Archive for April, 2012

International Textbook Editions: It’s all legal until it isn’t.

A decade ago, the term “grey market” referred to electronics being produced or distributed in Asia or the former Soviet Union and sold new (though often without the box or instruction manual) via eBay or another seller vehicle rather than a licensed distributor or the manufacturer.

Grey-market goods were risky in that the product was real, but where it was coming from, how it had been obtained, and why it was so cheap was always a little questionable. There were middlemen, middlemen in other countries and they were not legitimate exporters but they did have the right to sell property that they owned.

Times have changed in the sense that globalism and connectivity have become even bigger, faster, and more powerful. Price comparison is a product in and of itself and a tool that keeps sellers competitive and buyers informed. Sales now take place on mobile devices where people are on the go and not on their computers during business hours. Another big change is that grey-market goods are now as much about intellectual property (in the form of copyrighted material such as books, CDs, and DVDs) as about consumer electronics.

What was once “I got this Canon EOS that retails in the States for close to $4000 from a dude in China for $699” is now “I got this copy of The Godfather Trilogy on Blu-Ray from India for $4 and I don’t care that the UPC or cover art is a little different.” Sounds like a good deal, but is it legal? Ethical? Does the studio that produced The Godfather get paid as it would when a box-set from them is sold? Is the quality the same? Who’s checking? Does anyone pay taxes on the transaction (sales or income)? What’s to stop the seller from just making more copies and selling copies of copies? When does a little smart buying and selling become a business that needs to follow business laws? Where do you draw the line? Can laws be upheld consistently and globally?

With grey market, the answer is “we don’t know, but we’re about to find out” — not because of any cutting-edge gadgets or even the music-piracy threat that record labels so complained of, rather because of textbooks, international editions to be exact (which I think shows just how expensive and valuable these things have gotten).

Yes, it’s textbooks that have taken the issue to the Supreme Court. The case driving the issue being the appeal of Supap Kirtsaeng, a Californian whose family in Thailand “sent him textbooks to resell. He reportedly sold $37,000 worth of John Wiley textbooks in the US. The publisher sued Kirtsaeng for copyright infringement in eight textbooks and won to the tune of $75,000 in damages for each book.” Kirtsaeng is appealing and he “argues that he is protected by the first sale doctrine — a rule that lets copyright owners exercise their right only the first time an individual book or record is sold.”

So yes, what we are about to see this fall when SCotUS takes up the case is a ruling that will determine the legality of selling international textbook editions, but it’s really so much bigger than that as what’s at issue isn’t just some Wiley editions but the idea of owning ideas and words and concepts and how long the creator and producer retain the rights to such. There is no doubt in my mind that while it took textbooks to get this issue before the most-powerful court in the land, the repercussions will be far reaching and they will affect books, movies, music, video games, and items we haven’t even considered as “copyrighted” yet. Ladies and gentlemen, prepare for the words “used” and “ownership” to take on different meanings.

1000 Educational Apps for Your iPad/iPhone #sxswedu #EdTech #edchat #k12

When I was at SXSWedu last month, I attended a presentation by folks from KinderTown, a company specializing in iOS apps for preschool kids. KinderTown is not a team of developers, instead they bill themselves as “working hard to find the best educational apps for children. Each app we select has been tested and reviewed by educators, parents, and most importantly, children. Not all, or even most of the apps meet our high standards. We take many factors into account including educational value, ease of use, engagement value, design features, artwork, cost, and shelf life.” Their angle is the testing and vetting process and reviews and ratings they provide parents before downloading.

While iTunes has a ton of apps and app developers are a dime a dozen, we all know how frustrating searching and finding quality apps can be and how reviews and ratings can often be misleading or simply too disorganized to be of much help. Yes, “there’s an app for that” and you can “just Google it,” but how much crap (and bias and paid-for placement) do you have to wade through to find real answers and solutions and get to the good stuff? Too much.

So tons of information, an app for everything you could ever imagine (and more), and still not much sense of where to really get what you want and need and find what’s reputable. In terms of educational apps, KinderTown is doing it right for the preschool set. Beyond that, I recommend the work done by the team at The Texas Computer Education Association who have painstakingly listed, categorized, and filtered hundreds of educational apps and even color-coded the downloadable doc so that you can see what is free.

Enjoy the list and bring on the feedback about your favorite edu-apps!

TCEA-Recommended iPad Apps – Google Docs

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