A series of short plenary sessions opened and closed each day. Here are a few examples from the first day. Peter Collingridge of Enhanced Editions, a company that makes ebooks for the iPhone, gave a presentation on "Enhancing the Ebook". The synced audio feature of their application is impressive (see demo on Vimeo). "Law is Not a Business Solution" was presented by William Patry, Senior Copyright Counsel at Google, who cautioned against 'regulatory capitalism' where companies seek legal protection rather than surviving and innovating in the marketplace. Erring on the side of low restrictions for customers is definitely in sync with O'Reilly's business model (see earlier post on delivery options). The Jamie Oliver iPhone App was cited a few times - the idea that an author can self-publish outside traditional publishing channels.
"The Future of Digital Textbooks" was a panel discussion with John Warren of RAND Corporation, Eric Frank of Flat World Knowledge ("freemium" eTextbooks with fee-based ancillary value-adds), Frank Lyman of CourseSmart (eBook consortium of big publishers), Nicholas Smith of Agile Mind (web-based academic prep/tools), and Neeru Khosla of the CK12 Foundation ("create, share, find and print custom textbooks online"). Macmillan's Dynamic Books was mentioned a few times -- "remixable" (editable) textbooks (see New York Times article). Also see O'Reilly blog recap.
Liza Daly and Keith Fahlgren of Threepress Consulting presented on "Networked, Mobile, & Landlocked: Current Ereaders". The state of affairs for divergent and incompatible standards and devices is even more sobering now than just 6 months ago (see earlier blog post on eReader landscape). The Ibis Reader for ePub format was mentioned as another emerging entrant. See O'Reilly blog recap and video interview.
D.C. Denison of The Boston Globe explored "Integrating an Ebook with the Internet". He described the evolution and format of his hotspotconfidential site -- an experiemental eBook/website combination that he says is designed to explore how "hyperlocal experimentation" (mapping content/connectivity to real-world spaces, a la EveryBlock and Placeblogger) can be leveraged to enhance the value and power of eBooks. How to keep eBook content fresh and capitalize on the ability to dynamically update content by linking eBooks to the web was a great example of how the whole idea of content delivery can be updated based on these new tools and channels.
"A Conversation with Ray Kurzweil and Tim O'Reilly" was interesting. Kurzweil (The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology) has quite a bio:
Ray Kurzweil invented the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition.
LMS vendor Blackboard presented a session on "Streamlining Content Adoption Workflows: A Report on Content Use in Higher Education". The report and session were co-produced by O'Donnell and Associates, a publishing services firm. The report sought to explore the extent to which digital content enhanced the learning and teaching experience and also to identify new challenges surrounding educational content distribution in the digital era. They discussed their view of the content adoption process: Find --> Adopt --> Access --> Share. This was a vendor presentation and the pitch was pretty clear: Blackboard seeks to meet these challenges by providing tools and services that facilitate the ability to find appropriate content (flexible search, granular content, vetted/rated/tagged items), adopt that content (online access, customization, licensing facilitation), access that content ("iTunes model", student purchase options, idea of common cartridge -- for more on LMS cartridges, see earlier blog post on content interoperability), and finally share that content (user generated content models like YouTube). They recommend partnerships and alliances to tackle these challenges, pilot programs to get stakeholders experimenting and learning, industry standards including not only content openness and shared access but also copyright protection, and focusing on simple processes that avoid creating more confusion for teachers and learners.
Additional coverage of TOC: