Digital Textbooks via Blackboard

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July 15, 2010: "In a series of moves that could give a boost to an e-textbook industry that has been treading water for years, Blackboard announced Wednesday that it is partnering with a major publisher and two major e-textbook vendors to make it easy for professors and students to assign and access e-textbooks and other digital materials directly through its popular learning-management system."

"The company, which controlled about 60 percent of the learning-management market as of last year, said it is partnering with McGraw-Hill, a top academic publisher, as well as Follett Higher Education Group and Barnes & Noble, two major distributors that operate a combined 1,500 college bookstores in the United States and Canada."

"But can Blackboard, through these arrangements -- and other learning-management providers such as Desire2Learn, Moodle, and Sakai, through CourseSmart's Faculty Instant Access program -- help publishers move more e-textbooks? Despite substantial buzz, e-textbooks have so far failed to catch on in academe, capturing 3.5 percent of the total textbook market, according to last year's Campus Computing Survey. Recent polling by the Student Monitor reveals that student awareness of e-textbooks this spring was down from the previous spring, to 50 percent from 59."

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"...e-textbooks have so far failed to catch on in academe..."

Every here and there I hear about e-textbooks for courses, but the DRM protection policy, pricing and limitations make it really hard for students to get behind. Many of these e-books require a special e-reader (based on the publisher) that comes with a slew of DRM mechanisms so the students can't do things like:
- print pages of the ebook
- take screen shots of images in the ebook
- copy and paste text to create notes

On top of this, the ebooks are priced in such a way that they are only a bit cheaper than the paper version (with amazon, often the paper version is still cheaper). Many publishers only provide ebooks on a semester-based timeline; when the semester (or allocated time duration) is over, the student can no longer access the ebook.

The icing on the cake? No buyback at the end of the semester! I see ebooks slowly picking up steam for leisure/entertainment with the Kindle, iPad and other devices. Academia? We still have a lot to sort out.

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