by Stephen Downes
Mar 01, 2016
"The market for textbooks is distorted," argues Phil Hill. "There is absolutely no reason that a digital textbook rental should cost five times what a physical textbook rental costs." I would pause to observe that the use of the word 'distorted' implies there is some 'natural' state of the market, from which I guess we could infer what prices 'should' be, but of course there is no such thing. But I digress. Why do we think textbooks should be cheaper when they're digital. Davide Wiley argues, "When concrete expressions of ideas, knowledge, skills, and attitudes are converted from a physical into a digital format, this changes them from private goods back to being public goods, once again making them easier to share (ie., they are nonrivalrous and nonexcludable). But copyright law "changes these public goods into club goods, once again making them difficult to share." With club goods, you cannot even resell what you have purchased. "Publishers have worked hard to establish a licensing norm and copyright regime that insures that you never own any digital products – you simply license access to them." This prevents any secondary market of used digital texts from emerging, and keeps prices high. So used print texts end up costing less than digital texts.
The context of this article is mostly to serve as a platform to introduce Duke's own lecture capture product, but it's still a useful view of a dozen or so competing products - you can see them all listed in the 'Categories' list to the right. Click on them to find overviews of such products as Cattura, Echo 360, and Opencast. Interestingly, according to the author, "many vendors are working hard to replace the term 'lecture capture' with terms like 'academic video' that call to mind flipped classes, supplementary teaching modules created outside class, and recordings that are more highly produced and edited rather than automated recordings of a lecturer standing at the front of a room."
It's always appropriate to restate these points: "In the realm of political persuasion, sophisticated language use can be very effective in swaying an audience. We are encouraged to 'choose' out of a limited set of choices, to fill in obvious information, to resolve the cliffhanger in an already fully-framed narrative—all without necessarily being aware of it. As we engage with politics, it’s important to remember how powerful words can ultimately be, and how easily we can be persuaded by them." What's important is that it's not only in politics where word selection is used to sway or limit choices. Advertisers work with this all the time, and so do educators.
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