Monthly Archive: July 2011

4 Concerns with Amazon Kindle Rental

With Amazon’s announcement that textbooks will now be available for rental on the Kindle, the media has become inundated with articles praising the new service. Naturally, I was skeptical (see my original post), and so we did some digging at CampusBooks.  (more…)

Guru Roundup: Bringing You the Industry’s Need-to-Know News

Business and Industry News and Findings

First, the biggie that’s on everyone’s mind:

New York Times DealBook Blog: Calling Off Auction, Borders to Liquidate

“The Borders Group said Monday that it would liquidate, shutting down the 40-year-old bookseller after it failed to find a last-minute savior. Though it is not a big surprise, the move will still strip the publishing industry of shelf space that is becoming increasingly scarce as brick-and-mortar stores continue to founder. Borders said it would proceed with a proposal by the private equity firms Hilco and the Gordon Brothers Group to close down its 399 remaining stores. That liquidation plan will be presented on Thursday to the federal judge overseeing the company’s bankruptcy case. The company will begin closing its remaining stores as soon as Friday, and the liquidation is expected to run through September. The chain has 10,700 employees…”


Four things to consider amid the Amazon Kindle Rental hype

This week, all of the big news has been about Amazon’s announcement of Kindle Rental. Everyone from SmartMoney to MarketWatch are posting articles and press releases touting the new service, which claims to offer 80% list prices and flexible rental. BlackBook even sounds the toll, claiming the
new service “hastens the death of print.” (more…)

Amazon Rental: Are e-books and rental actually cheaper?

Today’s big news is Amazon’s announcement about their new rental service. It’s an interesting concept, and an addition to the ongoing story of cost. Many outlets, like VentureBeat, are framing the story in a larger concept: digital is where things are going, and digital and rental save students money. (more…)

Seven Ways to Hack College with Apps and Online Tools

You have your laptop to take notes, e-mail to keep up with assignments, and Facebook to distract yourself from assignments.  But what about nontraditional uses of technology to enhance the college experience? Here are some of my top suggestions for Student 2.0.

  1. Grades

Grades 2 is an application for iPhone, iPod, and iPad users that makes tracking your progress simple.  You enter the classes you’re taking, fill in all your semester assignments and relative weights, and then feed the app your grades as the course progresses.  Grades 2 will then average the scores and tell you your current grade, GPA, due dates, sub-grades, etc.  Unfortunately, the app won’t be able to inform you whether or not it’s worth it to sleep through your boring 8 A.M lecture –even so, this is a free application that could save you some of that end-of-semester panic.

  1. Books

If you’re looking to save money and stress on textbooks, avoid the crammed, under-stocked campus bookstore and go online, obviously, online retailers like can help you buy, rent, or sell textbooks back. And it’s not just for buying: when you’re done, selling books back online will also help you recoup your losses and avoid getting ripped off at the bookstore.

Don’t forget to explore resources like open-source and free books, like at Flat World Knowledge and other sites as an alternative to textbooks.

  1. Studying

As enjoyable as 3 A.M cram sessions in the library can be, there are a host of tech services to help improve the efficiency of your studying.  Companies like Evernote, StudyBlue, and Cramberry are online flashcard-storage services that let you create a digital note card stack which can then be synced with a smartphone and studied on the go: in line at Starbucks, at the gym, even–radical as it sounds—in the library.


The Trouble with Course Readers

Many professors, especially those teaching article-heavy classes in the social sciences, skip textbooks entirely, opting to offer course readers instead. Course readers mix together articles, notes and textbook clippings that are directly related to the course. They are updated frequently and cost about $30 to around $80, which compared to the price of a new textbook is cheap–though they can go up above a hundred depending on the course. They are specifically designed for that course, usually by professors, which reduces the cost of wasted, unread pages.

The Stanford Flipside blog has a graphic opinion on course reader prices

Looking from that standpoint, readers seem like an easy, cheap and smart alternative to textbooks. Unfortunately, readers come with as many flaws as they do perks. The largest flaw? They can’t be resold. Textbook retailers are uninterested, and while you might get a few bucks from a future student, but course readers can change each year.

Another very simple flaw is that most of the information in readers can be found online, more often than not, for free. The cost of course readers comes from printing costs, but more than that, reprint fees that professors pay in order to reproduce the article or page in print. But when many news sites have free archives online, and most schools offer some sort of academic journal collection free for students, it’s a tough sell. Couldn’t students just click links for free?

Guru Roundup: Bringing You the Industry’s Need-to-Know News (Tech-Talk Edition)

Content and Publishing

PR Newswire: AcademicPub™ Signs Leading Publishers and Sets Key Distribution Partnerships

“AcademicPub, the higher education unit of SharedBook Inc., made a three-part announcement underscoring rapid adoption of the service since its April 2011 launch. According to Caroline Vanderlip, CEO, SharedBook Inc., entered into two new publishing relationships, including one with industry-leader Springer Science + Business Media, and two new distribution partnerships. These innovations will ease the ability of educators to create content and obtain AcademicPub products. Additionally, a new academic advisory board has been created to help guide the unit through an accelerating period of customer growth. ‘We are moving on multiple fronts, a necessity in a higher-ed market as dynamic as this one,’ said Vanderlip . . .”

Campus Technology: Open Textbook Groups Join Forces

“The colleges in 15 states and one Canadian province that make up the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) will now be able to tap into the collection of open textbook resources compiled by the international group of institutions that make up the OpenCourseWare Consortium (OCW Consortium) and vice versa in a new partnership. The community college consortium, which represents 200 schools, has become an associate consortia member of OCW Consortium, and its advisory board will effectively act as a voice for the two-year colleges within the global consortium’s organization . .

Digital Devices

Campus Technology: Is the iPad Ready To Replace the Printed Textbook?

“After trying out the Apple iPad for a short period–about three weeks — three out of four college freshmen said they’d be willing to purchase an Apple iPad personally if at least half of the textbooks they used during their college career were available digitally, according to the results of a classroom poll at Abilene Christian University. According to Scott Perkins, coordinator of mobile learning research in the Adams Center for Teaching and Learning at the Texas university, a similar willingness to purchase the devices was borne out among participants in semester-long pilots, which included both graduate and undergraduate students . . .”

Top Five Part-time Jobs for Students

Since I’ve been posting so much about the heavy industry-side, here’s a little break for student readers. These jobs are the most convenient and can make the most money while taking up the least time!

  1. On Campus Job—Bookstore or Library

An on campus position is the most ideal part-time job for a student. It’s convenient in proximity, and the stores tend to be more lenient when it comes to scheduling and letting you do homework or study on the job (always a plus around finals).

On-campus jobs tend to have little perks, too. It’s different for each book store, but at the University of Washington Bookstore, for example, there is a program that subsidizes your bus pass (which in a city like Seattle definitely comes in handy), and the pay is awesome (nine to nine fifty an hour). At the University of Arizona Book Store, they have a “loan a textbook” program, which essentially gives the working student free books for their semester. On top of all the extra benefits, you get valuable “real world” experience.

  1. Bartender/Server

Bartending and serving aren’t necessarily the easiest of jobs, not to mention the fact that they aren’t always “part-time,” exactly. But Infobarrel has a good rundown of three reasons to work as a bartender and/or server: friends/social interaction, convenience, and last, but definitely not least, money.

While serving, especially at a bar, chances are you won’t completely miss out on the fun because your friends will socialize where you work. Restaurants and bars, depending on the type, are typically generous to second hand priorities.

Most people who work in the food industry have other obligations—so the schedule is pretty relaxed. If you work at a bar your shifts will typically be at night—so you’ll never have to miss a class! People are usually pretty generous when it comes to switching shifts as well; everyone is just trying to make some money!

Lastly, servers and bartenders might not make the best hourly wages—but what they lack in salary they make up for in tips. A server/bartender can walk away from a nights work from anywhere in between $80-500 depending on how sophisticated their place of work is. If you work three times a week that’s at least $240 in extra spending money!

One thing Infobarrel didn’t mention was the experience required to serve or bartend. Any profession one goes into afterwards can be benefitted from a solid training in people skills, patience, multi-tasking and hard work–all of the things tested as a server.

  1. Residence advisor (RA)

Free room and board? Having your own room? And living in the perfect location? What’s better than that? Nothing! That’s why being a resident advisor (RA) is so great while in college. You save money, and there’s nothing better than free food. The benefits are outrageous—not to mention the amazing experience and leadership skills you’ll gain. It’s a well-rounded job for any college student.

  1. Nannying/babysitting

We can’t condone any illegal action—you should always consult with your employers—but most of the time nannying or babysitting, especially if done sparingly, can slide by tax-free. Don’t know anyone with kids? With plenty of websites to help the nanny/babysitter find work, finding a position is never hard. Companies like nannies4hire, sitter city, care4hire, also give background checks so you know that you are being put in good hands! While the good money is probably the biggest perk, some would say getting the chance to be a kid again is up there too!

  1. Internship

For those overachievers who already know what they want to do, (just kidding!) an internship is the perfect opportunity. It not only gives you the experience you need for your professional life, but it’s a great resume builder. If it’s not paid, or giving you a stipend, then it’s accepted as college credit. Either way you are killing two birds with one stone. It’s a great way to interact with people in your field of interest, and gain the knowledge you need to be successful once you reach your big graduation day!

The Move to Digital: Why Publishers Want It to Succeed (and what we’ve learned)

Move to Digital

As we study the move to digital reading, we are introduced to new players such as the Worldwide Center of Mathematics, Flat World Knowledge, and others such as Inkling, Kno, and increasingly more. But the more-traditional players, the established textbook publishers, are not far behind and they have their hands in the game as well. Remember, they own the content and while new players like FWK will get some adoptions, the publishers will not give up market share without a fight.

Own the Platform

Kind of like a hedge bet in Vegas when you place your bet to cover your other bets, the publishers are spreading their risk by taking ownership of the industry via  different platforms. McGraw-Hill and Pearson own stakes in Inkling while all six major publishers have stakes in CourseSmart. I think we would be naïve not to believe that if one platform were to really take off (this has yet to happen where there is a de facto standard), the publishers would be wise to invest in or own it. In addition, a successful platform is only as good as the content it delivers.

Own the Content

Academic publishers are working with different platforms to control the price, market share, and content. It will be hard for start-ups to take away significant adoptions from traditional print publishers unless they can prove to faculty and administrations that the books desired by the educational community are available on the platforms or learning systems that educators desire.

Kill the Used Book

Why do publishers really love the eBook/eTextbook? Because it is the first real used-book killer they have found. The publishers have tried for years to shrink the used-book market as it drastically diminishes their sales. They started off by marking teachers’ editions and desk copies, even drilling holes and other tactics to make these books unsellable. Then they began frequently changing the editions, adding components to create packages and bundles, and updating the book (however slightly) to make last year’s copy seem obsolete. With changes requiring publishers to unbundle books and to make ISBNs and prices more upfront, publishers now need to find a new way to keep the used-book business from hurting their overall profit. Enter the digital platform.