed to hear news from Flat World Knowledge that they will no longer be able to offer a free version of their textbooks. According to an email message sent to faculty, “As the transition to digital has changed student buying trends, one thing has become clear: the free format has become a barrier to our long-term growth and ability to offer a fair and affordable model that works for all our customers, from individual students and instructors to our institutional partners. A change is necessary.”
The full story is posted on the Flat World Knowledge site: http://www.flatworldknowledge.com/free2fair
Comments and questions? Also from the website: ” The decision to no longer offer free access did not come lightly. Some of you will be disappointed, and we understand. If you have questions, please contact us via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @flat_world and include #free2fair. We are ready to listen and respond.”
Academic Librarians – if you have a few minutes, please consider taking this survey about etextbook collections. Some of the results will be shared at the LJ/SLJ eBook Summit on October 17th.
Library Journal is interested in learning more about etextbook collections in academic libraries. Your participation in this study will help identify the scope of etextbooks on college campuses–how popular they are and who is selecting them.
Please click on the link below to take a brief survey. We want to hear from you even if your library does not currently have an etextbook collection. All participants will be entered into a drawing to win a $100 American Express gift card.
Results from this survey will be revealed in an upcoming issue of Library Journal. Thank you for supporting LJ‘s research efforts!
LJ Research Manager
Farmington Hills, Mich., May 31, 2012 Gale, part of Cengage Learning and a leading publisher of research and reference resources for libraries, schools and businesses, today announced Classroom in Context (CLiC), a curriculum-based family of resources designed to supplement textbooks and enhance learning with authoritative, media-rich content from Gale’s award-winning In Context product suite. Continue reading Gale releases new Classroom in Context resources to supplement textbooks