Tuesday, August 30, 2011

MediaWeek (V4, N35) Distance Learning, Libraries and E-Books, Digital Textbooks + More

Online enterprises gain a foothold in traditional education (NYT):
While many students at the nascent institutions offer glowing reviews and success stories, a recent study by Teachers College at Columbia University that tracked 51,000 community college students in Washington State for five years found that those with the most online course credits were the least likely to graduate or transfer to a four-year institution. And traditional professors like Johann Neem, a historian at Western Washington University, see places like Western Governors University as anti-intellectual, noting that its advertising emphasizes how fast students can earn credits, not how much they will learn.
“Taking a course online, by yourself, is not the same as being in a classroom with a professor who can respond to you, present different viewpoints and push you to work a problem,” Professor Neem said. “There’s lots of porn and religion online, but people still have relationships and get married, and go to church and talk to a minister.”
But Anya Kamenetz, whose 2010 book, “DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education,” tracks the new wave of Web-based education efforts, says the new institutions will only continue to improve and expand. “For some people, it will mean going from a good education to a great one,” she said. “For others, it will mean getting some kind of education, instead of nothing.”
Trade publishers beginning to look hard at practical ways to deal with libraries for their electronic content (LJ):
David Young, the chairman and CEO of Hachette Book Group, acknowledged back in May, during a Publishing Point Meetup interview with Michael Healy, the executive director of the Book Rights Registry, that the company wanted an accommodation with libraries but that it was a challenge finding the right business model.
"That is, I think, a really really big question, and I wish I knew the answer to it. All I know is we're putting a lot of thought into it. I'm meeting the president of the ALA in New Orleans in June and we're talking with our various partners around that. I think it's something that needs a lot of careful thought because if you let that particular genie out of the bottle and get it wrong then you could get yourself in all sorts of trouble. Should there be a library solution? I'm certain there should be, but what it is we haven't figured it out. We're putting a lot of thought and effort into it."
Carrie Russell, the director of the American Library Association's Program on Public Access to Information, confirmed that then-ALA President Roberta Stevens and ALA Executive Director Keith Fiels met with representatives from Hachette and HarperCollins at the annual convention to discuss publisher-library collaboration.
The year of the digital textbook is upon us (IHEd):
In recent years, the focus on digital has been eclipsed by a surge in print textbook rentals. Companies such as Chegg.com and BookRenter.com — along with thousands of campus bookstores — have captured students who would prefer to consolidate the process of buying and then reselling textbooks into a single exchange at the outset of the semester. According to Student Monitor, 24 percent of students at four-year institutions rented at least one print textbook last spring — three times as many as purchased an e-textbook.
But recent search data from Google suggest that digital textbooks may prove to be a contender this year. According to the company, Web queries for “Kindle textbooks” are up 60 percent from this time last year. Same goes for “Nook textbooks.” Searches for “iPad textbooks” are up 40 percent. Whether or not students are buying e-textbooks this year, they seem to be shopping for them.
Google search data also suggest that more students are looking to curb costs by renting textbooks instead of buying them. Searches for "textbook rentals" are up 20 percent. Searches for "cheap textbook rentals" are up 40 percent.
So what happens when the digital and rental trends overlap?
One way of answering this question is to say that they already have. CourseSmart, a consortium that sells e-textbooks on behalf of the five major textbook publishers, has never sold permanent licenses for its digital textbooks. “Your use of the service does not give you any ownership rights in the e-textbooks; rather, you only have a limited right to access such e-textbooks,” CourseSmart asserts in its terms of service.
Another way of answering is to say that digital and rental will never overlap. That is because, unlike print, e-textbooks are never sold; they are licensed. Without the permissions conferred by the “First Sale Doctrine,” which bars publishers from dictating the terms of secondary sales (or rentals) of their books, Chegg and other vendors can only serve as alternative platforms through which students can buy or rent e-textbooks from publishers. They cannot set their own prices.
Fairfax County libraries switch focus to electronic content: WAPO
Electronic formatting has shown to be more popular in some genres, such as adult fiction, where it captured 13.6 percent of the net revenue market share. Area librarians said children’s books, specifically picture books, are not very popular among e-readers yet because the format does not translate as well as do text-only books.
“Our collection is driven by budget and demand,” said Trish Van Houten, assistant coordinator for collection management and acquisitions for the county library system.
In November, just before Christmas, the system had 2,177 electronic titles checked out. In July, more than 6,250 titles were checked out.
“It’s always interesting to watch new technologies take hold and become standards,” Van Houten said. “We saw the same thing 10 to 15 years ago with tapes and CDs. Any time there’s a new technology, everyone has to learn how to use it.”
Many public libraries use OverDrive, a digital distributor founded in Cleveland in the 1980s, to provide their digital stacks for readers. Learning to make the switch from buying e-books to renting them can take some getting used to, library staff said.
“I think the technology is in transition right now,” Smith-Cohen said. “It’s not where [readers] want it to be. It’s clumsy for most first-time users.”
Are research papers a waste of time? An online debate at the NYTimes:
The trouble with the question of whether research papers or essays are a better assessment of acquired knowledge is that it’s based on a false distinction. Any good research paper must have an argument, and any good essay must support its argument with evidence.

It’s certainly true that the nature of research changed with the advent of search engines that can do the looking and sorting and even some version of thinking — all things that students were once supposed to learn how to do for themselves. It doesn’t take long to gather lots of sources, fit them to whatever claim one wants to make, and thereby produce something that looks like the result of hours in the library spent reading and deriving conclusions from what one has read. But now, as in the past, a good teacher should be able to tell the difference between a phony piece of writing and an honest one.
From Twitter this week:

Why Did Borders Fail in S'pore? "tired selection of books confused music/film section relentless promo of bestsellers.

Ann Patchett’s Book Tour: NYT

Representative John Conyers Wants Copyright Law Revision: . Would it be consumer friendly though?

McGraw-Hill eyes education unit spin-off - FT.com -

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