The Future of Digital Textbooks O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference

The Future of Digital
O’Reilly Tools of Change for
Publishing Conference
Marriott Marquis, New York, NY
February 23, 2010
John Warren, Marketing Director, Publications,
RAND Corporation (moderator)
Eric Frank, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer,
Flat World Knowledge
Neeru Khosla, Co-Founder and Executive Director,
CK-12 Foundation
Frank Lyman, Executive Vice President,
CourseSmart LLC
Nicholas Smith, Chief Operating Officer,
Agile Mind
 The Rise of Digital Textbooks
 Flat World Knowledge
 CK-12 Foundation
 Course Smart
 Agile Mind
 Additional Business Models to Consider
 Peering into the E-Textbook Future
Forces are Converging to Increase Use of Digital
Textbooks and Online Learning
 Growing movement by students, parents, and professors against high
price and weight of traditional textbooks
 Retirement of baby-boom teachers and full emergence of digital
natives—younger teachers who have always grown up among
computers and integrate them seamlessly into their lives—fueling use of
digital textbooks and other digital content
 “A Kindle in Every Backpack” policy paper recommends public funding
for student e-book devices
 California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger launched an initiative in
May 2009 to provide schools with free, open-source digital textbooks for
high school students
 President Obama announced an initiative to invest in creating online
community college courses for job training programs, improvements in
basic skills education, and free online education
Digital Content is Driving an Evolution in Learning
and Communication
 Lines are becoming blurred between online learning and digital
textbooks, and between producers and consumers of content
 Estimates for total digital revenue in the higher education market are
less than $100 million, with e-book sales contributing ~5 percent; digital
revenue in K–12 has been lower due to focus on core reading and
mathematics standards, standardized testing, and budget crisis
 Interactive learning on the Internet offers a mix of free and fee-based
models, for public good and private profit
 Trade-offs exist between open access and publisher controlled
 Issues of access among different socioeconomic groups for digital
textbooks—and e-book devices—may create a new digital divide
 Self-assessment is one of the key factors that can be automated in
digital texts and help students, professors, and authors
Trends Today and on the Horizon Are Driving
Technology Adoptions
 The Horizon Report 2010, published recently by the New Media
Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative, identified four
trends as key drivers of technology adoptions for 2010 through 2015:
- Abundance: Volume of resources and relationships accessible on the
Internet changes the role of educators in sense-making, coaching,
and validating the credibility of information
- Just in Time Learning: People want and expect to be able to work,
learn, and study at any time and wherever they want to do so
- In the Cloud: Technologies are increasingly cloud-based and IT
support is becoming increasing decentralized
- Collaboration: Students output is increasingly collaborative, and
there is more cross-campus collaboration between departments.
While this report focused on higher-education, these trends apply
equally to K–12 and professional learners
Horizon Report Identified Six Emerging
Technologies Impacting Teaching and Learning
 Near term horizon (within next 12 months):
- Mobile computing: An increasing number of faculty and students are
using mobile devices for collaboration and communication
- Open Content: Movement began over a decade ago reaching tipping
 Second adoption horizon (2-3 years out)
- Electronic books: Pilot programs are informing future devices
- Simple Augmented Reality: Overlays of digital information onto the
physical world as well as code-generated 3-D models
 Far Term Horizon (4-5 years out)
- Gesture-Based Computing: Devices controlled by natural movements
will go from games to teaching and learning
- Visual Data Analysis: Blending statistics, data mining, and
visualization to understand complex concepts and relationships
“It is the author’s job to try to dislocate older media into postures that
permit attention to the new. To this end, the artist must ever play and
experiment with new means of arranging experience, even though the
majority of his [sic] audience may prefer to remain fixed in their old
perceptual attitudes.”
—Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man,
Flat World Knowledge Brings Open Content to
Higher Education
Flat World Knowledge Offers an Innovative Model
to Provide Digital Textbooks
 Flat World Knowledge, a start-up company backed by over $11
million in venture capital, offers expert-authored and peer-reviewed
textbooks, openly licensed, available free online and affordably offline
 Business model is to provide content for textbook adoption that is
as good as or better than current textbook, offer content for free,
encourage purchase of add-on and convenience products
 Students can buy a PDF download of book or chapter, ~$30 black
and white printed version, ~$60 color print version
PDF download includes print-your-own capability
 Creative Commons (open source) license and tools to modify and
remix encourage new derivatives and adaptation
 Professors can create custom books, edit at sentence level, deliver
unique books and print-on-demand versions to students
Thus Far, Flat World’s Model
Seems to Be Working
 Adoption has increased from 1,000 students at ~30 schools in
Spring 2009 to 40,000 students at ~470 schools in Fall 2009
 Every chapter, every book, includes digital study guides such as
flashcards, practice quizzes, audio guides
 Approximately 65 percent of students make some kind of
purchase, most ~$30
 Incentives for authors include faster time to publication, ease of
creating and updating texts, 20 percent royalty on any sale,
royalties more consistent over time
 Going forward, Flat World Knowledge plans to integrate more
Performance data will help professors teach and aggregated,
anonymous performance data will help authors develop better
CK-12 Foundation Aims to Make Digital Textbooks
More Accessible for K–12
CK-12 Flexbooks Aim to Make Digital Textbooks
Affordable and Adaptable
 Using an open-content, web-based, collaborative model termed
the “FlexBook,” CK-12 offers tools to create, distribute, and
customize high quality educational content
 CK-12 provides access to free texts that are aligned to state
standards with developmentally correct content
 Educators can create customized digital text from existing texts,
chapters, web pages under a Creative Commons AttributionShareAlike license
 Encourages collaborative learning via a community where authors,
teachers, and students create, access, share, rate, recommend,
and publish
 Texts provided currently through a combination of author
donations, licensing partnerships, incentives for community-based
authorship, and university collaborations
CK-12 Has Been Successful in Meeting State
Adoption Standards
 Seven Flexbooks were submitted by CK-12 to the California Learning
Resource Network for state textbook adoption in math and science,
they all met the state’s academic content standards
- The seven CK-12 texts on average met 95% of the standards
- Four met 100% of the standards
- None of the CK-12 texts scored below 82%
In comparison, a textbook from another major publisher scored
below 50%, and the average by all non-CK-12 texts was only 68%
 Slow adoption cycle means most of these texts unlikely to be utilized
by schools until Fall 2010
CourseSmart Provides Digital Editions of the Most
Popular College Textbooks
CourseSmart Provides Affordable College
Textbooks in Digital Format
 CourseSmart is a for-profit electronic textbook company founded in
2007 as a joint venture by five of the largest higher-education textbook
publishers—Pearson, Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill Education, John
Wiley & Sons Inc., and Bedford Freeman Worth
- Also distributes electronic textbooks for other publishers
 Offers more than 9,200 digital titles for over 1,000 courses across most
academic disciplines
 Benefits include lower prices for students (50% less than printed
textbooks) as well as convenience for professors and students
 Students chose between an online version available on any computer,
download (partnering with VitalSource), and iPhone/iPod touch app
 Student’s access to the book ends after a set period, usually the
semester end, and students can not resell the textbook
Benefits of CourseSmart Texts Go Beyond the
Printed Textbook
 Allows instructors to review and compare textbooks as well as other
course materials faster, cheaper, and with less environmental impact
than print exam copies
 Instant delivery allows students to wait until materials are actually
needed for homework assignments and test preparation
 Features include hyperlinked table of contents; search; copy and paste;
ability for students to highlight text or add notes to texts
 Electronic pages correspond exactly to pages in the paper textbook—
allowing students and professors to stay in synch whether using print or
digital texts
 Some CourseSmart texts also include multimedia features, such as
YouTube-style videos
Agile Mind Improves Student Achievement and
Supports Exemplary Teaching Practices
Agile Mind Focuses on Excellence, Equity, and
Sustainable School Capacity
 Founded in 2001, Agile Mind uses technology to enhance equity and
high achievement for adolescents in math and science
 The Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin helps
the company develop research-based resources for a broad range of
students and teachers—particularly those in underserved schools
 Productivity tools, performance reports, and professional development
services help foster exemplary, sustainable teaching practices
 Participating students are showing large achievement gains
 Agile Mind has served 2 million students and almost 20,000 educators
in the past 5 years
High-Tech and High-Touch Tools and Strategies
Deliver on the Promise of Blended Learning
 Internet-delivered resources leverage the power of face-to-face
seminars, mentoring, and other high-quality supports for educators
 Internet-delivered services enable educators to have data they can use
at a glance in real time to assess the performance of individual students
and groups—relieving them of the burden of mechanical work
 Students receive detailed data about their work in real time to enable
them to responsibility for the success of their learning
 Low cost model enables company to support aggressive R & D agenda,
enables district and state entities to fund even in down economy
A Wide Variety of Business Models Are Emerging
“The best practices have to do with embracing innovation and being willing
to take risks, and trying things that do not seem necessarily obvious—to
break the bonds between necessary profitability and any action.”
—Michael Jon Jensen, Director of Publishing Technologies, National
Academy Press, in “Risky Business,” Book Business, April 2008
Connexions Offers a New Model for Rapidly
Publishing Scholarly Content
 Rice University’s Connexions offers free, open-licensed
educational materials in fields such as music, electrical
engineering and psychology
 Presents scholarly content in modular, non-linear format
 Encourages sharing and collaboration
 Reduces the time to publication
 Offers an alternative to expensive college textbooks
 Currently offers content in 27 different languages, including
Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai
 As of January 2010 offers 15,831 reusable modules in 977
collections (up from 6989 modules in 393 collections in October
26, 2008)
Aplia is Developing Interactive Textbook Content
with Auto-Graded Evaluation
 Aplia (see is a for-profit company which offers an
interactive learning solution to increase student effort and
 Founded in 2000 by economist and Stanford professor Paul Romer
 Products supporting college-level courses have been used by
more than 800,000 students at over 850 institutions
 Subjects include accounting, business communication,
developmental reading, economics, finance, and statistics
 Interactive textbook content (note taking, highlighting) integrated
with auto-graded questions in the same “assignment”
 Currently developing assignable text with interactive, auto-graded
questions built into the text itself
Safari Books Online is a Popular Resource for
Technical Professionals
 Safari Books Online capitalizes on the need for “just in time” learning
 Founded by O’Reilly Media, Inc. and Pearson Technology Group in July
2001 to provide online content to IT, programming, and design
 Offers depth and breadth of technical content and is an essential
resource in technical fields and among other professionals seeking to
improve technical skills
 “Rough Cuts” allows authors to publish their manuscript drafts, providing
customers with access to pre-published information; reader feedback
provides editors and authors with information to improve the manuscript
 “Short Cuts” series of concise, digital-only reports sometimes become
full-length titles when popularity and need are proven
Peering Into the E-Textbook Future
“Thinking of the problem as ‘how do we get a textbook onto an iPhone’ is
framing it wrong. The challenge is how to make the best use of a
medium that already shares three of our five senses—sight, speech, and
hearing—along with geolocation, color video, and a nearly always on
Web connection, to accomplish the ‘job’ of educating a student.”
—Andrew Savikas, Vice President, Digital Initiatives, O’Reilly Media
Shopping List for the Ultimate Digital Textbook
Nonprofit group Project Tomorrow surveyed 281,000 students from
K–12 in all 50 U.S. states; offered ideas from students in grades 6–
12 about desired features and functionality of digital textbooks:
 Ability to personalize book with highlights and notes (63%)
 Self-assessment (62%) or self-paced tutorials (46%)
 Links to real-time data like NASA and Google Earth (52%)
 Tap into an online tutor whenever necessary (53%)
 Link to PowerPoints of lectures supporting content (55%)
 Explore concepts through games (57%) or animations and
simulations (55%)
 Access videos (51%), videoconferences (30%), podcasts from
subject experts (34%)
 Create own podcasts or videos to support learning (48%)
Features of the Future Electronic Textbook
 We’ll read it on a device that combines facets of the cell phone,
iPod, Kindle, Flip camera, and laptop, with a color touch screen
and multimedia capabilities
The recently announced iPad comes fairly close
 Placing the cursor next to a term brings up its definition; clicking on
a place-name deploys Google Earth
 Maps, charts, and graphs, instead of static, depict the spread and
flow over time while providing interactivity
 Instead of a single picture for a particular item, site, or artifact, a
gallery of photos is embedded in the e-text
 Augmented reality shows models and concepts in 3-D
 Users can instantly contribute comments, photos, and videos to
the book’s gallery
The Future Electronic Textbook Facilitates
Collaboration and Continuous Learning
 Links lead to further scholarship or modules about topics of
particular interest to the reader while encouraging comments and
 Creative Commons license allows modules to be remixed and
 Open video allows easier editing and remixing of video, audio, and
 Social web features promote distributed, ongoing conversations
between authors, scholars, and readers
 Deep Web semantic search unlocks additional in-depth,
professional content, returning results customized to the reader’s
interest that are not cluttered by irrelevant content
These capabilities are possible now, in one way or another, but have
yet to be harnessed—how do we get there?
Challenges for Digital Textbooks
Remain Significant
 Open access business models are still largely unproven
“Free texts” depend on success of “bundling”, print-on-demand
print sales, enhanced products or services, and/or foundation,
grant or endowment support
 Interactive, participatory learning spaces using assessments,
gaming and simulations, online tutors, and virtual reality
environments are expensive to produce and maintain
 Difficult to change the mindsets of educators who claim not having
the time (or technical skills) to contribute
 Keeping content contextualized to local, regional requirements as
well as global curriculum standards
 Early student reviews of the Kindle DX in education setting not
very positive
“…Technology has advanced much more than our understanding of its
present and potential uses. Social research on scholarly practices is
essential to inform the design of tools, services, and platforms. Design
decisions made today will determine whether the Internet of tomorrow
enables imaginative new forms of scholarship and learning—or whether
it simply reinforces today’s tasks, practices, laws, business models, and
—Christine L. Borgman, Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information,
Infrastructure, and the Internet, 2007
Forecasting the Future of Electronic Textbooks
 Digital exam copies will become predominant, increasing speed of
access, reducing manufacturing and shipping costs, reducing sales of
exam copies to used book market, and enriching review process by
improving the linking of texts to ancillary materials
 As authors, publishers, and readers embrace new digital forms,
greater opportunities for innovation and experimentation will ensue
 Ability to repurpose digital content and spread costs over a range of
projects allows authors, publishers, and producers to create content
for niches and market segments infeasible with traditional publishing
 As more books become scanned and digitized, links between
digital documents will strengthen their usage and legitimization,
making it ever easier to follow the bread crumbs of knowledge
 Books will be cross-linked, clustered, indexed, annotated, remixed,
and “mashed-up”—combined in new combinations with video,
animations, and audio
Technical and Organizational Forces Must Be
Aligned for Successful Digital Publishing
The Gilbane Group, an analyst and consulting firm focused on
content technologies, identified key characteristics for success in
developing digital products:
 An alignment of technical efforts with business goals
 Commitment to growth in digital products
 Realistic expectations and focus on metrics
 Leadership with a vision for digital product development and
commitment to see it through
 Investment in content management technology, often including
web content management and digital asset management as a hub
for internal and external distribution
 Systemic and large-scale digitization efforts, often including
encoding content in XML
Developing a Plan for Sustainability Is Critical
Ithaka, a nonprofit group focused on the academic community,
identified similar success characteristics for sustainability of digital
 A dedicated and entrepreneurial leadership willing to test new
 Identification of a clear value proposition based on an
understanding of users’ needs
 Minimizing direct costs through outsourcing, partnerships, and
other creative means
 Development of diverse revenue sources and creative business
models, including subscriptions, licensing to publishers and users,
custom services, corporate sponsorships, author fees,
endowments, and grants
 Clear accountability and metrics for success
“The only iron law … is that digital age has so transformed the ways in
which things are made and sold that there are no iron laws.”
—Malcolm Gladwell, in “Priced to Sell,” review in the New Yorker of
Chris Anderson’s Free: The Future of a Radical Price
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