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.

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."

Top Fictional Copy Shop Characters

The Copy Guy on SNL.  The "Rich-Meister."

The "Girl from the Copy Place" in Friends. Possibly broke up Ross and Rachel or were they already on a break?

Noah Bennett. Horned Rimmed Glasses guy on Heroes. Just a paper salesman.

This guy from "Undeclared"

Chapelle's "PopCopy" Sketch about a fictional copy shop.

Stringer Bell in "The Wire."

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Teach From Print using

If you are looking for great ideas on preparing and distributing teaching materials, is a super choice to offer to your students for a convenient and affordable printing option.  We've put together some tips to help make it easier for you and your students take advantage of our convenient options.

1.) Step 1.  Understand that print is good.  Millenials like to study from print and there are growing reasons for this.  And paper is a renewal resource. These concepts run counter to conventional wisdom, and designing your teaching materials around an affordable print option is one that will be appreciated by your students at evaluation time for price, convenience, and effectiveness. 

2.) Plan Ahead. Most of the things you can include are right in front of you. If you usually post notes & slides before each lecture, consider preparing the notes before the semester starts. If you routinely create handouts like study guides for tests or problems for review, consider if they can be reused and organized in one larger file for distribution.

3.) Creating your own materials already? Some more tips on what to include. If you are creating a book, don't forget to check out open source, creative commons, or public domain materials. There are some great resources out there for rights-free materials to use in class, and the key word there is "free".  Examples:  OpenStax, Community Texts, Project Gutenberg, Feedbooks.

4.) Starting from scratch? Here's why you should create your own materials if you can. The cost of educational materials has outpaced inflation by 1000% in the last 40 years, and 9% since last year (link).  You can beat this trend by creating your own materials.  Lecture notes and powerpoint slides combined with including areas to handwrite next to each slide or topic makes a great teaching tool. Handwriting notes has been found to improve memory compared to typing.

5.) Design for print. You can use a familiar page designer, powerpoint, or word processing application, and then print or save the final draft to PDF to distribute to your students. The end result of your collection should be something easy to print. For that, we recommend a standard 8.5"x11"page size. Our service automatically prints double-sided/back-to-back  at this page size.

6.) Distribute the PDF to your students & tell them about This step is using whatever type of course management system you use, but then tell them about our service. They will be glad you did!