B.

Books + Internet = ?

With more and more books digitalized, with Kindles, iPads and audio-books, will printed books become an endangered species? Not if you turn the idea the other way round: How can printed books benefit from the internet and its networking features?

One idea is Ubimark Books that links paper books, such as “Around the World in 80 Days” to the web. This happens rather seemlessly through 2D code. Have a look:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OE5Ch4NnVu0

Another brilliant idea is BookRenter. The service enables students to save money by loaning textbooks for a fixed duration, usually a semester. The system is simple: a student searches for a book on the website using a title or ISBN, and places an order by selecting a rental period and delivery option. The books are delivered complete with return UPS labels for easy shipping.

Rent, read, return. (c) www.bookrenter.com

The bookstores at the University of Texas at Austin, the North Carolina State University, the University of Memphis, the City College of San Francisco, and the University of San Diego already offer a textbook rental store on the BookRenter platform. Alternative book rental services are provided by Chegg and Barnes and Noble.

(Thx @techcrunch and @swissmiss)

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F.

Forget About Heavy Textbooks – Here Comes Smarthistory

Pictures of an exhibition. (c) www.smarthistory.org
Pictures of an exhibition. (c) www.smarthistory.org

Smarthistory.org is an incredible resource for all people interested in art history: museum visitors, travelers, informal learners, teachers and students. The website is more than a replacement of expensive and heavy textbooks. It uses multimedia to deliver a personal voice through unscripted conversations between art historians while looking at works of art. This is much more than a textbook or a usual audioguide can provide. Smarthistory makes information about art accessible, entertaining and engaging.

Beth Harris and Steven Zucker started Smarthistory as a blog in 2005, featuring podcasts that could be used as free audio guides. They later organized the podcasts stylistically and chronologically and began adding text and images.

In 2008, they received a grant to redesign the site from the Kress Foundation. Now the site itself is a masterpiece of usability. Last year Smarthistory won the renowned Webby Award, “the Internet’s highest (official) honor for excellence” as The New York Times put it, for the best education website.

Visitors can enter and explore smarthistory using several navigation paths, depending on their needs and interests: by timeline, style, artist, and theme, or by using a prominent visual navigation in the center of the homepage or at the bottom of post pages. It’s a a lively, entertaining and even playful approach to art history.

Start (re-)discovering art history with www.smarthistory.org

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B.

Being admitted to college is not always easy for an iPad

A reader without connectivity problems

The iPad is facing difficulty being accepted at Princeton University and others because of network stability issues, connectivity problems and concerns about bandwidth overload. This could be quite a setback for Apple’s strategy to go after the higher education market by highlighting the iPad’s portability and availability of electronic books. Indeed, those features aren’t worth a lot if students are unable to connect to the internet to check emails or course assignments.

But acceptance is not only about connectivity issues. As for now the volume of educational content available via the iBookstore is far to small to eliminate expensive physical textbooks. This would be another argument to seriously reconsider putting an iPad on your wishlist before Christmas. According to industry analysts and professors, schools won’t fully embrace iPads until textbook publishers offer more digital resources that go beyond electronic versions of hard copy books. It could take several months, before such content will be available. “We’re not just turning a book into a PDF,” Josh Koppel of ScrollMotion said. Educational books are usually more difficult to translate into e-books because they often include mathematical formulas, graphs and other non-standard-text material. And students demand note-taking or highlighting functionality, features often unavailable on today’s e-reader-formats, such as Amazon’s Kindle or others.

Being an early adopter has its ups and downs. And sometimes it can be quite frustrating. George Washington said its wireless network’s security features don’t support the iPad. Princeton said it has proactively blocked about 20% of the devices from its network after noticing malfunctions within the school’s computer system. Cornell’s information-technology director Steve Schuster said that the school is seeing networking and connectivity issues. The colleges all say they are trying to find fixes to the problems.

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