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About Brian

Brian Howard is Editor-In-Chief of Book Business magazine and Group Digital Editor for the Publishing Business Group, where he covers with great interest the evolution of the book publishing industry, paying special attention to the intersection of publishing and consumer technology. An award-winning journalist, he’s a former Editor in Chief of the Philadelphia City Paper and Grid and Cowbell magazines.

His writing has appeared in consumer outlets such as the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine’s The Philly Post, Flying Kite, The Courier-Post, Magnet, and Orlando Weekly, and business publications including Target Marketing, Inside Direct Mail and Teleread.

After heading off to Penn State to pursue a chemical engineering degree, Brian transferred into the English department at La Salle University. Some 20 years ago he stumbled into the offices of the student newspaper, The Collegian. He has been on deadline ever since.


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Show Notes: BISG's Making Information Pay for Higher Ed Publishing, Feb. 7, 2013

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Over the last two weeks, Book Business has run the proverbial gauntlet of publishing industry trade shows, starting with the Book Industry Study Group's Making Information Pay For Higher Ed on Thu., Feb. 7, at the Yale Club, then hitting the Book^2 Camp "unconference" on Sun., Feb. 10, at Workman Publishing, and, on Wed., Feb. 13, catching a day of O'Reilly's Tools of Change at the Marriott Marquis.

We’ll be running through them one by one this week. First up: BISG: Making Information Pay for Higher Ed Publishing

The Book Industry Study Group’s annual Making Information Pay for Higher Ed Publishing was a morning jam-packed with great information and expansive ideas on the state of higher ed publishing and what it might look like in the near to distant future.

The four terms of the day:
Shadow Library
Roll Your Own

Bowker’s Carl Kulo kicked things off with his presentation, “The State of Higher Ed Publishing: By The Numbers.” Among the nuggets in his information-rich presentation, culled from the results of Bowker’s PubTrack Higher Ed, were:
• After growing steadily from 2006 through 2012, the college textbook market has leveled off a bit in recent years, hovering around $7.4 billion in total sales
• The price of new textbooks is rising ($82.17 in 2012) while the price of used textbooks is holding steady at around $60
• Around 2/3 of units sold are new, a figure that’s remained fairly constant, as has the fact that that figure accounts for approximately ¾ of textbook dollars sold
• Print textbooks still account for the majority of units and sales, with pure digital sales (i.e. not bundled with print) barely registering, despite the average price of a digital textbook being $4 lower than print ($65 vs. $61)

Len Vlahos, Executive Director of BISG, followed with “Why Students ‘Go Digital’: Aspirations & Barriers to Success” on students’ migration from print to digital forms of learning. Based on BISG’s new Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education ( ) study, Vlahos explained that integrated learning systems (ILS) and not digital textbooks are gaining on print textbooks as a source of student learning. He also noted that while tablet ownership is growing among students, usage for learning is not.

Joe Karaganis, Vice President of the American Assembly at Columbia University, discussed media piracy and copy culture in emerging economies in a session called “The International Playing Field: Exploring Opportunities Overseas (and up North).” He referring to large shadow libraries of pirated material and “rolling your own” as a euphemism for building a library of digital material, often one acquired through a wide range of access practices. He noted that the vast majority of ebook sales are legal, noting that ebook piracy is a marginal phenomenon at this point, but that as people gain more control over their devices, we’ll see a more “mixed mode of acquisition.” Most enlightening was that the large shadow libraries were “fueling transfer of scientific knowledge in developing countries.”  The American Assembly’s “Copy Culture” and “Media Piracy in Emerging Economies” reports are available for free at

The late morning sessions were devoted to interactive learning and MOOCs: Massive Open Online Courses.

Rebecca Griffiths, Program Director for Online Learning at Ithaka S+R discussed The Promise of Highly Interactive Online Learning,” reporting the results of a study at Carnegie Mellon University comparing traditional (teacher and text) and hybrid (teacher and integrated online system) courses. She revealed that although students reported less satisfaction with hybrid courses, they learned approximately as well, suggesting that with some tinkering they could be as good or better than traditional courses. An Ithaka study of MOOCs with the University System of Maryland is forthcoming.

And finally, Dave Cormier, President, Edactive Technologies and Web Projects Lead, University of Prince Edward Island spoke on “Education on the Open Web: The MOOC Experience,” laying out just what a MOOC is, how it works and how companies and universities can use these free options to show off their brands and, essentially, get customers and potential students in the door. (More about Cormier and MOOCs at

Of course, inherent in the adoption of ILS, hybrid courses and MOOCs is the tendency of the student toward autodidacticism, or the ability to be self-taught, a term that was bandied about liberally in the post-panel Q&A between Griffiths and Cormier.


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