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I hope this post opens a discussion from multiple perspectives regarding the concept of an "eText rental."

 

Many years ago we had new textbooks, then used textbooks, then in more recent years textbook rentals.  As a physical book, a student had the book in her possession or not, but it she couldn't own it in the fall, sell it to another student, and both of them still own it in the spring.  

 

As eTexts began to take shape in recent years, there was a price for an eText and it had certain terms and restrictions.  I may very well be wrong, but I don't recall much use of the term "eText Rental" a year ago, and now we are starting to see it marketed more frequently as part of the journey from print to digital…but I'm not really sure why we want digital rentals?

 

When a student acquires rights to an eText, the cost of producing that work (writing, editing, layout, royalties, profits, etc.) and digitally delivering it are built into the price.  If a student reads it once on the first day only or reads it one year later, there are no new costs incurred.  If she keeps it for one semester or one year, no other student is deprived of that physical book as digital is different.

 

Thus, what are the merits of the concept for renting digital products?  I get that it is the current marketing label applied to digital items that perish after some defined time.  I don't rent songs on iTunes.  I do watch some movies streamed via subscription models that give me broad access to whole catalogs for a modest monthly price.  Arguably that might be a rental as I don't own further access rights when done, but I also don't need to study many of the movies I watch for months on end.

 

So to argue the other view…

 

Longevity of access could create some costs if the eText and student annotations are hosted in a cloud environment or if very specific rights to authors may limit access duration.  Thus, there are small, but non-zero costs to providing college seniors access to all their licensed eTexts since their freshman year.  

 

I suspect that all of us are still understanding the real costs and real value of ongoing access, and there are ways to cover that specific cost apart from varied pricing for an eText itself.  As professor, I don't know that my senior class students would look back very often at their sophomore books, but if the real cost is negligible, it seems wise to make that an option — especially since their digital books will have a far better search functions than the paper versions.

 

Likewise, segmenting a market via price discrimination could also be a reasonable motivation if optional buying at varied retail price levels is the model.  If the real costs of digital don't vary much after first delivery, then marketing a lower price "rental" and a higher priced, longer access or download could be attractive on the revenue side IF the lower rental price is truly a great price that incents more buyers.  

 

I'm sure there are many angles to  the merits of renting digital, and hopefully this post will spur some of that dialogue.

 

--Brad

----------------------------------------------------------------------

IU Vice President for IT & CIO, Dean, and Professor

Indiana University, http://ovpit.iu.edu 

 

********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

Comments

Message from plebar@allegheny.edu

Brad, I'm a little confused with this terminology from my perspective (college bookstore) as well - so far as I know all eTexts from the major publishers (e.g. those available through CourseSmart) are rentals already. You choose how long you want the text, and pricing is tiered accordingly, but I don't think there's an option to actually own a digital book. And frankly, I don't see the big publishers changing that model any time soon.

Pete LeBar
Allegheny College Bookstore

Brad/Pete/List

>So far as I know all eTexts from the major publishers 

There are publishers that do offer ownership ...

Please see 

A Textbook Case of Digital Disruption [Chart] at 


Also of possible interest > 

A Textbook Case of Digital Disruption


Also 

In the 'Resources' section of my PPT "Digital Textbooks: A Perfect Storm for Higher Learning"


Copy and Paste the URL for the Higher Ed Tech panel > Ownership options are (briefly) discussed.

Regards,

/Gerry 

Gerry McKiernan
Associate Professor
and 
Science and Technology Librarian
Iowa State University
152 Parks Library 
Ames IA 50011



From: The EDUCAUSE eTexts Constituent Group Listserv [ETEXTS@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU] on behalf of Peter LeBar [plebar@ALLEGHENY.EDU]
Sent: Friday, April 06, 2012 10:00 AM
To: ETEXTS@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU
Subject: Re: [ETEXTS] eText Rentals?

Brad, I'm a little confused with this terminology from my perspective (college bookstore) as well - so far as I know all eTexts from the major publishers (e.g. those available through CourseSmart) are rentals already. You choose how long you want the text, and pricing is tiered accordingly, but I don't think there's an option to actually own a digital book. And frankly, I don't see the big publishers changing that model any time soon.

Pete LeBar
Allegheny College Bookstore

I smiled when I saw Brad's message because my wife was just asking why I still have all my college textbooks! When I was in grad school I went back and referred to things in my undergrad texts frequently. Will eText take that away from students in the future? I will say upfront I love Brad's message and the point he is making -- our institutions must have a say in how eTEXT evolves and as a community we ought to agree on some high level principles that best serve the students and our community. I think one principle is to always be against limiting access to information. The one issue I have heard for rentals that Brad didn't mention is that rentals, by providing a very time limited lifetime of use, are thought by the publishers as providing a check on digital piracy. I'm highly suspect of that claim but I have heard that. Certainly, expiration date can hacked. That said, I understand that publishers are scared after watching the music industry deal with issues. Clearly, the program that brad is doing at Indiana that has all students in course get the eText as part of the course cost is a way to lessen that threat. In thinking about our community principles we should understand the lessons from music and make sure that our programs and efforts we deploy help lessen the issues publishers have around piracy but also support the principles we think are important. Brad, thanks again for such a thoughtful note. jack
Message from jdominick@uncc.edu

All,

 

This is a very interesting discussion and a great new list.  I’ve really enjoyed watching it.  I will stop lurking and start to add some content.

 

As it so happens, I did my PhD dissertation on an e-text pilot in 2005.  We used the VitalSource software on laptop computers for several hundred students over the course of two years.  Here is a high level summary.    

 

Observations

1.    Textbooks are almost universally disliked. 

·         Students purchase textbooks because they are forced to.  This makes them extremely price conscious consumers.  Except for Freshmen, students are very value conscious in their purchasing decisions for textbooks.  Most students take a “net” price approach to purchasing a textbook that includes a perceived buy-back value.   They act more like renters than owners.

·         While e-textbooks can offer innovative new features that might seem to add value (searching, multiple titles, annotation, cut and paste) students do not generally value these features and will rarely use them.   Most students would not pay more for an electronic textbook than a clean used copy. 

2.    The textbook is not really a consumer good.  All E-readers have been produced as general purpose reading devices focused on the consumer entertainment market.  Textbook reading is fundamentally different from pleasure reading.  Textbook reading is cognitively challenging and more likely to be tiring to the reader. 

·         Fidelity to the actual paper document is valued by students and by faculty.  Students disliked not having a sense of progress through the book.  Students in our study commented that they disliked not having a sense of ‘place’ within the book.  As they are trudging through an assignment an often heard comment was “how many pages do I have left to read?”  In some cases, faculty want exact fidelity to an existing paper text to conform to their prepared course design. 

·         A reading device designed for e-text use might have different features than an e-book used for pleasure reading.  While not frequent, students did use multiple tools along with the e-text.  They often had a web browser running, communications tools and a word processor available for taking notes.

3.    Learning Related Issues.

·         There is no evidence that e-books are an improvement over physical textbooks in supporting student learning outcomes.  The data I collected indicates that students perceive reading from an electronic resource to be more tiresome than reading from a paper document. 

·         Textbooks are generally designed to be read linearly.  Adding hypertext type features (linking, searching, etc) to a textbook introduces non-linearity which may reduce learning outcomes (more study needed). 

·         Some students reported being able to find information in paper texts more easily than in electronic texts because their memories were visuo-spatial rather than text based.  For instance, students would report being able to remember that a particular image or figure was at a specific physical location in the text -  “top right corner, about half way through…”  That retrieval method was harder to accomplish with electronic texts.

·         Unlike most pleasure reading, Textbook reading is often accompanied by writing.  This can either be ad hoc writing (annotation) or structured writing (research).   A distinct e-reader device may not be as effective as would other forms of text presentation (such as online). Utility would likely vary by reader goals.  Thus, it is unlikely that there is a single “best” electronic textbook device that is suitable for every occasion.

·         The use of a highly interactive device may be more distracting for readers.  The data in my study did not show this clearly, but it was a complaint voiced by students during interviews. 

Conclusion

Actual textbook use fits a “fee for use” model better than a purchase model.  Students don’t use the textbooks much.   Their use of the text depends almost entirely on whether the faculty emphasizes the importance of the text – particularly as it relates to assessment.  If they aren’t tested on it, they won’t use it.  The study found that student reading activity clusters around assignment dates and almost always decreases over time.  Average reading events per course in the study varied between 7 and 22, resulting in an average cost per reading session between $2.67 and $22.96.  Because students generally only read textbooks when a faculty member is emphasizing it through some sort of assessment, their purchase decisions are situational.   The on-demand nature of electronic textbooks is much better suited to actual student consumption patterns than is the purchase of a physical text.  A model where a student can make a last minute decision to acquire a text (or preferably a component of the text) and pay for it at that time more accurately represents student reading behavior.

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jay Dominick, PhD | Vice Chancellor, Information Technology

UNC Charlotte | 320C Kennedy Bldg

9201 University City Blvd | Charlotte, NC 28223

Phone: 704-687-8483 | Twitter: UNCC_CIO

jdominick@uncc.edu | http://www.uncc.edu

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you are not the intended recipient of this transmission or a person responsible for delivering it to the intended recipient, any disclosure, copying, distribution, or other use of any of the information in this transmission is strictly prohibited.  If you have received this transmission in error, please notify me immediately by reply email or by telephone at 704-687-8483.  Thank you.

 

On Apr 6, 2012, at 3:06 PM, Jack Suess wrote: > I smiled when I saw Brad's message because my wife was just asking why > I still have all my college textbooks! When I was in grad school I > went back and referred to things in my undergrad texts frequently. > Will eText take that away from students in the future? > Jack, We've tried a pilot of one etextbook provider here, and one concern voiced was that students want their books long-term, especially if they're planning on attending graduate school. I still have most of my college books and have referred to them many times--even those that weren't for my majors. That's easy to do when you have a hard copies. Donnie > I will say upfront I love Brad's message and the point he is making -- > our institutions must have a say in how eTEXT evolves and as a > community we ought to agree on some high level principles that best > serve the students and our community. I think one principle is to > always be against limiting access to information. > > The one issue I have heard for rentals that Brad didn't mention is > that rentals, by providing a very time limited lifetime of use, are > thought by the publishers as providing a check on digital piracy. > > I'm highly suspect of that claim but I have heard that. Certainly, > expiration date can hacked. That said, I understand that publishers > are scared after watching the music industry deal with issues. > Clearly, the program that brad is doing at Indiana that has all > students in course get the eText as part of the course cost is a way > to lessen that threat. > > In thinking about our community principles we should understand the > lessons from music and make sure that our programs and efforts we > deploy help lessen the issues publishers have around piracy but also > support the principles we think are important. > > Brad, thanks again for such a thoughtful note. > > jack > > > > > > > >

I appreciate the good dialogue this thread has started.  While there are newer posts, I’ll respond to Pete’s since he raised a question.  I also like Jack’s advocacy for some principles that might inform the path to digital. 

 

I’m not a legal scholar, but a license to use is generally what we get for about everything digital (experts may improve that general statement).  I don’t own Microsoft Excel, but I bought a right to use it under certain terms.  It does not go poof after a few months even if slicker versions come along.  Amazon Kindle offers “book lending” with some rights restrictions to its Prime customers for some books.  Lots of new models as we all think about the path to digital.

 

The IU approach for eTexts has several principles that address some of the topics/questions raised thus far.  We wanted to enable students to have access to all of their licensed eTexts during their time as a student at IU (all campuses).  They access them on about any HTML5 device via our LMS (Sakai) and a lightweight IMS LTI connection to Courseload (our reader/annotation provider).  Just as students can look back to prior years’ courses in Sakai, they can also still read prior year eTexts and their annotations.  That was a principle that we pursued in working out the model. 

 

Another principle is that students would also have the right to personal printing as they need.  For those who want long-term access for what may be a professional book for grad school or just prefer to have hardcopy, they can also buy a nice print-on-demand version for the shelf at a modest cost.  All of this is in the FAQ at http://etexts.iu.edu, and we’ve always asserted that it is digital + print (as desired).  Early behavioral data shows that our students are not printing that much in any of the pilot or current full production semester, though in perceptual discussions they say it is very important to have that option.

 

As most on this list know, the IU pricing approach with content providers is premised on another principle that moves from a probabilistic sales model for required, digital course materials to a required course fee model – similar to the Lab Fee that many institutions have long used for courses with consumables.  The principle is that if creators can get paid for each use of their content (or open access materials) then they can substantially drop the cost to each user and be less restrictive in terms for longevity, printing, # of devices, etc.  We’ve had strong student and faculty support for this aggregated buying approach, but we also recognize that it may not suit all institutions.  The model remains an option to our faculty on a section-by-section basis.

 

As we think about eText rentals and some principles, I’m also reminded of the three, interdependent curves of Technology Evolution (devices/software), Economics (prices/business models), and Social Adoption/Expectations.   These mature at differing paces, but they are all interdependent in their effects on the path to digital.  We know that jumps in these curves are non-linear, and any behavioral or perceptual measure is just a snapshot at a moment in time.  For example, if we asked folks a couple of years ago if they needed a tablet computer, they may have said they strongly preferred their NY Times spread out on the breakfast table.  Their behavior today may show they LOVE their iPad and have cancelled print delivery though some still enjoy those ink smudges.  For students, faculty, and the industry, the dance of these evolving curves for eTexts marches onward.

 

We don’t yet know much regarding students’ actual use of eTexts from a few semesters back, but for us, it seems wise to enable that possibility and see what we learn. 

 

--Brad

 

From: The EDUCAUSE eTexts Constituent Group Listserv [mailto:ETEXTS@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU] On Behalf Of Peter LeBar
Sent: Friday, April 06, 2012 11:00 AM
To: ETEXTS@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU
Subject: Re: [ETEXTS] eText Rentals?

 

Brad, I'm a little confused with this terminology from my perspective (college bookstore) as well - so far as I know all eTexts from the major publishers (e.g. those available through CourseSmart) are rentals already. You choose how long you want the text, and pricing is tiered accordingly, but I don't think there's an option to actually own a digital book. And frankly, I don't see the big publishers changing that model any time soon.

 

Pete LeBar

Allegheny College Bookstore

Hi Brad,

By "personal printing", does that include "printing to a PDF file to be kept locally" or only "send to my printer to get a paper copy"?

Mathieu
==================================
Mathieu Plourde, MBA
Project Leader, LMS/Educational Technologist
IT Client Support & Services
mathieu@udel.edu
Office: 302-831-4060
==================================
IT Support Center: http://www.udel.edu/help
Sakai@UD Support and Training: http://www.udel.edu/sakai/training
Open Education at UD Blog: http://sites.udel.edu/open/



In IU’s approach, the Courseload software enables students to have online and offline cached access on their devices, so that mostly negates interest in other local formats.  All printing is watermarked with the student’s name, year, section, etc. if sent to any printing device.  --Brad

 

From: The EDUCAUSE eTexts Constituent Group Listserv [mailto:ETEXTS@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU] On Behalf Of Mathieu Plourde
Sent: Monday, April 09, 2012 3:30 PM
To: ETEXTS@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU
Subject: Re: [ETEXTS] eText Rentals?

 

Hi Brad,

By "personal printing", does that include "printing to a PDF file to be kept locally" or only "send to my printer to get a paper copy"?

Mathieu
==================================
Mathieu Plourde, MBA
Project Leader, LMS/Educational Technologist
IT Client Support & Services
mathieu@udel.edu
Office: 302-831-4060
==================================
IT Support Center: http://www.udel.edu/help
Sakai@UD Support and Training: http://www.udel.edu/sakai/training
Open Education at UD Blog: http://sites.udel.edu/open/


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