Textbooks and Open Educational Resources

Professor Alain Bourget of California State University-Fullerton is defending his action of choosing a cheaper option textbook for his students instead of the $180 one imposed by his department. He says the $75 book he choose, supplemented with free online resources, is just as effective as the department-chosen book.

According to a writer for Inside Higher Ed, Scott Jaschik, the case is “being closely watched by advocates of open educational resources (free online materials, commonly called OER) who see the dispute as a sign they need to challenge not only traditional textbooks but traditional methods of selecting textbooks.”

Nicole Allen, director of open education at SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) says this case shows how the marketplace often evolves faster than current campus practices. She says, “Ten years ago long-term departmental adoptions were considered good for affordability since it allows a strong local used-book market to develop. Now it can work against students by perpetuating the traditional publishing industry’s stranglehold on the market, which keeps new innovations like OER out.”

I would think that if a department considers the professor qualified enough to teach the course, then that professor should also be qualified enough to choose the book from which to teach. Professor Bourget says he is frustrated by constant releases of new editions, making it difficult for his students to buy used books. He simply wants to help his students, who “aren’t rich” he says, get the same level of education at a more affordable price.

There are ethical questions in play here besides price, though. The authors of the $180 book are also the chair and vice-chair of the mathematics department at the university. While the school has said that the authors did not participate in the decision to use the book, it still seems odd that they would choose this book instead of an identified cheaper option for their students.

David Wiley, leader of the Open Education Group at BYU who works with schools and colleges on using OER states that failure to use less expensive options “when department leaders are benefiting financially from the status quo, raises ethical questions.”

This may just be another sign that the status quo of educational publishing (and selection) needs to be revised to be as flexible as the current age.

By: Briana Farr



Leading Dairy Brand Announces Free Online Interactive eCookbook

A recent press release put out by Hood® Cream caught my attention. The title of the release reads, “Hood® Cream Teams Up With Chef Chris Coombs To Launch Its First-Ever eCookbook“.

HP Hood eCookbook
Hood(R) Cream partners with renowned New England Chef Chris Coombs to launch the brand’s first-ever eCookbook. (PRNewsFoto/HP Hood)

The words that stand out to me are “First-Ever eCookbook” as if it has never been done before…ever. This is of course Hood’s first attempt at venturing into the e-publishing space so it is their first e-book. I like that they are using this as a marketing and promotional tool. They have partnered with Chef Chris Coombs, so it lends authority to the eCookbook, while building their brand identity.

The book is called Chef Creations Inspired by Hood Cream and it downloaded as a PDF for free.

Users can take the eCookbook with them anywhere they go with the ability to download it on multiple devices like tablets, desktop computers and smartphones. At-home chefs will enjoy thoughtful notes from Chef Coombs about each recipe and can also take advantage of the eCookbook’s interactive features including simple social media sharing on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook, and a step-by-step hands-free countertop “cook mode” viewing option.

They are heavily noting the ease of use that their e-Cookbook provides to users and how it can be taken anywhere. Since this is only a PDF, there is no video but they do have “simple” sharing options.

This appears to be a big deal for Hood® Cream to have published an electronic cookbook. I wonder how long it took the company to come to the realization that they should be utilizing an e-Cookbook to promote their product.  Perhaps their next e-Cookbook will be more interactive. Only time will tell.

Publishers Will Need Independent Tech to Level Playing Field

Technology in the hands of businessmen
Source: http://www.theblindguide.com/evolutionary-technology/

By Danielle Desjardins

“Google, Facebook, and Twitter — Are they media companies disguised as technology companies?”

This is the question at the heart of “Publishers Will Need Independent Tech to Level Playing Field,” by Kirk McDonald, President of PubMatic, and although the answer to this hotly debated issue isn’t quite clear, one thing is: regardless of whether these outlets are media or technology companies, traditional publishers will need to up their game, and rethink their roles, to compete.

Premium content is no longer the failsafe recipe for success that it was for publishers for decades. Instead, technology and data are upending the monetization strategies that publishers have relied on for so long.

The world of publishing has changed dramatically over the past several years, and according to McDonald, this has created a new paradigm for publishers. “Premium content is no longer the failsafe recipe for success that it was for publishers for decades. Instead, technology and data are upending the monetization strategies that publishers have relied on for so long.” And these changes show in user behavior.

According to a study by Publishing Technology, a leading supplier of data and content solutions, 43% of mobile phone users (both in the United States and United Kingdom) use their phones to read books. The remaining 57%, however, find the experience of reading on a mobile phone unpleasant (36% in the US; 29% in the UK) or found the mobile platforms designed for reading too difficult to use (26% in the US; 21% in the UK). This indicates that unlike game developers, social networking sites, and other media/technology hybrids, publishing companies are not concentrating on continuously refining the user experience of their digital content — a necessity when users can, and will, easily switch loyalties. And considering that an estimated 2.4 billion smartphones will be sold in 2015 alone — approximately 120 times the number of Kindle e-readers sold from 2007 to 2014 — this represents a lost opportunity on a huge scale.

But that is only one technology. As millennials and other digital natives increasingly affect the marketplace, this need for excellent user experiences, and more convenient print/digital hybrid solutions, will only increase.

But the task of developing new monetization strategies and redirecting focus requires publishers to rethink their roles entirely. No longer will they solely be responsible for acquiring, producing, and disseminating content; instead, the average publisher will also need to consider the development or acquisition of specialized technologies built around their unique products — and their unique challenges.

Although some may rush to partner with the Facebooks and Twitters of the world to gain access to these groundbreaking technologies without a substantial internal investment, this strategy may prove short-sighted, especially as the partner technology company moves (often lightning fast) to change the offered technology to fit their own needs, not the publisher’s.

These marketplaces are no more invested in a publisher’s success than the NASDAQ is invented in the success of a particular mutual fund that makes trades on its exchange.

Instead, according to McDonald, the secret to adapting is to locate and partner with independent technology companies — or create individualized technology perfectly suited to your requirements in-house — to solve problems such as the need for greater market automation and real-time inventory management. In a sense, it is only by redefining themselves as both media and technology companies — effectively blurring the lines between each segment — that publishers will survive.

“It’s time for publishers to stop asking, “Are Google and Facebook media companies or tech companies?’” says McDonald, “And start asking themselves, ‘How am I using technology to build the media company of the future?’”

Giving More Thought to Social Media Marketing

As the soon-to-be Social Media manager of a growing entertainment blog, I’ve had to do a lot of thinking on how websites like Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram can be used to build an audience. This is a plight I think many content creators (authors, companies, YouTubers) have to think about when they decide to use Social Media as a marketing device.

As Chris Syme writes in his article, you have to separate strategy from tactic.

The truth is, success is not about finding the right channel,” Syme writes, “it’s about defining strategy first, and then plugging in the right channels to reach your goals. Facebook is not a strategy. It’s a tactic.” [x]

This was something I hadn’t considered until reading his article. HyPursuit–the blog I write for–just informed me they had planned to use Facebook for the Social Media outlet. While this is a smart tactic (they have over 14,000 likes on their Facebook page as opposed to 7,000 followers on Twitter) it isn’t much of a strategy.

After reading Syme’s article, I’m now starting to think more into the “why” using Facebook is the right option to market the HyPursuit brand.  As in, “why do I want to maintain a presence on Facebook?” (Chris Syme).

It’s something I would really encourage anyone who wants to start using Social Media in this way to start doing because understanding Strategy VS. Tactic could be the deciding factor in how fast your audience grows.

For more information on this I highly recommend reading Chris Syme’s article.

Photo Credit

Will Facebook Dominate the News Publishing Space?

By Sarah McArthur

Instant Articles is a new way for publishers to build fast interactive articles on Facebook. It’s been live since May 2015, but has been rolling out gradually. The Facebook news platform allows partner publishers and media companies to publish directly on users’ newsfeeds, instead of pointing users to their main websites.

What this means is that when browsing your feed, you’ll see articles posted by launch partners, such as The New York Times, National Geographic, NBC News, and others. You might also see a share in your feed from a friend who saw the article in their feed. Either way, tap on the post and the article loads instantly without departing the Facebook news platform. Fast and responsive is its main selling point. For the publishers, it’s all about speed and quick access for the user. Publishers are afraid, and maybe rightly so, that readers will bolt if the article takes more than 10 seconds, if that, to load. Instant Articles also offer interaction, scalability, as well as control and customization of content, business model, ad sales and revenue, analytics tools, and brand identity to the publishers.

And, that’s why in a major departure from the rest of the pack, The Washington Post announced this week (9/23/15) that it will post all of its news content on Facebook’s Instant Articles. That’s 1200 stories every day. The Washington Post is the first major publication to commit to publishing all of its stories through the social network.

What does this mean?

It means a solution to lengthy download times and exasperated readers. It means that we of the audience platform won’t have to leave Facebook to read Washington Post articles and soon we’ll be able to stay on the site for many other providers’ news as well. (Remember when you had to go to the corner and pay a dollar for a newspaper? No more of that, you won’t even have to change websites!)

It means more publicity for media companies as their content is on display for the millions (billions?) in Facebooks user base. This could help generate more ad revenue.

It seems a great strategy for Facebook, whose goal is to dominate the online news publishing space. Their competition is Apple News (another Post Partner) and Google and Twitter are working on news services as well.

Is it great for publishers? This is a good question. Most partner publications have chosen to post a limited number of articles on the platform, but not all. Some media outlets have put off fully committing to Instant Articles because to become a full partner requires sharing subscriber information to Facebook that they don’t want to share. Another downside is where in the past (and tentative present), news publications used Facebook to steer traffic to their sites, now readers will be more likely to stay on Facebook. They won’t read the entire newspaper or even an entire section. They won’t see the newspapers’ other offerings, but just the one article if they are lucky enough to catch it as it blazes through their feed. In the case of guinea pig The Washington Post, this strategy could extend its reach across the multitudes or it could be cutting its own throat by severing its direct links to readers.


“Hooked” on a New App for Short Fiction

By Rebecca Winterburn

Telepathic Inc., a narrative technology company founded by Perna Gupta and her husband, Parag Chordia, released a new app this week called Hooked. Hooked features young adult short fiction meant to be read on an iPhone or Apple Watch.

Each book is approximately 1,000 words and is designed to be read in a few minutes. They are told through dialogue that appears on the screen like texts; new messages appear as readers click through.

Gupta describes her app as “Twitter for fiction” and likens it to Bram Stoker’s Dracula,  told entirely through letters.

Writers for the app were recruited through MFA programs and received what Gupta describes as “competitive” pay. For now all of the content is from screened contributors, but the goal is that users will eventually be able to submit their own content. The app is rated 9+ for infrequent suggestive themes, mild horror, and occasional crude humor.

At the moment there are over 200 stories available with more being added daily. They are grouped according to “Channels” (categories) like “Love As Deep,” “Dark & Stormy,” “Primal Terror,” and “Android Dreams,” among others.

Hooked is free to download and users receive one free story per day. They also offer a subscription service that enables readers to access more stories. The price for one week is $2.99, one month is $7.99, and a year of unlimited stories is $39.99.

While writing 100,000 pages of a sci fi fantasy trilogy, Gupta was inspired by the “technology of reading” to stop writing and create the app. It was the possibilities of new innovations in reading that drove her to begin working on new tools for modern readers.