Saturday, December 26, 2015

2015 In Review- Print's Comeback Year

This is what a print comeback looks like.

What we saw in 2015 was a natural rediscovery of what we always liked about print, what we forgot we liked, and what still we miss about it.  We miss holding books, and physically shopping in real time for them, and are tired of passwords, accounts, screens, batteries, and other technical things that interfere with digital reading. We want to be reading sometimes without any distraction.

This rediscovery occurred across many segments reminding us what makes print special, and why we like it.  Young people asserted their preference for print as a medium.

They don't take print for granted. They prize it. 

Science produced more reasons to why we should read from it.  Reading from print helps the brain form mental maps. Plus other intangibles like a lack of distractions, improved focus, slower reading, all that add up to improve comprehension. Paper beats digital, in many ways. The classroom is better off with print.

Overly complicated and overpriced educational materials, usually incorporating some kind of technical feature to restrict resale- led to a popular movement in 2015 for Open Textbooks and Open Educational Resources.

Publishers have complicated the simple print textbook and turned it into in a Star Trek Borg-like mutation of log-ins, access codes, and short life spans.

This year, we found that Open products have a great future in the classroom because they are as good or better than traditional materials, and easier to distribute to the students, and easier for them to print if they prefer to consume them that way.

The American College Textbook Act was passed as a result. The White House joined in. Faculty members like Alain Bourget rebelled against the publisher's textbook racket and stood his ground against the department head's decision and chose an Open Textbook for his course that was as good as the one required, and was free.

Other instructors reevaluated their own selections for course materials, and others took to creating their own OERS, some from grants.  The printed coursepack came back too.

Print is still the killer app for education. It gets the job of learning done better than anything.

Despite all of the hype to digitize learning, American College students said they would rather study with real books. And prefer to buy print versions when offered. The laptop in the classroom shows a decrease in student performance, while handwriting produces a positive impact, and preferred result. Print isn't just "old-school," it is school.

2015 saw new bookstores (& new hybrids) pop-up serving both new and used book markets-for the first time in a long time- while Ebook sales slowed or dropped (depending on who you ask) for the first time in that period. The ebook service Oyster closed it's shop. Printed books sales went up.

Print as a sustainable & renewable industry was focused on- it's not a depleting resource, but the opposite. Print depends on paper, an industry as green as they come. Use it, enjoy it.

Marketers noticing this brought back print into luxury marketing. Print evokes an emotional impact on the reader that enhances the subject matter. The catalog and the magazine returned with a freshness that was appealing. Plus the 'Zine returned. People want print.

We also saw the 25th anniversary of the device that simplified printing, and connected the printer to the computer. The Xerox Docutech. This device started a movement that simplified the process for printing not seen since Gutenberg, the benefits of which have now extended to nearly every printshop and every piece of printed material.

So that brings us to "The Martian." Assuming that the value of every item launched is weighed against it's weight, we found it fascinating to see a simple 3 ring binder get screen time as a solution to one of the highest priority problems on the Red Planet. Print is Portable. No batteries required.

What 2015 tells us is that print as a format isn't going away anytime soon, and in our opinion, shows how print can continue to grow as its features are rediscovered.

None of this is a coincidence. Print is Good.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Post your printMe1 Unboxing and Save!

There's nothing like a good old-fashioned unboxing! You know, capturing the moment when you open your order. We love them because it lets others know how we meticulously print, wrap and seal your order.  So here's what we are doing:

Take pics or a video of opening your order, show opening the box & wax seal, and only the back cover,  then post them to your favorite social media platform (facebook, twitter, google+, vine, youtube, instagram, etc) or forum (, etc). In the post, please include our web address and tag #printisgood.

Then send us the link & the order number here: Contact Us. If we like the post, we will email you a 10% off promo code good through April 30, 2016 for you, and anyone you want to share it with. Post it with your link if you want. You earned it!

If your post follows what we described above, we will like it!  Extra credit for a description of the simplicity of the whole process, and a bonus surprise for ones that go above and beyond.

This is a limited offer and can end at any time. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Now Everyone Wants to Lower the Cost of Educational Materials. So let's do it.

Professors are dumping expensive textbooks written by their department heads. The White House is continuing the battle against high textbook costs by including them in the 2016-2017 Open Government National Action Plan. The US Senate has the Affordable College Textbook Act.

Newsweek picked up the story of the PIRG's "Billion Dollar Solution" calling for Open Educational Resources (OER's), when it ran an article titled "Can We Put an End to the Textbook Racket?"
College textbook prices have risen over 1,000% since 1971. Students are driven to tough choices from the high textbook costs.

The focus on textbook costs started about 10 years ago by CALPIRG with the release of "Ripoff 101: 2nd Edition- How The Publishing Industry's Practices Needlessly Drive Up Textbook Costs." Back then, the ripoff was from publishers creating expensively customized print editions, and also bundling useless things like CD's or access codes with the print textbooks, both with the intent to destroy resale in the used market. Today it's constantly creating expensive new editions with no value. Other PIRG's have since gotten involved across the country, and some using unique ways to call attention to the textbook cost issue. Students calling attention to costs is the best course of action.

The attention is working. More professors are creating free and open textbooks, but more awareness need to be created to to help faculty understand what options are out there from OER Libraries like OpenStax (Rice U), New Prairie Press (Kansas State U), Open Textbook Library (U of Minnesota), and many others. As David Ernst from the Open Textbook Library said in a recent interview, "There's really no downside to this whole thing." An award was given to a librarian for designing a system that indicates which college courses that do not use a publishers textbook. Add in the White House and Senate initiatives for creating OER's.  People are hearing the message and times are changing.

Costs are coming down with these initiatives, and we are able to help get them in print, cheaply and simply. Students learn best from print formats. A 300 page pdf printed, bound, and shipped to a student in the USA costs just $16.86 from our service. For professors choosing to lower costs by using OER's or their own materials, we are low cost option keeping the print costs down.

We have worked with many professors who abandoned expensive old fashioned textbooks in favor of their own creations. We hear from them that they are in touch with what their students pay, and are active in creating their own materials in their fields of study for their own courses. OpenStax has a cool pdf toolkit for students to use begin a discussion about open options with their professors.

Now OER's and Open Textbooks provide the same low cost option for any instructors who are not able to write their own materials, especially for intro topics. Everyone wants to lower the cost of educational materials, so let's do it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Open Textbooks, OER's and the New Old Coursepack

The debate on Open Textbooks and Open Educational Resources has picked up momentum with a Senate Bill called The Affordable College Textbook Act.

Open Textbooks bring back the awesomeness of the old coursepack.  Back in the '70's, '80's and early '90's, coursepacks were the pre-internet era's version of the Course Management System.  Instructors would create a packet that included everything a student needed for the semester, without using a textbook. Syllabii, Lecture Outlines, Assignments, and Readings. The readings often included copyrighted materials reprinted under Fair Use as an educational, classroom use until Kinko's lost their lawsuit in 1991. (Wiley, et al vs Kinko's).

Coursepacks were very popular in the '80, and publishers didn't have a market-based answer for the cheap and convenient coursepack. As a result of the decision in the Kinko's lawsuit, copyright permissions handling and fees drove prices up.  The $100+ coursepack appeared in the early '90's. Instructors dropped pricey articles (Note to publishers: this does not mean they bought the textbook instead. Many just stopped using the material altogether.)

Then later Course Management systems like Blackboard and Angel came along and allowed more time sensitive materials to collect there, and the Digital Millenium Copyright Act granted some safe harbors that favor online posting of copyrighted materials for courses vs printing them.  Articles can be linked to campus libraries housing digital collections accessible online, basically replicating the old coursepack model, but without the convenience of having the material pre-printed (Which makes us sad because students learn more when reading from print.) By the end of the '00's, we guess that the number coursepack titles created each semester dropped by 66% over 20 years, yet textbook prices are up 1,000% since 1977.

Today's consistent users of coursepacks are usually instructor-created materials designed for a single course and are hugely popular in large courses for exactly the same reasons Open Textbooks & OER's are getting attention- cheaper, easier to use, and customizable- and some of these instructor's creating their own materials may choose to develop their materials into OER's.

The advantage of Open Textbooks and OER's is that instructors, teachers, and professors anywhere can use the those open materials to build into their own coursepack, merge with their own creations, and customize their teaching materials as needed without any hassles, including having them available in print. No copyright checking, no royalties, just assemble into a PDF, and go. They can be distributed as a pdf online, or printed and sold at the bookstore on campus. (We can do both. Want to have us ship to your bookstore? Ask us about options.)

Print is very important in education.  Now that we know the scientific benefits of reading from print, Open Textbooks & OER's will make it easier to get print back in the classroom, more affordably & conveniently for the student.

Getting more of these copyright free options into courses starts with the instructor reviewing options. (We posted some here.)

Open Textbook's and OER's are bringing back the old coursepack, that's awesome for teachers and students!

Friday, September 25, 2015

eBook Sales Drop and Print Resurgence on Campus

We've been focused on the recent article by the American Association of Publishers that states that eBook sales declined for the first time.  That doesn't mean eBooks are going away by any means. We use tablets here, primarily for searching and reading news articles.

What's interesting to us, and for the industry is that this decline in eBooks is coming at a time with a fresh discussion about how the brain absorbs data from print vs screens. Fresh data on the Neuroscience of print was compiled by Forbes in this article. What we are now seeing is a quantification of all the subjective terms #printgeeks have been using to describe why they prefer print: "feels real" "tactile" etc.   The science behind a print advantage is growing.

These two data points are converging.  A decline in eBooks and a recognition that print has distinct features beneficial to memory. What does this mean for Campus? The assumption that swapping digital formats for print may not be a '"like for like" exchange to save a trip to the bookstore.

We've observed that there has been a reckless adoption of digital formats in academia without any consideration of the impact on the final product: learning.  We are now well beyond having taught an entire college class using iPads and other digital media. Are they any smarter? Did they learn more? The science behind how the brain absorbs info from different formats is indicating benefits from reading from print.

The tech geeks will tell the educators that they can save money for students by putting docs online, knee-jerk environmentalists will nod in agreement saying it will save the planet (False: paper is renewable and North America is a net grower of trees.) But what value is a switch away from print & paper if students don't learn as much from those formats?

What we should be seeing now is a resurgence of print on campus for the exact reasons students are there. To learn. The Open Textbook movement is gaining momentum, which will place the choice of format in the hands of the user: the Student.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Open Source Textbooks (#opentextbooks)

Everyone has probably heard of open source by now. The most common use of it applies to software. Linux, for example, is an open source product, as is Mozilla Firefox in browsers, Drupal and Joomla in content management systems, and even "non-tech" open source uses exist like open role playing game (RPG) systems, or "open gaming". 

Open source is a free license for users to use a product, and also allows users to develop improvements to the product. The product improves and grows over time by the free contributions to the product from the users.

When you think about the open source development process, (develop, improve, use...repeat), what you see is something perfectly suited for textbook development. How many different ways can textbooks be written for introductory courses like calculus, physics, or chemistry?  Does most content change much?  The answer seems obvious that some collaborative effort from professors in their respective fields could yield highly useful open source products in most mass introductory courses that could be used, improved, and reused, for no cost, just like other open source products.

Textbook prices have risen 1000% in the last 40 years, and open source textbooks can solve this serious price problem.  SPARC argues open textbooks are now providing competition to lower costs.

Open Source Textbooks (or "open textbooks"), and Open Educational Resource (OER) options from Rice University's OpenStax, Kansas State University's New Prarie Press, and Minnesota's Open Textbook Library are becoming increasingly popular as students pass on pricey textbooks. U Mass Amherst has created an "Open Education Initiative" that has cost just $60,000 to develop open source options that has saved their student's over $1M and posted this list of other open textbook libraries.

The great benefits of Open Textbooks is that they can be distributed digitally and then printed by the student using a method of their choice. Most use a Creative Commons 3.0/4.0 License. The instructor can post it in the course management system, and students can choose to print it themselves, or use a service like's, where we can print, bind, and ship to their mailbox probably for less than their own costs, and save the hassle. 

Print is also proving to be better for learning, college students actually prefer printed textbooks, and is focused on providing affordable and simple print options perfectly suited for the classroom.  (Like we say #printisgood.)

The only limitation for widespread open source textbook adoption is that there is little incentive by anyone to promote open source. There isn't a book rep out there getting a commission to sell an opentext, so it's up to the professor and the student to figure it out. The professor makes the textbook choice, but its important for the students to ask if open source options were considered.  (OpenStax provides a PDF flyer as a toolkit to use to discuss with your professors. Use it!)

So students, ask your professors for open source textbooks, and professors, take a look at the options.

Open source and printMe1 is a win-win in the classroom!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Benefits of Reading from Print, (Update, Part 3)

We've been following the discussion on the benefits of reading from print here and here.

The biggest story since the last time we compiled a list of articles is the Naomi Barron research that again confirms comprehension advantages of paper over screens. More discussion on comprehension benefits of focused reading, desirable difficulty of handwriting, and how it relates to print and paper.  We posted these links on our social media (Twitter, Google+, Facebook) over the last year.  This is a link compilation.

The biggest issue in academia from this research is the transition away from print for other reasons not related to the primary purpose of education: comprehension.

The New Rebublic -interview with Naomi Barron: (1/14/15): "92% of College Students Prefer Reading Print Books to E-Readers."

Geekwire (1/1/15): "Paper is Back. Why Real Books are on the Rebound."
NYT arts.mic (9/22/14): "Science Has Great News for People who Read Actual Books."

Washington Post (2/22/15): "Why Digital Natives Prefer Reading from Print. Yes, You Read that Right."

Huffington Post (2/27/15): "Sorry, Ebooks. These 9 Studies Show Why Print is Better."