A model for ebooks

March 12, 2010 at 11:41 am | Posted in books, technology | 1 Comment
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I’ve been thinking (thanks, Virgil) about a financial model for ebooks. Maybe ebooks can be rented.

I agree that ebooks will not completely replace physical books. For me, if a book is so good, so important to me that I want to *own* it, I want a physical copy. If I just want to read a book once, I’m fine with it being an ebook.

That got me thinking. I can basically rank books into three categories. There are books I want to read to try out, but not invest much if anything to do so. There are books I know I will want to come back to, quote from, and read again. Then there are books that I love, that really speak to me, that have changed me, and that I will come back to again and again and want to share with people.

For the last kind, I want a physical copy. I want to be able to take it with me anywhere and read regardless of whether a battery is charged or whether I have internet access. The second kind would be fine as an ebook, but I’d want to have some assurance of access. I think I’d want to store it locally, not on someone else’s server in a cloud somewhere. I’d also want to be able to make annotations.

But what about the first one? Maybe I could pay to have access to an ebook for a dollar (or five, or whatever) per week or so, then the access “goes away.” I don’t know how the logistics would work, someone else can figure that out. But I know I’d be much more willing to pay money to try brand new books or books by new (to me) authors if the initial investment were much lower. Otherwise I’d just wait until the physical copy were in the library or the electronic copy were available via the Guttenberg project. And by then I’d have forgotten about it. Even if I didn’t forget about it, if I did it that way I wouldn’t be financially supporting the author when the author most needs it, when they’re alive and trying to make a living by writing.

I can see it now, I’ve got a weekend free, or spring break, or some other stretch of time available. I want to read something outside my known sphere. I pick up my kindle/ipad and browse through recommendations based on my preferences, or based on a similar thing I liked — Pandora-style. Then I pay some relatively low price to try something new. If I really like it, I’ll buy “permanent access.” If not, I won’t have wasted much, and the author gets a little bit of compensation. If I love it, I get a physical copy.

Another way this can work (I think this is done for some books) is you get the first few chapters for free, then pay for the rest. That could work in conjunction with this business model, or as a separate model. I’m not sure.

People have probably already thought of these things. I’m just thinking out loud.

Update: Thanks to Mike O’Connell for pointing me to this fantastic interview with Toni Weisskopf of Baen books about ebooks and associated business models.

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Web 2.0 experiences in the classroom

January 16, 2009 at 2:25 pm | Posted in conference, education, internet, internet culture, local, math, technology | 3 Comments
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I just got back from TLT Day, Teaching and Learning with Technology Day 2009. I attended a great presentation by Marianne Hebert on Web 2.0 in the classroom. It was a great presentation that I was rather disappointed with.

The presentation slides are here on slideshare. (I learned about slideshare from Marianne’s talk … thanks!) See, that’s why I say it was a great presentation. I learned some new stuff that I want to look into and, via the discussion, found ways other folks are using Web 2.0 stuff. I even learned what the heck Web 2.0 means.

The reason I was rather disappointed with it is that I didn’t leave with ways to improve the classroom/course experience for my students. Sure, I know about various web stuff that’s really cool, and I could incorporate these things if I wanted to, but it’s not clear at all if using these things (like delicious, facebook, twitter, google maps, google docs, etc.) will improve my classroom/course experience. This left me conflicted, since I thought it was a good talk.

And that’s when it hit me. The talk basically said that people are on the web, our students are on the web more than we are, and here are lots of ways that we can interact with them to facilitate learning in ways with which they are comfortable. It gave lots of examples and demonstrated how many different websites are used. And it did a good job at that.

But that’s not what I need in order to improve my classroom/course experience. I’m not just going to use a piece of technology because it’s cool. (Ok, I might. But only if it’s REALLY cool.) And I’m not going to just throw more technology into my classes with the hope that the experience will be better. There’s no guarantee that it’s going to work.

What I need to do is spend some time alone and brainstorm. I need to just strip away all perceived boundaries, imagine that no impediments exist, and that I can make any classroom experience I can imagine a reality just by willing it to be. If that were the reality in which I lived, what classroom/course experience would I create? What sorts of things can I imagine?

That’s hard! I don’t know about you, but if I start doing that, part of my mind (call it the practical part) immediately starts thinking about all the problems with implementing what I just imagined. Now don’t get me wrong; I like the practical part of my mind. And I know it’s just looking at things that way with the intention of solving those problems. But it gets in the way of the creative part of my mind that imagines in the first place. And my creative part can get bummed out by a preponderance of practical concerns that I don’t know how to solve. So I need to take some time to give the creative part free reign, and imagine what I want to make happen.

Once I get an idea of what that looks like … well, then I will sit back and have a beer. A good beer, like Guinness. But after that, I will let the practical part out of its cage and say, “Make that happen!” In reality, it will probably only make a facsimile, or a lower dimensional projection, of my imagination happen, because it has to live in the real world. If it really can make my imagination happen, that’s a sign to me that I need to dream bigger.

So, my conclusion is that coming to a talk like this the way I did today is almost like putting the cart before the horse. I need to have that dream first. I need to imagine the ultimate classroom/course experience in a limitless world. Then I can come to a talk like this and when I see something useful I can say, “Hey, that can help make this little part of my ultimate experience a reality!” Then I won’t be just adding technology for its own sake. I will be filling a need, a function that I have already identified. Then whatever I add is practically assured to make a tangible improvement.

You’re indirectly responsible for this realization, Marianne, so thank you. You just may have helped me make every conference I go to more enriching. I also had good conversations with Linda, Karen, and Jenica. It was a few hours well spent IMO.

I also attended a workshop about iClicker, a classroom voting system that I will be using extensively this semester. I’ll devote a separate entry to just that.

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