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August 23, 2001

The eBook Campaign
A Special Report

Today marks the first outward appearance of a campaign launched by the University of Phoenix (probably in collaboration with Adobe, which has been campaigning hard itself recently) to publicize its new eBook program.

Publishers are desperate to avoid the 'Napstering' of college textbooks - they are desperate to avoid the free circulation of academic materials around the internet. Today's developments are the latest in a lengthy - and clever - campaign to prevent that.

What we have seen over the last year or so is a consolidation in the academic publishing industry as companies such as Thomson, Pearson and Wiley invested in online learning technology. Then, in partnership with Adobe and Microsoft, they launched a campaign to popularize proprietary eBooks.

The University of Phoenix initiative will serve as an important test case. If eBooks are adopted (as they certainly will be, since students will have no choice) and accepted, the publishers will have a convincing case to persuade all colleges and universities to comply.

Teachers at all levels should think carefully before signing onto the eBook campaign:

  • eBooks are offering students only marginal savings, if any, while substantially reducing publisher costs
  • eBooks cannot be purchased, only licensed, which means they cannot be shared, traded, or sold used
  • eBooks require special readers, which means reader must accept the terms of publication (up to and including prohibitions against 'reading aloud')
  • eBooks pose serious competition for colleges and universities developing online courses, as they can simply replace an online course
Today's links mark the start of the eBook campaign (and a little extra from Wired News (I get carried away sometimes)). For full OLDaily coverage of the eBook campaign as it has unfolded over the last year, click here (the links are organized oldest to newest - the story develops slowly so be sure to look at all of the links).

And now for today's links:

Online Resource Page: Using Technology to Enhance the Teaching and Learning Process This item leaves me with more questions than answers. At first glance, it's a straightforward description of the University of Pheonix's online course design. But then notice the tight partnerships with publishers and eBook readers. And then notice the references to Csource, via the use of little logos, as "an exciting new product and the new standard for delivery of student and faculty materials." The logo is almost impossible to read, there are no links, and an exhaustive web search turned up nothing. So... what gives? By Jane McAuliffe and Education Marla La Rue, International Forum of Educational Technology & Society, 23 August, 2001. [Refer]

E-Textbooks Offer Light Reading The University of Phoenix is hitting the public relations circuit with announcements that it will use eBooks in classes this fall. This article surveys a number of eBook providers and content providers and offers some support for their effectiveness (see the link below). By Kendra Mayfield, Wired news, August 23, 2001. [Refer]

A Web-Based 'Book' for Introductory Psychology Article describing the development and some uses for electronic textbooks (now often dubbed eBooks). This article is being used to provide support for the effectiveness of the University of Phoenix's new eBook program. The most interesting thing in the article is the the embedding of applications - such as study questions - in the text of the textbook. The article generally supports eBooks, but the author candidly admits to a bias, having invested much of his time and effort developing these eBooks. By Gabriel P. Frommer, Teaching and Learning with Technology, 1998. [Refer]

Pearson: Forget eNovels, Think eLearning Forrester, cited in Wired's tribute to eBooks (see below), warns that Penguin eBooks will not be the profit generators they think they will be. Penguin faces device limitations and cost issues. But there are opportunities for the company if itintegrates ePenguin with its educational division. If you want to read this item, Forrester will make you fill out a long form and then give you three paragraphs of analysis; if you want the good stuff, you have to pay for it (or read OLDaily for free). By Rebecca Ulph, Forrester, August 21, 2001. [Refer]

GoReader Handheld wireless device and proprietary user interface to offer access to documents, the web and ebooks. GoReader is marketing specifically to the educational market. [Refer]

Debating Merits of Palms in Class Wired adds to its back-to-school coverage with a study of the use of Palm Pilots in the classroom. many schools ban Palms, but this may change: Wired notes that Palms have many eductaional uses; software like dictionaries, graphing calculators, eBooks and thermometers can be downloaded onto the Palms. By Elisa Batista, Wired News, August 23, 2001. [Refer]

Software That Can Flunk You Yet more online learning news from Wired news (who must be creating a new division, hm?) This article surveys the use and (potential) abuse of essay marking software. Our first reaction is to howl with outrage, right? But what if the software is actually more accurate and fairer than human markers? By Farhad Manjoo, Wired news, August 23, 2001. [Refer]

Planet eBook Good site containing links to dozens of eBook tooks, copyright validators and eBook publishers, as well as coverage of current eBook news. [Refer]

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