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The Future of Digital Textbooks, Tools of Change, 2010


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Technology is driving change in education as it is in publishing. Distance education has become more common in higher education; universities are putting podcasts, texts, and entire courses online. The spiraling cost of textbooks is rendering higher education unaffordable to many students, particularly in community colleges, where textbook costs often exceed tuition. In the K-12 market, digital textbooks have been making inroads into the classroom; a California initiative aims to replace many high school science and math texts with free, “open source” digital versions, while the new Democratic Leadership Council has proposed a “Kindle in Every Backpack.” While some may think of a digital textbook merely an electronic image of a paper product, others have employed the electronic format in broadening the spectrum of learning. This session examines the emerging future of digital textbooks, including open access; subscriptions; texts bundled with online study resources; innovative texts that include multimedia, simulation models, automated assessments; and business models that will allow publishers to survive and thrive in the future.

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The Future of Digital Textbooks, Tools of Change, 2010

  1. 1. O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference Marriott Marquis, New York, NY February 23, 2010 The Future of Digital Textbooks
  2. 2. Panelists John Warren, Marketing Director, Publications, RAND Corporation (moderator) Eric Frank, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Flat World Knowledge Neeru Khosla, Co-Founder and Executive Director, CK-12 Foundation Frank Lyman, Executive Vice President, CourseSmart LLC Nicholas Smith, Chief Operating Officer, Agile Mind
  3. 3. Outline  The Rise of Digital Textbooks  Flat World Knowledge  CK-12 Foundation  Course Smart  Agile Mind  Additional Business Models to Consider  Peering into the E-Textbook Future
  4. 4. Forces are Converging to Increase Use of Digital Textbooks and Online Learning  Growing movement by students, parents, and professors against high price and weight of traditional textbooks  Retirement of baby-boom teachers and full emergence of digital natives —younger teachers who have always grown up among computers and integrate them seamlessly into their lives—fueling use of digital textbooks and other digital content  “A Kindle in Every Backpack” policy paper recommends public funding for student e-book devices  California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger launched an initiative in May 2009 to provide schools with free, open-source digital textbooks for high school students  President Obama announced an initiative to invest in creating online community college courses for job training programs, improvements in basic skills education, and free online education
  5. 5. Digital Content is Driving an Evolution in Learning and Communication  Lines are becoming blurred between online learning and digital textbooks, and between producers and consumers of content  Estimates for total digital revenue in the higher education market are less than $100 million, with e-book sales contributing ~5 percent; digital revenue in K–12 has been lower due to focus on core reading and mathematics standards, standardized testing, and budget crisis  Interactive learning on the Internet offers a mix of free and fee-based models, for public good and private profit  Trade-offs exist between open access and publisher controlled  Issues of access among different socioeconomic groups for digital textbooks—and e-book devices—may create a new digital divide  Self-assessment is one of the key factors that can be automated in digital texts and help students, professors, and authors
  6. 6. Trends Today and on the Horizon Are Driving Technology Adoptions  The Horizon Report 2010, published recently by the New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative, identified four trends as key drivers of technology adoptions for 2010 through 2015: - Abundance: Volume of resources and relationships accessible on the Internet changes the role of educators in sense-making, coaching, and validating the credibility of information - Just in Time Learning: People want and expect to be able to work, learn, and study at any time and wherever they want to do so - In the Cloud: Technologies are increasingly cloud-based and IT support is becoming increasing decentralized - Collaboration: Students output is increasingly collaborative, and there is more cross-campus collaboration between departments. While this report focused on higher-education, these trends apply equally to K–12 and professional learners
  7. 7. Horizon Report Identified Six Emerging Technologies Impacting Teaching and Learning  Near term horizon (within next 12 months): - Mobile computing: An increasing number of faculty and students are using mobile devices for collaboration and communication - Open Content: Movement began over a decade ago reaching tipping point  Second adoption horizon (2-3 years out) - Electronic books: Pilot programs are informing future devices - Simple Augmented Reality: Overlays of digital information onto the physical world as well as code-generated 3-D models  Far Term Horizon (4-5 years out) - Gesture-Based Computing: Devices controlled by natural movements will go from games to teaching and learning - Visual Data Analysis: Blending statistics, data mining, and visualization to understand complex concepts and relationships
  8. 8. “It is the author’s job to try to dislocate older media into postures that permit attention to the new. To this end, the artist must ever play and experiment with new means of arranging experience, even though the majority of his [sic] audience may prefer to remain fixed in their old perceptual attitudes.” —Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 1964
  9. 9. Flat World Knowledge Brings Open Content to Higher Education
  10. 10. Flat World Knowledge Offers an Innovative Model to Provide Digital Textbooks  Flat World Knowledge, a start-up company backed by over $11 million in venture capital, offers expert-authored and peer-reviewed textbooks, openly licensed, available free online and affordably offline  Business model is to provide content for textbook adoption that is as good as or better than current textbook, offer content for free, encourage purchase of add-on and convenience products  Students can buy a PDF download of book or chapter, ~$30 black and white printed version, ~$60 color print version - PDF download includes print-your-own capability  Creative Commons (open source) license and tools to modify and remix encourage new derivatives and adaptation  Professors can create custom books, edit at sentence level, deliver unique books and print-on-demand versions to students
  11. 11. Thus Far, Flat World’s Model Seems to Be Working  Adoption has increased from 1,000 students at ~30 schools in Spring 2009 to 40,000 students at ~470 schools in Fall 2009  Every chapter, every book, includes digital study guides such as flashcards, practice quizzes, audio guides  Approximately 65 percent of students make some kind of purchase, most ~$30  Incentives for authors include faster time to publication, ease of creating and updating texts, 20 percent royalty on any sale, royalties more consistent over time  Going forward, Flat World Knowledge plans to integrate more assessment - Performance data will help professors teach and aggregated, anonymous performance data will help authors develop better texts
  12. 12. CK-12 Foundation Aims to Make Digital Textbooks More Accessible for K–12
  13. 13. CK-12 Flexbooks Aim to Make Digital Textbooks Affordable and Adaptable  Using an open-content, web-based, collaborative model termed the “FlexBook,” CK-12 offers tools to create, distribute, and customize high quality educational content  CK-12 provides access to free texts that are aligned to state standards with developmentally correct content  Educators can create customized digital text from existing texts, chapters, web pages under a Creative Commons Attribution- ShareAlike license  Encourages collaborative learning via a community where authors, teachers, and students create, access, share, rate, recommend, and publish  Texts provided currently through a combination of author donations, licensing partnerships, incentives for community-based authorship, and university collaborations
  14. 14. CK-12 Has Been Successful in Meeting State Adoption Standards  Seven Flexbooks were submitted by CK-12 to the California Learning Resource Network for state textbook adoption in math and science, they all met the state’s academic content standards - The seven CK-12 texts on average met 95% of the standards - Four met 100% of the standards - None of the CK-12 texts scored below 82% - In comparison, a textbook from another major publisher scored below 50%, and the average by all non-CK-12 texts was only 68%  Slow adoption cycle means most of these texts unlikely to be utilized by schools until Fall 2010
  15. 15. CourseSmart Provides Digital Editions of the Most Popular College Textbooks
  16. 16. CourseSmart Provides Affordable College Textbooks in Digital Format  CourseSmart is a for-profit electronic textbook company founded in 2007 as a joint venture by five of the largest higher-education textbook publishers—Pearson, Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill Education, John Wiley & Sons Inc., and Bedford Freeman Worth - Also distributes electronic textbooks for other publishers  Offers more than 9,200 digital titles for over 1,000 courses across most academic disciplines  Benefits include lower prices for students (50% less than printed textbooks) as well as convenience for professors and students  Students chose between an online version available on any computer, download (partnering with VitalSource), and iPhone/iPod touch app  Student’s access to the book ends after a set period, usually the semester end, and students can not resell the textbook
  17. 17. Benefits of CourseSmart Texts Go Beyond the Printed Textbook  Allows instructors to review and compare textbooks as well as other course materials faster, cheaper, and with less environmental impact than print exam copies  Instant delivery allows students to wait until materials are actually needed for homework assignments and test preparation  Features include hyperlinked table of contents; search; copy and paste; ability for students to highlight text or add notes to texts  Electronic pages correspond exactly to pages in the paper textbook— allowing students and professors to stay in synch whether using print or digital texts  Some CourseSmart texts also include multimedia features, such as YouTube-style videos
  18. 18. Agile Mind Improves Student Achievement and Supports Exemplary Teaching Practices
  19. 19. Agile Mind Focuses on Excellence, Equity, and Sustainable School Capacity  Founded in 2001, Agile Mind uses technology to enhance equity and high achievement for adolescents in math and science  The Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin helps the company develop research-based resources for a broad range of students and teachers—particularly those in underserved schools  Productivity tools, performance reports, and professional development services help foster exemplary, sustainable teaching practices  Participating students are showing large achievement gains  Agile Mind has served 2 million students and almost 20,000 educators in the past 5 years
  20. 20. High-Tech and High-Touch Tools and Strategies Deliver on the Promise of Blended Learning  Internet-delivered resources leverage the power of face-to-face seminars, mentoring, and other high-quality supports for educators  Internet-delivered services enable educators to have data they can use at a glance in real time to assess the performance of individual students and groups—relieving them of the burden of mechanical work  Students receive detailed data about their work in real time to enable them to responsibility for the success of their learning  Low cost model enables company to support aggressive R & D agenda, enables district and state entities to fund even in down economy
  21. 21. A Wide Variety of Business Models Are Emerging
  22. 22. “The best practices have to do with embracing innovation and being willing to take risks, and trying things that do not seem necessarily obvious—to break the bonds between necessary profitability and any action.” —Michael Jon Jensen, Director of Publishing Technologies, National Academy Press, in “Risky Business,” Book Business, April 2008
  23. 23. Connexions Offers a New Model for Rapidly Publishing Scholarly Content  Rice University’s Connexions offers free, open-licensed educational materials in fields such as music, electrical engineering and psychology  Presents scholarly content in modular, non-linear format  Encourages sharing and collaboration  Reduces the time to publication  Offers an alternative to expensive college textbooks  Currently offers content in 27 different languages, including Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai  As of January 2010 offers 15,831 reusable modules in 977 collections (up from 6989 modules in 393 collections in October 26, 2008)
  24. 24. Aplia is Developing Interactive Textbook Content with Auto-Graded Evaluation  Aplia (see is a for-profit company which offers an interactive learning solution to increase student effort and engagement  Founded in 2000 by economist and Stanford professor Paul Romer  Products supporting college-level courses have been used by more than 800,000 students at over 850 institutions  Subjects include accounting, business communication, developmental reading, economics, finance, and statistics  Interactive textbook content (note taking, highlighting) integrated with auto-graded questions in the same “assignment”  Currently developing assignable text with interactive, auto-graded questions built into the text itself
  25. 25. Safari Books Online is a Popular Resource for Technical Professionals  Safari Books Online capitalizes on the need for “just in time” learning  Founded by O’Reilly Media, Inc. and Pearson Technology Group in July 2001 to provide online content to IT, programming, and design professionals  Offers depth and breadth of technical content and is an essential resource in technical fields and among other professionals seeking to improve technical skills  “Rough Cuts” allows authors to publish their manuscript drafts, providing customers with access to pre-published information; reader feedback provides editors and authors with information to improve the manuscript  “Short Cuts” series of concise, digital-only reports sometimes become full-length titles when popularity and need are proven
  26. 26. Peering Into the E-Textbook Future
  27. 27. “Thinking of the problem as ‘how do we get a textbook onto an iPhone’ is framing it wrong. The challenge is how to make the best use of a medium that already shares three of our five senses—sight, speech, and hearing—along with geolocation, color video, and a nearly always on Web connection, to accomplish the ‘job’ of educating a student.” —Andrew Savikas, Vice President, Digital Initiatives, O’Reilly Media
  28. 28. Shopping List for the Ultimate Digital Textbook Nonprofit group Project Tomorrow surveyed 281,000 students from K–12 in all 50 U.S. states; offered ideas from students in grades 6–12 about desired features and functionality of digital textbooks:  Ability to personalize book with highlights and notes (63%)  Self-assessment (62%) or self-paced tutorials (46%)  Links to real-time data like NASA and Google Earth (52%)  Tap into an online tutor whenever necessary (53%)  Link to PowerPoints of lectures supporting content (55%)  Explore concepts through games (57%) or animations and simulations (55%)  Access videos (51%), videoconferences (30%), podcasts from subject experts (34%)  Create own podcasts or videos to support learning (48%)
  29. 29. Features of the Future Electronic Textbook  We’ll read it on a device that combines facets of the cell phone, iPod, Kindle, Flip camera, and laptop, with a color touch screen and multimedia capabilities - The recently announced iPad comes fairly close  Placing the cursor next to a term brings up its definition; clicking on a place-name deploys Google Earth  Maps, charts, and graphs, instead of static, depict the spread and flow over time while providing interactivity  Instead of a single picture for a particular item, site, or artifact, a gallery of photos is embedded in the e-text  Augmented reality shows models and concepts in 3-D  Users can instantly contribute comments, photos, and videos to the book’s gallery
  30. 30. The Future Electronic Textbook Facilitates Collaboration and Continuous Learning  Links lead to further scholarship or modules about topics of particular interest to the reader while encouraging comments and collaboration  Creative Commons license allows modules to be remixed and repurposed  Open video allows easier editing and remixing of video, audio, and text  Social web features promote distributed, ongoing conversations between authors, scholars, and readers  Deep Web semantic search unlocks additional in-depth, professional content, returning results customized to the reader’s interest that are not cluttered by irrelevant content These capabilities are possible now, in one way or another, but have yet to be harnessed—how do we get there?
  31. 31. Challenges for Digital Textbooks Remain Significant  Open access business models are still largely unproven - “Free texts” depend on success of “bundling”, print-on-demand print sales, enhanced products or services, and/or foundation, grant or endowment support  Interactive, participatory learning spaces using assessments, gaming and simulations, online tutors, and virtual reality environments are expensive to produce and maintain  Difficult to change the mindsets of educators who claim not having the time (or technical skills) to contribute  Keeping content contextualized to local, regional requirements as well as global curriculum standards  Early student reviews of the Kindle DX in education setting not very positive
  32. 32. “…Technology has advanced much more than our understanding of its present and potential uses. Social research on scholarly practices is essential to inform the design of tools, services, and platforms. Design decisions made today will determine whether the Internet of tomorrow enables imaginative new forms of scholarship and learning—or whether it simply reinforces today’s tasks, practices, laws, business models, and incentives.” —Christine L. Borgman, Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet, 2007
  33. 33. Forecasting the Future of Electronic Textbooks  Digital exam copies will become predominant, increasing speed of access, reducing manufacturing and shipping costs, reducing sales of exam copies to used book market, and enriching review process by improving the linking of texts to ancillary materials  As authors, publishers, and readers embrace new digital forms, greater opportunities for innovation and experimentation will ensue  Ability to repurpose digital content and spread costs over a range of projects allows authors, publishers, and producers to create content for niches and market segments infeasible with traditional publishing  As more books become scanned and digitized, links between digital documents will strengthen their usage and legitimization, making it ever easier to follow the bread crumbs of knowledge  Books will be cross-linked, clustered, indexed, annotated, remixed, and “mashed-up”—combined in new combinations with video, animations, and audio
  34. 34. Technical and Organizational Forces Must Be Aligned for Successful Digital Publishing The Gilbane Group, an analyst and consulting firm focused on content technologies, identified key characteristics for success in developing digital products:  An alignment of technical efforts with business goals  Commitment to growth in digital products  Realistic expectations and focus on metrics  Leadership with a vision for digital product development and commitment to see it through  Investment in content management technology, often including web content management and digital asset management as a hub for internal and external distribution  Systemic and large-scale digitization efforts, often including encoding content in XML
  35. 35. Developing a Plan for Sustainability Is Critical Ithaka, a nonprofit group focused on the academic community, identified similar success characteristics for sustainability of digital resources:  A dedicated and entrepreneurial leadership willing to test new ideas  Identification of a clear value proposition based on an understanding of users’ needs  Minimizing direct costs through outsourcing, partnerships, and other creative means  Development of diverse revenue sources and creative business models, including subscriptions, licensing to publishers and users, custom services, corporate sponsorships, author fees, endowments, and grants  Clear accountability and metrics for success
  36. 36. “The only iron law … is that digital age has so transformed the ways in which things are made and sold that there are no iron laws.” —Malcolm Gladwell, in “Priced to Sell,” review in the New Yorker of Chris Anderson’s Free: The Future of a Radical Price
  37. 37. Bibliography
  38. 38. Bibliography (1)  Alexander, Bryan and Alan Levine, “Web 2.0 Storytelling: Emergence of a New Genre,” Educause Review, November/December 2008 (as of October 4, 2009:  Agile Mind web site (as of January 26, 2010:  Aplia web site (as of October 4, 2009:  Borgman, Christine L., Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet, MIT Press, 2007; see also  Brown, Laura, Rebecca Griffiths, Matthew Rascoff, “University Publishing in a Digital Age,” Ithaka, July 26, 2007  Canon, Brevy, “Early Reviews: Kindle Great For Reading, But Stumbles on Textbook Duty,” UVAToday, University of Virginia, September 23, 2009 (as of October 4, 2009: )  CK-12 Foundation web site (as of January 26, 2010:  Connexions web site (as of January 26, 2010:
  39. 39. Bibliography (2)  CourseSmart web site (as of January 26, 2010:  Flat World Knowledge web site (as of January 26, 2010:  Freedman, Thomas Z., “A Kindle in Every Backpack: A Proposal for eTextbooks in American Schools,” The New Democratic Leadership Council, July 2009 (as of October 1, 2009:  Inger, Simon, and Tracy Gardner, “How Readers Navigate to Scholarly Content: Comparing the changing user behaviour between 2005 and 2008 and its impact on publisher web site design and function,” Gartner Group, September 2008  Gladwell, Malcolm, “Priced to Sell,” (review of “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” by Chris Anderson), The New Yorker, July 06, 2009 (as of January 26, 2010: ell)  International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), “US Trade Wholesale Electronic Book Sales,” August 2009 (as of October 1, 2009:
  40. 40. Bibliography (3)  Jaschik, Scott, “Change or Die?” Inside Higher Ed, June 22, 2009 (as of October 1, 2009:  Johnson, L., Levine, A., Smith, R., & Stone, S., The 2010 Horizon Report, New Media Consortium, Austin, Texas, 2010 (as of January 26, 2010:  Johnson, Steven, “How the E-Book Will Change the Way We Read and Write,” Wall Street Journal, April 20, 2009 (as of October 1, 2009:  Lewin, Tamar, “In a Digital Future, Textbooks Are History,” New York Times, August 9, 2009, (as of October 4, 2009:  Maron, Nancy L., K. Kirby Smith and Matthew Loy, “Sustaining Digital Resources: An On-the-Ground View of Projects Today: Ithaka Case Studies in Sustainability,” Ithaka S+R, July 2009 (as of October 1, 2009:  Nusca, Andrew and Jennifer Bergen, “Amazon Kindle DX: The solution to a problem that doesn't exist,” The ToyBox, May 6th, 2009 (as of October 4, 2009:
  41. 41. Bibliography (4)  Paxhia, Steve and Bill Trippe, “Digital Platforms and Technologies for Publishers: Implementations Beyond “eBook,” The Gilbane Group, May 29, 2009 (as of October 1, 2009:  Project Tomorrow, “Selected National Findings: Speak Up 2008 for Students, Teachers, Parents and Administrators,” March 24, 2009 (as of October 1, 2009:  Safari Books Online web site (as of January 8, 2010:  Snyder, Chris, “Flat World Knowledge to Bring Free Textbooks into Blackboard,” Wired, February 4, 2009 (as of October 4, 2009:  Talbot, David, “Our Tube,” Technology Review, September/October 2009  U.S. Department of Education, “Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies,” May 2009, (as of October 1, 2009:  Young, Jeffrey R., “New E-Textbooks Do More Than Inform: They'll Even Grade You,” Chronicle of Higher Education, September 8, 2009 (as of October 1, 2009: