Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Penguin pulls e-books from Overdrive - from libraries

Barbara Galletly writes Publishers grapple with change as e-lending rises over at Digital Book World. Some publishers including Penguin seem to be obsessed with trying to thwart Amazon and will no longer allow their books to be part of Overdrive. Their excuse for pulling out of Overdrive is that as their files are transferred wirelessly to a user's Kindle, it's on the Amazon servers. Apparently I am out of luck when it comes to borrowing their books electronically via the public library. They will (also apparently) be ok with my going TO the library to check out their books in there print manifestation. They just want to make sure that I cannot download a book of theirs onto my Kindle without going through some twists and turns - or perhaps not reading on my Kindle at all. Dan Messer points out that the entire exercise to cut out libraries is probably futile anyway. If users can't get a book one way, they will probably figure out another way. See his post from February 10 at http://qcfriends.org/notallbits/penguin-pilfers-public-prefers-pointless-practices/. He's got a point! Even I personally am adept enough to find plenty of that software that strips out DRM and allows users to change file formats. Jared Newman at PC World has much the same take http://www.pcworld.com/article/249862/ebook_publishers_want_library_borrowing_to_be_difficult.html Is the move to skirt libraries going to drive me to purchasing their books through other avenues? Not likely. Yes, I'll go to a library to pick up a book in print if that's necessary. Otherwise I'm watching my budget carefully and just don't have a lot of spare change. I'm relying on the affiliations I have with our county public libraries and two academic institutions to do most of my reading. Some authors have probably lost me as a reader. It'll be just a lot of trouble to track down their work.

MITx - MIT provides open courses with certificates

MITx - MIT's OCW program which will grant certificates (for a fee) for open course work - has captured people's attention. Audrey Watters notes the importance of a leader in open courses getting into provide credentials for self-selected learners. See http://hackeducation.com/2012/02/13/mitx-opens-enrollment/ Sean Andrews points out that there is a textbook for this course which is not OER, but rather a textbook by the course instructor published by Elsevier. The course description notes that relevant sections of the textbook will be made available to registered participants, but this does point to an issue with MIT's open courses. Readings have always been a problem with MIT OCW. The readings for the courses are not usually open access. Someone who wanted to work their way through the course material would need to buy books and journal articles or be affiliated with a library that could supply the works. One example: Black Matters: Introduction to Black Studies (http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/music-and-theater-arts/21m-630j-black-matters-introduction-to-black-studies-fall-2009/) lists materials with a "buy at Amazon" icon. There's no reason to expect that all MIT faculty would be willing and/or able replace all readings with OER at this point, but in order to be a truly open access course, the course materials will also have to be open access. See https://6002x.mitx.mit.edu/ for information about Anant Agarwal's Circuits & Electronics - the open course being offered from March - June, 2012. This statement about the textbook is included: "The course uses the textbook Foundations of Analog and Digital Electronic Circuits, by Anant Agarwal and Jeffrey H. Lang. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, Elsevier, July 2005. While recommended, the book is not required: relevant sections will be provided electronically as part of the online course for personal use in connection with this course only. The copyright for the book is owned by Elsevier. The book can be purchased on Amazon."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

When your Internet connections are not so hot

I'm working part-time at the local community college library - one of the smaller campuses - and the campus is plagued by various network issues. The library staff has signs up to turn off your wireless device if you aren't using it. It might look like you have a wireless signal on your device, but email refuses to load. Getting a file to Dropbox doesn't always happen. This campus' connectivity could use a boost! Should everyone at the community college have to pay for their own connectivity via their mobile phone providers? It's not likely that everyone who goes to school here would be able to afford a phone plan that would include plenty of data usage. At the big university up the road there's Internet 2 and good wireless connections most areas on campus. You don't have to think twice about logging on to the network and getting where you want to go. It's a good reminder that media-rich, interactive e-textbooks might not work well for everyone all the time.

Ask questions thru your ebook and author answers in the margins

Get Will Hermes’ book Love Goes to Buildings on Fire via Copia and ask questions and get answers in the margins of the eBook. Good for those purchasing the book by February 21, 2012. http://www.mediabistro.com/ebooknewser/will-hermes-to-answer-reader-questions-in-margins-of-copia-ebook_b20086 Copia is using this to show off the note-taking, bookmarking, and highlighting capabilities of their desktop (and Android) reader. Readers can sync everything to their online account and share with friends. Doesn't that make great sense for a textbook? Students could ask context-sensitive questions and get answers related to the text and Other students could see the answers? Can your friends be your classmates and no one else? I'm going to have to give this a look.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sebastian Thrun

Sebastian Thrun is excited about online teaching and learning. He's a convert! This is one of the best advertisements for for online teaching I've heard. The fact that it's a massive course is less interesting than his realization that he can reach students who would not otherwise have this kind of opportunity. We've got the same kinds of students at UMUC - military stationed abroad, moms who are managing to fit in online courses, people holding down jobs and raising families who go above and beyond to learn. At University of the People, we have students developing countries who'd never be able to get to a bricks and mortar school and/or never be able to afford tuition. I also love what Thurn had to say about grades. Can we get rid of them? Watch http://new.livestream.com/channels/556/videos/112950