Monday, December, 06, 2010 (10:26 AM)
I just did a Google search on “digital college textbooks” and it returned well over a million hits. As is always the case with search this simple, most of hits are redundant, irrelevant, or both. Let’s just say 90% of the hits didn’t yield anything useful. That would still leave over 100,000 hits that I should review. As most of you know, I’m a two nap a day kind of guy so I’m not reviewing anything like 100,000 hits.
I’m not in college and I don’t have to worry about getting digital textbooks. However, there are millions of students who do have this problem and lots and lots of companies and colleges that are trying to address it.
Regardless of how the student gets to the point of purchase for their digital textbooks, the odds are overwhelming (90+%) that the content will be viewed via a regular computing device running Windows or the MAC OS. In fact, more and more of the viewing is happening on the web and never being downloaded onto a user device of any kind.
There is no doubt that eReaders (iPad, Kindle, Sony, Gouchginama, etc) are exploding all over the trade book and consumer marketplaces. You just need to check the Sunday papers (if you still get a paper) or watch the ads for any major retailer and you will see these devices everywhere as the “must give” item for the holidays. Oprah even included the iPad in her “Favorite Things” show this year.
This is a great story for trade publishers, for trade booksellers, and for readers in general. However, is has meant very little for the textbook folks. The reality of the situation is that so few students have interest in spending the necessary funds to get a device for reading when they already must have a computer that the impact on the college classroom isn’t even a rounding error.
When one considers that an eReader environment is not as good as a print book for moving through a college level textbook, the situation becomes very clear. We are a long way away from eReaders making a statistically relevant difference in the Hi_Ed market.
Digital content (bought, rented, user generated, even free) is already here in a big way and the impact is growing with each announcement. However, the digital device business might never get enough traction in Hi_Ed to make a difference.
Bottom line in Higher Education….digital stuff is already huge and getting bigger. eReaders are tiny and will likely remain that way.
Tuesday, November, 23, 2010 (09:20 AM)
Now that it should be clear to all that eReaders, eBooks, and eContent are already transforming the way publishers publish, booksellers sell, and readers read (see previous post), it is time to think about some massive disruptive activity directly in the k-12 marketplace.
You may remember my post from a few months ago about Reed Hastings buying Dreambox. As the founder of netFlix, Hastings has already shown that he knows how to radical transform the way things get done in tradition bound businesses. In fact, netFlix is in the process of driving itself out of the DVD rental business by moving as quickly as possible to online streaming. If anyone out there thinks he will have trouble dealing with educational publishers or school districts, you should spend some time trying to negotiate will motion picture companies on rights and royalties.
Now Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp has agreed to buy Wireless Generation. Here again, we have a transformative force with a history of radically changing a traditional bound business. In NewsCorp's case, it has actually changed several businesses. Keep in mind that there is lots of content available to be leveraged with NewsCorp massive corporate portfolio.
These two people have not entered into the k-12 marketplace because they have nothing else to do or becauase they have deep concern for America's youth. They have each seen enormous opportunity to transform the education sector and through that process make themselves milllions of more dollars.
The stark reality of America's k-12 schools is that it is a many multi billlion business ecosytem that is being terribly run and is producing a very bad result. This is what these investors see. This is way they are willing to invest int the marketplace.
In no way am I suggesting that our schools be privatized. I am suggesting that two investors with transformation as their M.O. each make significant plays in the same market, something is certianly going to happen.
Don't look to your local school district, or to you state legislator, or to Washington to make anythiing meaningful happen. There are now major commerical forces at work in school yard and these guys play to win.
Let me know how you think these purchases will impact you.
Wednesday, November, 10, 2010 (10:58 AM)
It is possible that many of you have grown weary of what has been a decade plus long song I have been singing about the opportunity for digital content. While I fully accept the label of "Just in the nick of way too soon", I sing my song louder than every these days.
I sing louder because many folks don't seem to be able to hear me all that well. I also sing louder because more and more voices have joined the chorus.
Two very loud voices (represented by rather amazing facts) have joined in recently.
First is a story about the recent Forrester report that estimates almost $1BB will be spent on eBooks in 2010 with the forecast growing to almost $3BB by 2015.
Next is the news this morning from Publishers Weekly that explains the simple fact the eBooks are about the only positive news left in the publishing world.
Take a few minutes, read the stories, and then tell me what you are doing about all this.
Wednesday, November, 03, 2010 (03:17 PM)
As our nation's schools continue to obsess over teaching to the test, we have begun to see real movement towards a national "core curriculum". As this article attempts to convey, there are some serious problems with this approach.
After years and years of testing, the only thing we seemed to have learned for sure is that our students are not very good at taking tests. In a country as large and diverse as ours, it is borderline insane to think that we can standardize anything.
Before we push down this standards road any further, perhaps we should spend some time and money really trying to learn how our students want to learn. With millions of teachers and 55 millions students spread across over 100,000 schools that make up almost 16,000 districts, the idea that there could be one set of facts/skills that would be equally important to all those people does sound a bit silly. Add to that silliness the notion that we could test those students exactly the same way and get a meaningful result and you have a situation that almost defies logic.
When the tragically small percentage of those students who survive this system get to college, they will find almost the exact opposite experience. Does anybody out there think that the exam giving by Professor Soandso in Chem 115 at the UofWhatever is the same as the exam giving by Professor Theotherguy at that same university?
What are we really trying to accomplish when we trying to standardize every aspect of the k-12 educational experience when we know that our amazingly diverse student and teacher base doesn't fit into a #2 pencil filled oval on a scantron sheet?
Why are we robbing these teachers of a chance to have a real impact on the lives of the their students? Why are we destroying the individuality and creativity of these young minds?
Has nobody considered that today's students are the ones who we need to solve tomorrow's problems. Do you really think that answers to overpopulation, pollution, crime, or economic disaster are going to be found on a multiple choice sheet?
If we don't allow our teachers to teach and our learners to learn how do we expect the future to bring innovative and creative solutions. If we beat the joy of learning and the excitement of trying something new and different out of the place our children spend most of their day, how we expect them to do anything interesting when we will need them most?
Come on people. Pay attention! We need to return to school being about teaching, exploring, and learning.
Wednesday, October, 27, 2010 (02:00 PM)
Talk about kicking a city while it is down, my hometown of Washington DC just took another major blow when it comes to their education system. In this recent article by the Wall Street Journal, the very unfortunate story of DC losing another chance at proper reform is well covered.
The post is not about the general topic political positioning or about the specific absurdity that is the DC government. This post is more of a sense of mourning over the tragedy (or perhaps farce) that is the public education system in DC.
Year and year, DC is among the highest per capita spenders on its public education system. Year after year, DC is among the lowest of the low when it comes to educational outcomes. It almost seems as though the system is designed to extract the highest possible price for the lowest possible level of achievement.
Before Michelle Rhee it had been decades since there was a whiff of hope for the children of our nation's capital. During her brief, and often contentious, time as Chancellor one could at least imagine the system working through its myriad problems and truly finding a way to turn things around.
With the ugly reality that most members of the DC government care more about their own welfare than the welfare of the children, Ms. Rhee knew that the incoming mayor would not support her learn focused actions to reform the schools.
I was born in DC as were my six siblings and both my parents. I openly admit to hometown bias when I talk with great pride about what a wonderful city Washington is. The continued and persistent failure of the DC Public schools has always been a stain on that pride.
With the departure of Chancellor Rhee, that stain may become permanent.