Archive for the ‘Texts & Publishing’ Category


In Texts & Publishing on March 3, 2011 by Jim Luke

From the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

Textbook Publisher Announces ‘App’ Approach to Learning Materials

March 2, 2011, 10:00 am

By Jeff Young

Long Beach — The phrase “there’s an app for that” may be coming to textbooks.

Today a major textbook company, Cengage Learning, announced a new e-textbook publishing platform that lets professors plug in apps, some made by other software companies, to add to traditional textbook content features like tutoring services or the ability to trade margin notes with other students.

The system is called MindTap, and it is scheduled to be announced at the annual TED conference here. When Chris Vento, Cengage’s executive vice president for technology and development, explained the system to a reporter, he felt the need to put the word “textbook” in air quotes, since traditional textbook content is a small part of the new product. These digital textbooks essentially bundle together several products sold by Cengage and its subsidiaries, including their electronic test-bank system, called Aplia, as well as videos and other materials that the company owns the rights to, including the archives of Newsweek.  And MindTap allows professors to customize the presentation of the material, by adding their own slides, video lectures, articles, or free online content from elsewhere.

The wider implications of this view–the textbook as a small part of a learning experience that’s now focused on related interactive software–were spelled out for publishing as a whole last week by William D. Rieders, executive vice president for new media at the company, in an interview with The Chronicle.

Competing textbook publishers already offer similar bundles of learning materials, but what appears unique is that Cengage officials are working with third-party e-learning companies to let them build add-ons that can be added directly into the e-textbooks. In that way, the system might work something like Apple’s popular online store for apps that work on its smartphones or tablet computers.

Students will read the online textbooks via a standard Web browser, though Mr. Vento says the Web pages are coded so that they adapt to fit whatever device the student is using, whether it is a laptop, iPad, or a smartphone. The system’s interface consists of two side-by-side windows, one displaying a page of a textbook and the other allowing users to open another app within the system, such as a notebook page to type and share notes, or any of the other apps that a professor enabled for his or her course.

In some ways, the Cengage system appears to be competing with course-management systems like Blackboard, which have also added features and customization so that professors can bring together learning materials and services in one interface. Mr. Vento said his company was not trying to compete with course-management providers, however, noting that professors will still want to use a course-management system for things like managing enrollment and submitting grades.

The move is the latest in a growing platform war among textbook publishers, as traditional textbook companies seek to define what a textbook should be in the digital age and possibly even control the online storefront for textbook publishing.

Cengage officials said that nine colleges and universities are testing MindTap, though it declined to name them. It plans to make it more widely available for sale starting in June.

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Students Point the Way: Use Google to Replace Textbooks

In Malartoo Rationale,Open Education,Open Minds vs. Closed Content,Texts & Publishing on February 16, 2011 by Jim Luke Tagged: , ,

Student Research: Can Googling Replace $168 Intro to Psych Textbook?

  • By Dian Schaffhauser

Students are taking the battle against high-priced textbooks into their own hands. This week, 11 University of Cincinnati seniors in the psychology program presented at an Educause event a comparison of the content of traditional college texts, one of which costs $168, to content they found for free on the Web.The research effort was undertaken as part of the Digital Bookshelf Project, the University System of Ohio’s effort to make textbooks more affordable.

For the latest research project, which took place in fall 2010, the students compared the value and educational quality of two current textbooks with the draft of a new textbook they found free online, along with what they could find through online search engines. They worked under the guidance of Charles Ginn, an associate professor of psychology at U Cincinnati.

“For our generation raised on the Internet, online searches for class materials often replace purchasing the textbook,” said Libby Cates, one of the student researchers. “So, our primary research question was: Can students depend on what they find when they Google key terms? Secondly, we wanted to see what benefits are delivered through textbooks in their various forms.”

They found that materials from Wikipedia were accurate and thorough, though “perhaps excessively thorough for an introductory course,” they reported. “These summaries were equal to or exceeded those found in the two textbooks.”

Students also found that the free e-textbook and lower-cost print materials all provided similar learning support. They recommended a combination of digital and print materials as being most supportive of student learning.

The Digital Bookshelf Project has brought together psychology departments across the state to offer students electronic textbook choices from major publishers. The goal of the project is to work with the publishers and university bookstores to provide students alternatives to standard texts.

The latest research follows on a project that investigated what format students would prefer for their text. For the 2010 academic year, 50,000 of Ohio’s 70,000 introductory psychology students have had a low-cost digital option available for the textbook of their instructor’s choice.



Future Direction for Textbooks?

In Texts & Publishing on February 13, 2011 by Jim Luke Tagged: , , ,

Might multiple, short mini-books by multiple authors be a better replacement for textbooks than just making the 1000 page text monster digital?

Shorter E-Books Show Promise for Mobile Devices –