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When Technology Changes the Rules December 10, 2013

Filed under: 5030 — S. Michele Holmes @ 6:02 am
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This week my classmates and I were asked to take a stance on the HarperCollin’s eBook policy and all the controversy it created, write a short essay with three arguments, read our classmates’ responses, then post our final thoughts to our blogs.  I had not heard about the change in eBook policy or the subsequent outrage of librarians across the country prior to taking this course, but I completely understand why HarperCollins updated the policy as well as why librarians were upset about the limitations it created.  Basically, for approximately ten years HarperCollins had been providing eBooks to libraries with no limitations on how many times patrons could check them out.  Few titles were available and sales were an insignificant percentage of overall book sales.  After watching eBook sales increase and the technology and availability of titles improve, HarperCollins revised their policy to limiting each book purchase by libraries to 26 circulations, so a library with a two-week check-out period could see books “expire” after a year assuming they are perpetually checked out.  I felt as though many of my classmates would choose to side against HarperCollins considering we are all students, many are educators, and a few are librarians, so I chose to take what I believed to be the less popular stance.

In my opinion, it seems as though HarperCollins had sufficient reason to change their policy.  Businesses are in existence to make money, yet they must also continue to “do good business” to be able to continue doing business, otherwise customers will not return and the company will eventually go bankrupt.  HarperCollins was in the right about updating its policies because it was doing so in everybody’s best interest.  The company attempted to be proactive with actually providing eBooks to libraries ahead of other companies at the time, explored and developed a profitable business plan in what was and continues to be a paradigm-shifting market, as well as committed themselves to protecting all vested parties including the author and the publisher as well as librarian and patron when they revised and limited their library eBook policy to 26 circulations.

Ahead of the Game

Soon after the policy changes and subsequent uproar from librarians across the country commenced, Josh Hadro (2011) pointed out that HarperCollins was the first major publishing company to revise its e-book to libraries policy at a time when some publishing companies such as Macmillan and Simon & Schuster were not offering eBooks to libraries at all.  How forward-thinking of HarperCollins for understanding that eBooks would become more popular as the technology became more affordable and the availability of titles increased.  By even having the technology and business market already established with libraries, they were actually at the forefront of exploring the possibilities of digital libraries; it only made sense they would need to break e-business ground and be the first to revamp their eBook business model.

The Rules Change

One of HarperCollins’ major justifications involves both the cost to produce and the cost to replace, or rather what happens when an original work never needs replacing.  Creating a digital version of a printed work essentially makes it more permanent as well as easily duplicated leading to a variety of problems including copyright violations, decreased sales, and loss of income for authors.  In essence, because the technology changed, the rules needed to change.  In his letter to OverDrive Library Partners, CEO Steve Potash indicated publishers were already “expressing concern and debating their digital future where a single eBook license to a library may never expire, never wear out and never need replacement” (para. 9).  Consider the difference in cost and labor between creating a physical book and a digital book, plus physical books must be packaged and shipped increasing the overall cost to librarians.  Then books are handled and experience normal “wear and tear” or perhaps are damaged or lost.  The original price drops as the book decreases in popularity and is released in paperback, so repurchasing a physical book becomes less expensive over time.  However, the original cost of the book assures authors and publishers receive their cut while the library receives an item it can reuse for years.  Obviously the cost to produce a digital version is considerably less, but the publisher and author must receive their due share.  Publishers can then offer titles for considerably less than a traditional print book which reduces their immediate profit but understanding they can then offer the book at lower and lower prices each time the circulation license expires ensuring the book is proportionately just as affordable as well as profitable over the same period of time.  Brilliant of HarperCollins to come up with a ground-breaking yet controversial plan while considering and attempting to balance the needs and missions of all those involved!

It’s Your Move

But the bigger picture becomes clearer when we step back from the frontline and find out the game is not over.  Can and will HarperCollins revise their policy again?  Yes!  Businesses cannot remain stagnant in their plans and models.  They must study their business, trends, markets, technologies, etc. and modify themselves to continue to earn the profits which allow them to continue what they do.  HarperCollins watched the eBook market expand and technologies change and respond to this accordingly rather than watching margins dwindle.  In the letter from HarperCollins’ President of Sales Josh Marwell (2011), when they looked to the future and saw that unlimited reuse of eBooks would eventually “undermine the emerging e-book eco-system, hurt the growing e-book channel, place additional pressure on physical bookstores, and in the end lead to a decrease in book sales and royalties paid to authors” (para. 3) they knew something must be done.  Perhaps this is just the beginning of a series of policy changes needing to be made as better technology develops.  Consider how the availability of multiple platforms will be complicating matters more as the market grows.  Or what will happen to all those digital books when the technology has evolved to something different and better . . . been to a Goodwill lately and seen all the 8 track tapes?

Hadro, J.  (2011, February 25).  HarperCollins Puts 26 Loan Cap on Ebook Circulations.  Library Journal.  Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2011/02/technology/ebooks/harpercollins-puts-26-loan-cap-on-ebook-circulations/

Marwell, J.  (2011, March 1).  Open Letter to Librarians. Retrieved from http://harperlibrary.typepad.com/my_weblog/2011/03/open-letter-to-librarians.html

Potash, S.  (2011, February 24).  Letter to OverDrive Library Partners.  Retrieved from http://librarianbyday.net/localwp-content/uploads/2011/02/OverDrive-Library-Partner-Update-from-Steve-Potash-2-24-2011.pdf

 

Initial Project Proposal: Website Concept Map September 30, 2013

Filed under: 5030 — S. Michele Holmes @ 4:44 am
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Holmes_Project_Diagram

 

What Children Would Change About the Internet

Filed under: 5030 — S. Michele Holmes @ 4:39 am
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A recent assignment for my “Foundations of Learning Technologies” course asked what five changes would we make to the Internet.  My coursemates had such great ideas about what they would change, and almost all of what I would change had already been discussed.  So I thought I would take a different approach.  I polled several of my more computer-savvy students to see what they would change, and I was completely surprised and enlightened.  So much so that I just had to share it with my readers!

1.  People need to not be so mean – cyberbullying is becoming a huge concern among educators and parents.  We now have teens committing suicide because people made rude comments on their Facebook status.  Just this past week, a coach in Utah suspended his entire football team over poor behavior and character, including cyberbullying.  On a more personal front, my son described a different kind of cyberbullying – he plays MMO-style sandbox games such as Minecraft and Roblox.  Because other people have access to your creations, they often destroy them just because they can.  Imagine spending hours creating your perfect house only to find it destroyed the next morning.  He is looking into ways to protect his creations.  The Internet has created a way to be both anonymous and unaccountable for your actions, and we must find a way to include Internet character development when raising our children.

2.  What is with all the ads when I search for something – both of my children are well-versed in searching the Internet for any question that pops into their head, but they are not so great at is sifting out what is GOOD information and looking past the BAD information.  Typically the first few results of a simple Google search are advertisements that do not answer the question but are instead a company trying to sell you something related to the search.  What’s worse, many of the search results take you to virus-ridden websites.  Not fun!  My husband and I refuse to give up cable and jump on the Internet TV bandwagon because of advertisements.  On cable, I can record the shows I want to watch and skip forward over the ads – not the case with Internet TV shows.  And inappropriate or over-target-marketing is the worst!  Just because I bought my mom flowers for Mother’s Day does not mean I want to buy them EVERY day, or even three times a day!  I spend more time deleting the daily barrage of emails from places that I only shop from once or twice a year than I actually shop.  BUT, if I ask them to stop sending the emails, then I don’t get the deals when I do need that “20% off your entire order” email.  And I seriously want to know what searches I have done on the Internet to make Facebook believe I am both single and over 50; why would I need an over 50 dating site ad?  It has become way too commercial.  I digress . . .

3.  How many logins and passwords am I expected to remember – I now have three login/password science learning websites for my students to use.  They also have at least two reading programs and two math programs.  Each of these web-based learning environments have their login and password parameters, so we cannot make them all the same, which has become quite cumbersome for the average 10-year-old.  I didn’t even know what a social security number was when I was 10 much less have it memorized, but my students are expected to have all these various logins and passwords memorized.  With as advanced as technology has become, isn’t there an easier way to streamline the process – perhaps a fingerprint recognition device in the mouse?

4.  Why can’t I get on YouTube at school – despite the advertisements and inappropriate material, YouTube has considerable educational merit, especially in the science classroom where small budgets often limit educational opportunities.  We’ve been talking about properties of matter such as density, mass, weight, and gravity these past few weeks, which can be difficult for kids to wrap their heads around, especially those with limited language abilities (I have two non-English-speaking students on my team right now).  I have quickly and easily pulled up videos of watermelons and pumpkins floating in swimming pools, lumberjack competitions portraying HUGE logs floating on water even with heavy men standing on them, and my favorite, footage of the astronauts on the moon.  I would love to have the students seek out videos on their own and present them to each other, but alas, students are blocked.  We must find a way to make websites with such educational potential safer for students.

5.  Why is the Internet so slow – last year I had my GT class do a book report on Glogster, it was a brilliant activity combining technology and research in education.  I have posted one of the examples in a previous blog.  However, it takes great patience to work with fabulous Web 2.0 programs on slow-processing computers and limited Internet access in such an old building.  Students often have better technology and Internet services at their homes, so they do not understand why it takes so long at school.  Most of my GT students just stopped working on their Glogs opting for a paper-based product because they could get it done faster.  What a terrible shame!

 

 
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