Magazine article Information Today

New Digital Learning Devices and a Publishing War Lead the News

Magazine article Information Today

New Digital Learning Devices and a Publishing War Lead the News

Article excerpt

The college textbook business is clearly in a transition stage with publishers trying new business models and delivery methods, while users are moving to new ways to access content and learn. A lively print textbook rental business has emerged with companies such as Chegg, Book-Renter, Campus Book Rentals, and Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, LLC getting into the scene.

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But the more interesting developments are happening in the digital learning space. In my October 2009 column, I covered some of the companies providing etextbooks, such as Course-Smart (sells econtent from leading textbook publishers), Flat World Knowledge (available free online), and CengageBrain (buy or rent; e-chapters available).

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Elsevier recently announced the launch of Pageburst, an interactive digital learning platform for Elsevier health science education content. The company reports that Pageburst surpasses existing ebook platforms because it is designed for the way students learn, with integrated multimedia, text-to-speech, social networking tools, and an integrated instructor grade book. It also offers perpetual access to the content and the ability to update the information.

According to Outsell analyst David Bousfield, "[T]he course-customising tools, though at this stage rudimentary, take Pageburst functionality in the direction of e-learning platform providers such as Moodle, Blackboard, and eCollege (Pearson). Pageburst is an interesting cocktail of content and technology and undoubtedly signals a major step forward in the STM e-learning market."

DynamicBooks, a new subsidiary of Macmillan, announced a digital publishing platform that lets any professor make a customized version of one of the company's existing electronic textbooks. Once instructors "publish" their custom books, their students can choose to purchase a fully featured digital text or a printed version of the new book. Instructor-edited content will be high-lighted as changed from the original text and attributed to the instructor who made the change. All original content and original multimedia additions will be copyrighted by the instructor (who can make some money from students' purchases).

DynamicBooks was created with Ingram Content Group, Inc. and uses Ingram's VitalSource Bookshelf platform and Lightning Source print-on-demand capability. DynamicBooks will be available for purchase at the DynamicBooks website and college bookstores Aug. 1.

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Macmillan isn't alone in testing enhanced textbooks. Last year, McGraw-Hill announced its own format for enhanced etextbooks called McGraw-Hill Connect. John Wiley & Sons has a similar line of ebooks called WileyPLUS.

Finally, John Ott and Eric Freese of Aptara Corp., "O Brave New eBook," (http:// digitalbookworld.com/2010/ o-brave-new-ebook) wrote a post about a glimpse into the potential of ebooks in education. It describes a day in the life of a student using a tablet device and how ebooks provide engaging, interactive content. Some have predicted that the iPad may be the textbook of the future. Until Apple releases more details about the capabilities of the iBook and iBookstore, it's hard to know what the possible applications might be. But in the meantime, Aptara is exploring the possibilities. See its concept for "The Learning Device of the (Near) Future." Aptara specializes in digital publishing solutions, data conversion, and ebook production.

Publishing Trade War

Books from Macmillan vanished from Amazon.com for a time because of a disagreement over pricing. Macmillan and other publishers wanted Amazon to raise ebook prices from the standard $9.99 to about $15. Macmillan is one of the publishers signed to offer books through Apple's new store. Then Amazon relented and said it would allow Macmillan to set higher prices. [See the article in March 2010 IT on page 17. …

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