Archive for the ‘ Textbook Adoption ’ Category

eBook Review: Flatworld Knowledge MIYO

Today is a very special edition of our eBook review series. Today we get to take a look at the unique publishing tools offered by Flatworld Knowledge. If you missed our review of the student side of Flatworld, you can check it out here.

As I mentioned in the student side review, all Flatworld Knowledge books are under a creative commons license as opposed to an all rights reserved license that most publisher use. For students this may not mean much but for educators it makes all the difference. Essential this ‘open license’ allows teachers to pick up a standard textbook for their course and customize it to fit their needs.

Flatworld calls this feature MIYO (pronounced Meeyo) which stands for Make It Your Own. When a teacher chooses to use Flatworld, they first sign up with an educator account and then find a book for their course. While not every course will have an appropriate textbook, Flatworld boasts a diverse catalog that covers many of the general credit courses most liberal arts college students are required to take.

After locating the appropriate book, teachers can choose to ‘Adopt This Book’ which puts it into the ‘Your Adoptions’ menu. Adopting a book prompts the teacher to enter a variety of data about their course which allows students to easily find their professors specific book later.

The next step is where MIYO comes in. From the ‘My Adoptions’ menu, teachers can pull up their book in a view almost identical to the student view except they have a variety of editing options. Editing is simple and easy and works a lot like editing a word document. Professors can easily delete any chapter or subsection that isn’t relevant with a single click.

Adding chapters or sections is just as easy, even if writing them is not. Professors can use this feature for anything from simply copy/pasting their lecture notes for each chapter in as a sub section, or they can add an entire chapter to cover something the book leaves out.

Maybe adding an entire chapter is  a bit much, but you’d like to adjust the existing chapters. In the editing view, professors can pull up any section as if to read it, then double click the text to begin editing at the sentence level. Say a professor has been teaching an economics course for a few years and has noticed students have a very hard time with a certain concept. Rather than add a new section, they can simply insert their own additional explanation into the text as supplemental material.

After making adjustments to the text, publishing it takes just a couple clicks and it is ready to be viewed by students. A custom link to your text is provided after making an update which can easily be emailed out to a class list. Even making changes mid semester is easy, and students will see the new material instantly in their online versions.

Of course the best part for students and educators is that the online version of ANY book on Flatworld Knowledge is completely free to read. With basically no barrier to entry, Flatworld Knowledge has changed the game for students and faculty alike. Greater customization and versatility for teachers and free books for students make so much sense it’s hard to believe this platform isn’t the norm already, but it will take time to wrestle a foothold in the industry away from traditional textbook publishers that have had a hold on the market for decades.

Access to Good Grades: a New Attempt to Protect Copyright (and Profits)

If Joseph Henry Vogel  gets his recently approved patent into use, students can only fully participate in courses when they buy an online access code that allows them to use the course book and other online content.

Vogel believes his patent  aims to stop the “infringing” behavior of students sharing textbooks with each other. He also thinks that piracy, textbook sharing and textbook reselling, is a threat to the publishing business. Now I hope that Mr. Vogel didn’t spend a lot of time coming up with this theory, which everyone already knows to be true (and this is why publishers come out with new editions so often, in order to render used editions obsolete and create false demand for their products rather than product sold and shared without them).

But what Vogel is doing is about more than the used-book market. He is implying criminal behavior by students and abetting by professors: “Professors are increasingly turning a blind eye when students appear in class with photocopied pages. Others facilitate piracy by placing texts in the library reserve where they can be photocopied,” Vogel writes. What he fails to mention is the cost of learning materials that is at the root of the issue, also that there is a big difference between cost-conscious students using books in the library or sharing with a roommate and those scanning and selling PDFs or posting and downloading torrents. How does one not punish library users while trying to curtail bootleg and copied editions? Where is the line and who is Vogel to draw it? And as we have seen time and time again with the music industry and copying DVDs and P2P torrents, there will always be an innovative workaround or crack. Is adding another layer of fees the answer? Let’s look at the patent and the idea behind it.

Vogel’s patent is a simple idea; students sign up for a course and as part of that course they must participate in a Web-based discussion. This activity counts towards their final grade and can only be accessed through a special code given to the student upon purchase of the textbook.

Vogel’s idea is simple and seems almost common sense and he is not the first to think of this. The idea of access codes have been around for a number of years. If you want to take a course with InfoTrac, you need the course code. We have also seen the growth of courses such as MyMathLabs, courses that require purchase and activation.

The system differs as it tries to ensure that students will not get a good grade with a pirated textbook or by borrowing a textbook from a library or friend. His system doesn’t completely get away from used books as students can often buy an access code separately. Vogel’s system ensures that publishers get income from textbook sales after the initial new book is sold.

However crazy this sounds, it is the future of publishing. As we unbound the textbook , publishers will create tools and programs to put up pay-to-play hurdles. The main content will become free and the student will no longer pay for a textbook so much as access to course materials and digital platforms that are an extension of the class and require a purchased code.

*Quotes and content for this story were provided from:

California Moves to Create Open Education Resources and Low-Cost Textbooks for Students

As a follow-up to a blog I posted in December , the State of California has just yesterday taken a big step forward in reducing the costs of textbooks. In a vote that was almost unanimous, the California Senate approved two measures aimed to save California college students money when buying textbooks.

The first bill creates the process for California to create an Open Education Resources library targeted at the 50 most-common lower-division college courses. The process seeks to have publishers, nonprofits, and other entities bid to create textbooks and provide them to students free in digital format or in print for $20. Faculty will not be mandated to use the materials.

To facilitate the process and approve materials, a California Open Educational Resource Council comprised of faculty members from each state public college system will be created. A companion bill was also approved to create a state digital library as a repository for the materials created.

Using the Creative Commons licensing platform, faculty members will be able to adopt and customize these core titles for use in their classrooms. This process allows for faculty to update and share resources to make the products better with inexpensive iteration updates.

The program California seeks to create is similar to the program launched in the State of Washington in 2011.

Eduction and the Hispanic Market

If you’re looking at how education is changing and you’re not taking into account the changing makeup of the U.S. population, you’re missing a big piece of the puzzle. The Hispanic/Latino population in the United States is growing rapidly and we are just now starting to understand this demographic as a powerful consumer group with regard to technology, education, media, and more.

The other day I was reading the Nielsen Research Study: State of the Hispanic Consumer: The Hispanic Market Imperative in order to see what I could glean about education.

Here are a few facts from the study, facts I think interesting, telling, and important now and moving forward:

  •  The Hispanic population is the largest minority segment in the U.S.
  •  Technology and media use do not mirror the general market but have distinct patterns due to language, culture, and ownership dynamics.
  •  Hispanics are the fastest-growing ethnic segment and expected to grow 167 percent from 2010 to 2050, compared to 42 percent for the total population.
  •  Over 60 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population is under age 35, and 75 percent is under age 45.
  •  Latino usage rates of television, smartphones, social networking, online video, and other forms of entertainment make Latinos one of today’s most engaged and dynamic targets.
  •  Approximately 60 percent of Latino households own at least one video- and Internet-enabled cell phone, compared to 43 percent of the general market.
  •  Hispanics spend 68 percent more time watching video on the Internet and 20 percent more time watching video on their mobile phones compared to non-Hispanic Whites.
  •  Hispanics are less likely to have Internet access at home compared to the U.S. average (62 percent and 76 percent, respectively).
    Hispanics are three times more likely to have Internet access via a mobile device, but not have Internet at home (9 percent vs 3 percent, respectively).
  •  Hispanics are 28 percent more likely to own a smartphone than non-Hispanic Whites.

Those facts taken into account, what can we conclude?
As a young and growing population, the Latino community is a major consumer of both education and communications technology. When looking at this demographic we need to understand how the Hispanic population consumes technology (in and of itself and how it differs in doing so with regard to other demographics) to account for the changes that are currently taking place and in order to anticipate future trends. Some of the key facts related to Internet access and the differences between home and mobile connectivity dictate that selecting education programs that require a desktop computer or home Internet access may place this demographic at a disadvantage while also making the provider a non-viable choice for students limited to more on-the-go solutions. As the population changes it is important to understand who are students are and how they consume technology.

Reaction to Apple’s iBooks 2

As media outlets around the world work feverishly to post articles about the Apple Education Announcement, I wanted to take some time to let the announcement sink in and collect my thoughts about what it all means for today and for the future.

First off, I wasn’t shocked that my email, Twitter, and phone have been busy today as everyone is soliciting industry-insider opinions on what Apple’s announcement means and if and how it will change things. Here are a few of my initial reactions:

  1. Make no mistake, this is a game changer. The real effects may take time to realize but Apple has just made it easy for anyone to publish. Before iBooks 2, you needed to find or generate content and then develop your own app, now all you need is the content. Consider the implications of such accessibility to publishing, the biggest being that now all of the so-called experts and authors can now publish using a name-brand platform closely linked with education. Lets look at an organization such as 20 Million Minds, a foundation seeking to develop content but lacking a distribution platform. Now they have that platform and can focus on content development and not worry about striking a distribution deal with a particular application provider.
  2. Publishers still own the rights to the content. They will control which books they release and how much they will cost. Throughout the fairly brief history of eBooks, the publishers have proven a few things: first, they are going to put their hands in as many cookie jars as they can; second, they will do whatever it takes to control the content and not let what happened to the music industry happen to textbooks. They are terrified of losing control and that resulting in “sharing,” legal and illegal.
  3. For a K-12 school to use iBooks 2, the school needs iPads and content. While the content is cheap, the hardware is not. As is, a school will spend $120 for a book. If they buy 100 copies, it costs them $12,000. The new iBooks 2 model will require them to pay $14.99 (or whatever the price for the particular title used is) for each student, each year. While this might make sense, it doesn’t factor in iPads and insurance and support and repairs, and it will take time for schools to adapt to the new formula and get the physical equipment into students’ hands.
  4. The right books need to be available for the process to work. Limited title availability has been a barrier all along the eBooks timeline. We haven’t see the full list of books that publishers are going to offer in iBooks 2 format, but for this to work in a high school, it needs to have every book that every student enrolled needs. The $499 cost of an iPad is absurdly expensive if a student can only use it for two of six classes. It simply cannot be justified and parents will not tolerate it.

So where do things stand and what does today mean? Well, we’re making progress making digital textbooks a real and really available and worthy endeavor. Today’s announcement was a big step and the industry will be changed by a powerhouse like Apple releasing the tools contained in iBooks 2. It will take some time to get a better sense of what type of content gets created and how educators can use it to enhance the learning experience. I look forward to seeing how this reshapes the education landscape and particularly where it leads in terms of higher education and college textbooks.

The College Textbook Adoption Process Is Broken, Here’s Why (and How to Fix It)

In triangulation, each of three separate entities uses the other two to its advantage by shifting accountability onto them, playing them against each other, or consolidating power by making them dependent. All of this has been at work for a very long time in academic bookselling and the college-textbooks sales and buyback process.

In this case, the three entities blaming, needing, and using one another are the publishers, faculty, and bookstores. None of them owns the system per se, they are all interdependent and perceived as bad guys by the consumer, and they are all frightened of data being freely shared in the marketplace. Let’s look closely at theses three players and their roles and how they affect college-textbook selection and pricing.


They own the copyrighted content and material contained within textbooks and they do everything possible to encourage professors to use their book on physics rather than that published by a competitor. The publishers work directly with the faculty through sales reps and they offer them incentives such as free resources or technology for using their books. Publishers encourage faculty to build custom editions that eliminate the stuff that the professor won’t be covering, and they tell the prof that these custom edits makes a cheaper book for the student. And that is true. Also true is that the book is now a specialty publication limited to that professor’s class at that college that term and the textbook has absolutely no buyback value for the student afterward. This suits the publisher as it keeps used books from entering circulation and eating profits from sales of new books and eTextbooks. They also create a false sense of demand by constantly creating new editions if even a few pages have changed.


Course instructors work with the publisher to select books and then they work with the bookstore to get the books stocked and made available to students (this is called the textbook-adoptions process). Publisher sales reps compete for their selections (see above) and bookstores tend to badger faculty to make textbook selections as early as possible so that the store can secure enough copies and the greatest number of used books. Faculty want to teach, not deal with multiple booksellers or costs and conditions, so they tend to tell only the main campus bookstore what titles they will be using and they tend not to be in a hurry to do this given their classroom commitments.

The book-selection process is not always spelled out for instructors. Many times the publisher is selected by the department chair who has committed to titles from a certain publisher. In some cases, department budgets are so limited that faculty need the resources that the publisher agrees to include in exchange for a commitment to selection of one of their titles. And finally, I believe that in many cases, instructors want what they think is best for students even when it is not the case. If you were a history professor and a sales rep from a publisher told you that cutting 20% of the content would also cut 20% of the book’s price (but not that the book lost all buyback value), you would think you were helping your students.


The bookstores don’t want to own the process in a technical sense but they do want to own it in a practical one, which is to say that they want control because they do most of the work (ordering, receiving, sales, returns, buyback, etc.) Given how much effort they expend in terms of cost and labor, they are not eager to share the data they amass along the way (students purchasing habits, bestselling texts by subject, required reading by course and location, other market trends, etc.). And why would they? Doing so would help competitors. Knowledge is power and informed consumers have the power of choice.

So what’s the solution? I wish that it was a simple one. The problem is that we have big money at stake and the key holders of the information do not have a financial incentive to share this money and push sales away from their current channel. Here is one that most benefits students but it would be a tough sale to the publishers and bookstores:

Most schools already have digital catalogs for classes. In many cases, these catalogs are already tied to required textbooks via links to the bookstore based on data that was made public via the Higher Education Act. Standardizing and sharing this data would break up the triangle-shaped monopoly that exists between publishers, faculty, and bookstores. The original legislation in Congress was a start, but it didn’t go far enough in enacting specific formats by which the information should be shared or by creating a standard body with which the information should be shared. A central collection of the data would initially be an intense investment, but would quickly benefit all when shared in an equal format that created a more competitive marketplace where the playing field were more level and the students benefited.

How do we find a middle ground?
What other solutions do you suggest?

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