Magazine article Information Today

The Future of the Web, Etexts, and Real-Time Search

Magazine article Information Today

The Future of the Web, Etexts, and Real-Time Search

Article excerpt

Tom Hogan, founder and CEO of Information Today, Inc., has a favorite saying about the publishing business: "Heat sells better than light." I can only think that was the intention of the splashy cover story in Wired for its September 2010 issue: "The Web Is Dead."

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Author Chris Anderson (and editor-in-chief of Wired) posits that "Two decades after its inception, the World Wide Web has been eclipsed by Skype, Netflix, peer-to-peer, and a quarter-million other apps." In other words, more internet use is taking place outside browsers and not on the web. Well, if he wanted to generate controversy and discussion, he certainly succeeded. The buzz in the blogosphere was electric. And, ironically, the intense debate on the issues took place on the web.

Wired then asked Tim O'Reilly and John Battelle, the creators of the Web 2.0 conferences, to debate the issues that were raised in the article, and Wired posted the exchange of comments online. I loved the final comment by Battelle to Anderson: "As a last word, I'd like to say that if the scope of the piece was really just about the web as a viable model for 'professional content' as we see it, then splashing 'The Death of the Web' on the cover might be, well, overstating the case just a wee bit...."

It's worth browsing the various reactions--lots of food for thought on the future of the web, especially open versus closed, proprietary systems. Techmeme offers a good roundup of sources. The Atlantic posted an interesting wrap-up and pointed out that Anderson controls the print and tablet editions of Wired but not its website. One comment posted to The Atlantic site suggested that the alternate title should have been "'The Web Browser Is Becoming Slightly Less Important--but then, that probably wouldn't have bumped his pageviews very much."

Etextbooks in the News

As we head into fall and the start of another academic year, textbooks are clearly on people's minds. News about etextbooks, courseware, textbook rentals, elearning platforms, and more have flooded my inbox. The success of the Apple iPad has fueled some of this as publishers begin to tap into this device as an outlet, though price is still an issue for some. For example, XanEdu, a provider of CoursePacks and custom textbooks, launched an iPad publishing program.

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On the other hand, stand-alone ebook readers don't seem to be finding success in this niche. Most of them lack color, video, flexibility, and internet connectivity. Reports indicate that last year's pilot programs in universities to test the use of devices such as the Sony Reader and Kindle DX were not well received by students. A report in Bloomberg Businessweek, "E-Book Readers Bomb on College Campuses," quoted Daniel Turner, associate dean of the masters and executive education programs at the University of Washington's Foster School of Business, one of the schools that participated in the pilot. "It's an amazing device for recreational reading, but it's not quite ready for prime time in higher education."

Cengage Learning launched an enhanced version of its direct-to-consumer website called CengageBrain.com, which allows students to purchase or rent textbooks, ebooks, or individual e-chapters, and download study tools. It now features a more intuitive interface.

NIXTY is a new player in the field of open online education. Its goal is "to create a service with the outrageous goal of empowering education for everyone." The NIXTY website allows any user to take and create courses for free. The new elearning platform started up with more than 200 course offerings culled from open source content already available online, such as MIT OpenCourseWare. Courses are offered in an easy-to-navigate, socially driven user interface.

Tech startup Inkling is introducing its first four full-length interactive college textbooks (McGraw-Hill best-sellers) using its software platform, which is designed specifically for Apple's iPad. …

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