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Textbooks

What to pay for e-books: a formula
June 5, 2014 | 3:23 pm

I’ve seen people make estimates of what they thought was the right amount to pay for an e-book, but I can’t say I’ve seen one actually put it into an equation before. But Ramzi Amri, an MD/PhD candidate in Surgical Oncology, has. He wrote up an answer on Quora including the following mathematical formula for determining how much he was willing to pay for an e-book: If an ebook has a price, in dollars, below the value of Beta, I'd consider buying it. t= time (in minutes) it would...

FAA failure to keep up with commercial drone use could prevent innovation
February 25, 2014 | 5:59 pm

drone delivery At the risk of droning on, it seems like there has been a lot of news involving drones lately. We covered Amazon’s announcement of package delivery (someday) via drones, and some responses to it. Clearly, drone services could fill the middle range between snail-mail delivery and electronic downloading: a physical good that reaches you quickly. And that is not even considering the other potential uses, such as aerial photography. But that is in the nebulous future. What about now? Well, the problem with drone use right now is that commercial drone use is technically illegal—the...

Is there more to the college textbook ‘bubble’ than meets the eye?
July 18, 2013 | 3:12 pm

textbooksOver at The Digital Reader, founding editor Nate Hoffelder posted some comments on a report from something called "The Book Industry Study Group," which shows an increase in "piracy" among college students. It isn't clear from the limited info Nate posted just how large the sample group was, how they were polled, or what other questions were asked of them. But I do have some experience in the different possibilities for what might be going on here, and it is far from a straight line between "textbook sales are declining" and "piracy is on the rise." I do agree with Nate that pricing...

Study shows college textbook piracy rising, digital textbook adoption falling
July 18, 2013 | 5:32 am

On The Digital Reader, Nate Hoffelder has some details from a study suggesting that the adoption of digital textbooks is in trouble, and piracy is up considerably. Nate places the blame on the rising cost of textbooks in general. He includes a chart that shows textbook prices have been increasing at a considerably higher rate over the last 35 years than the consumer price index, the housing bubble, and even health care. He quotes a contact who notes that prices on core textbooks, the ones that most students have to get, are especially prone to price increases. It looks...

Self-Published Books Not a Solution for K-12? Don’t Be So Sure…
May 6, 2013 | 2:37 pm

self-published Christopher Harris has a thought-provoking essay up at The Digital Shift in which he argues that self-published books are "not a solution" for K-12. He argues that publishers "serve a critical role in the information ecosystem" by vetting and recommending quality books to school librarians, who often work alone without the benefits of a large paid staff to assist them in their book-buying choices. I sympathize with the task Harris, and other school librarians, face. But I think he misses the point that publishers have the prominence they do simply because until recently, we lacked the technological abilities for anyone else...

Living Through the E-Textbook Revolution: One man’s story
April 10, 2013 | 10:00 am

e-textbookDavid Rabvinowitz has a great story up at TidBITS chronicling his experiences as a college student during this time of e-transition. Rabinowitz has a slightly more nuanced take on the whole situation because, in addition to regular classroom use, he was part of a pilot project at the University of Virginia to try out e-textbooks in an 'integrated fashion.' The whole essay is well-worth a read; Rabinowitz nicely sums up some of the advantages of e-texts (dictionary, highlighting, searchability) as well as some of the drawbacks. For instance: • Many e-books are flash-based, so you can't easily copy and paste into your study...

Supreme Court rules importation of textbooks legal under First Sale doctrine
March 19, 2013 | 7:35 pm

Remember the Supreme Court case about the Thai exchange student who bulk imported cheap overseas copies of textbooks and resold them in the U.S. (making over $1 million in sales) to finance his doctorate? The judges handed down a decision today. By a six to three majority, they found that the student’s importation and resale was legal under the Fair Use Doctrine. Just because the books were printed overseas did not exempt them from the right of First Sale, which means that people who buy them can resell them as they please. Ars Technica has more details on the decision. Essentially,...

For more free textbooks, look at iTunes U
March 11, 2013 | 9:48 pm

free textbooksBy Dr. Frank Lowney This past weekend, Dr. Frank Lowney, an occasional TeleRead contributor, brought to our attention an online archive of free, Creative Commons licensed university textbooks known as the Flatworld Knowledge Book Archive. We heard from Dr. Lowney again yesterday; he told us that "another, larger source of free e-textbooks can actually be found on iTunes U. But that story, he said, is a bit more complicated." His explanation follows: Educational providers, such as institutions of higher education, can get a public iTunes U site from Apple at zero cost. Those public sites contain both "collections" and "courses." A collection can...

A legitimate archive of free textbooks
March 9, 2013 | 4:19 pm

free textbooks I received an email earlier this week from Dr. Frank Lowney, an occasional TeleRead contributor, and the author of The Coming ePublishing Revolution in Higher Education. Dr. Lowney, who is professionally affiliated with Georgia College & State University, most definitely knows his stuff when it comes to college textbooks, and higher education in general. That's important to point out, because in his email, Dr. Lowney brought to my attention a fantastic online archive of entirely free, Creative Commons licensed textbooks. (That is to say, a completely legit archive.) And while I am familiar with the company that originally created the archive--they're known...

What’s Happening to College Bookstores?
February 27, 2013 | 10:56 pm

college bookstoresBy Dr. Frank Lowney I recently traveled to Kansas City, Mo., to attend the annual convention put on by the National Association of College Stores (NACS), and to participate in a panel discussion on the impact of emerging technologies upon the textbook business. The CAMpus market EXpo, or CAMEX, is billed as the “largest annual tradeshow and educational event in the collegiate retailing industry.” NACS represents nearly all U.S. college stores, but CAMEX is attended primarily by people who run campus-owned stores. Half of all college stores are campus-owned; the other half are outsourced operations such as eFollett. The experience firmed-up many of...

App Review: Nota
February 22, 2013 | 11:00 am

With tablets becoming part of the classroom, new apps regularly arrive on the market to aid educators. One of the newest releases for Android devices is Nota, an app that allows users to add videos, links and images to the pages of textbooks. Nota could aid a wide range of people, providing a comprehensive way for students to learn that goes far beyond mere words. “Cost has been a disruptive factor in education, with soaring student debt and escalating tuition causing many families to wonder whether they can—or even should—pursue a traditional degree,” Nota Editor-in-Chief Stephanie Ray wrote on the company's blog....

Why Online Textbooks Still Don’t Work
January 29, 2013 | 10:30 am

Techdirt has a great write-up about a school district that is spending over $2 million to switch back to paper textbooks after investing heavily in an on-line model. The problem? Surprisingly, it's not one of those, 'There isn't enough content available yet!' situations. There is content. But the hardware requirements to run it, in this age of multimedia, are so high that students who can't afford broadband Internet at home can't use them! Techdirt posits this as a form of DRM—they add in the 'bells and whistles' to prevent students from downloading an offline version. But it's more than that—it's not just broadband...