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Thursday Midday Links Roundup: Education is moving toward digital

How good is Harlequin doing? Pretty good. In a dismal economy that sees revenues at its parent company dropping, Harlequin is bringing in the profit. David Holland, the interim CEO at Torstar, said that the decline in newspapers and digital were offset by continued growth at Harlequin. (Actually Holland stated it the other way around but I decided to put the positive spin on it). Harlequin posted $122.5 million in revenue which was up 3.7% from third quarter of 2008.

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After a dismal few quarters, HarperCollins experienced a small rise for the fiscal first quarter. Sales were slightly down (1.5%). Sales of ebooks accounted for 4% of the adult group revenue. Most of the profit came from restructuring and not from sales.

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The Wall Street Journal accuses Amazon of stockpiling cash by paying late on its bills by up to 72 days or longer. I understand that late payment is fairly standard in the industry and the writer of the article asserts that Amazon has never made a profit, something the SEC filings for the past five years would dispute. However, if Amazon’s posted profitability rests solely on delaying cash payments, it seems, as Jose Furtado notes, that “Such things won’t flow Amazon’s way forever.”

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Companies are trying to get easier access to ebooks for students including text to speech enabled ebooks which will help students with physical or learning disabilities. I think this is great and I hope the content creators will see that this is a social good that won’t create economic harm for them. Persona Non Data writes that K-12 online learning will mushroom in the next few years. My tot’s fine motor skills need some help. She has a hard time using the mouse. That’s a fair impediment to online learning.

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Sarah Weinman discusses the New York Times article by Motoko Rich about the rising influence of Glenn Beck as a mover of books. Beck apparently is a big thriller fan and he’s been having a steady stream of thriller authors on his show and those thriller authors are then selling many books. It’s a double edged sword for some authors. Andrew Gross reported having received emails calling his work “lefty bullshit” and accusations that associating with Beck means that the reader would not buy another Gross book.

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I’m really beginning to salivate over the MS Courier. Gizmodo has more exclusive design and function leaks. My fear is that this device will be too expensive, much like what I think killed the UMPC market before it even got off the ground. With the rise of netbooks, I think consumers don’t want to pay in excess of 3 figures for a computing device.

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Jill Myles has a quiz for the Nalini Singh fans over at the Oddshots. If you want to hump things into submission, you are a Changeling.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

19 Comments

  1. GrowlyCub
    Nov 05, 2009 @ 13:14:32

    Wait, the guy got email accusing him of being lefty for being on Beck’s show? Beck? Who moved from CNN to Fox, left? Weird…

    ETA: Oh, now I get it. Accused of being left by right reading Beck fan, no more book sales by left readers who do not like Beck. It’s a slow day for Growly’s brain…

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  2. liz m
    Nov 05, 2009 @ 13:37:40

    re Online learning and tots – my kids started using the computer from age 3 – get a large oversize trackball from Kensington so they can use one palm to manipulate the ball and the other to click the buttons – no fine motor skills needed. They both have classes (now 10 and 5) where computer work is mandatory and they are way ahead of the pack so it’s the easy grade for them.

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  3. SonomaLass
    Nov 05, 2009 @ 13:42:25

    The use of e-books in education is such a double-edged sword, IMO. We do still have a huge digital divide in this country, and the “have nots” of the computing world (have not fast internet connection, have not a big hard drive, even have not a computer) are at a larger disadvantage every time the education system shifts something over. I see it constantly with my community college students, and yet my administration and my textbook publisher are really pushing for more and more digital content and online access. I love all that myself, but I am repeatedly reminded by my students’ experiences that this is another way to leave certain students behind if we don’t proceed with caution.

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  4. Castiron
    Nov 05, 2009 @ 13:57:12

    It’s not cheap (and in my case, the drivers slowed my PC to a crawl), but a touch screen monitor can be helpful for kids who haven’t got the motor control to handle a mouse. (Though this ties right in with SonomaLass @3.)

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  5. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 05, 2009 @ 14:34:30

    Actually Holland stated it the other way around but I decided to put the positive spin on it.

    I've begun mentally rewording things like “sales are flat” to “sales are solid and stable”.

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  6. RStewie
    Nov 05, 2009 @ 14:34:40

    I will be an “early adopter” of the Courier. I will also use it as a tax deduction for “college classes”…

    That thing is really bubbling my bong.

    So far as computer stuff: my sister and I have computer typing games on our computers: typing is a vanishing skillset in education, so we use these for our kid(s) to teach them standard typing…otherwise they grow up to hunt and peck. My stepson has been raised with video games and computer games, so him doing homework on the computer is second nature. Starting them in school is almost a handicap–if they’re just then learning about it, they’re already behind, it seems.

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  7. roslynholcomb
    Nov 05, 2009 @ 14:39:18

    My little guy has been using our computer since he was three. Interestingly enough, he has the fine motor skills to use a mouse just fine, and we have a Mac with an admittedly old and wonky mouse. (We won’t buy a new one until he’s a bit older.) Plays video games and does all types of schoolwork. When it comes to things like writing his letters? Not so much.

    I thought there was a bill in Congress to address the digital divide. I’m not sure about the particulars, but I’ll post it if I find it. It is a major consideration because everything is on the computer these days.

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  8. HeatherK
    Nov 05, 2009 @ 17:53:00

    Add me to the drooling in anticipation of the Courier camp. I WANT ONE, very much badly. I’ve been in heavy sales pitch to the hubby mode since I first learned about it. The only point that will keep me from getting one is the price tag. Come on MS peeps, leak a price so I can start saving now. Otherwise, I’ll be one very unhappy camper when they debut and I’m unable to get my hands on one.

    My nephew uses a computer like a pro, and he’s not even three yet. It’s amazing how fast he absorbs this stuff. Video games really helped my 7y/o with his fine motor skills, which he was way behind on due to a variety of issues he’s had over the years. Anything that helps him is great, IMO.

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  9. JulieB
    Nov 05, 2009 @ 21:10:58

    Oh, yes. I’m one of those waiting impatiently for the Courier. Want, want, want.

    Children develop fine motor skills at different rates. She’ll get the hang of it. The two things that helped our son were the computer and crafting. Yeah, crafting. Twist your arm. ;-)

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  10. Grrrly
    Nov 05, 2009 @ 21:27:48

    Oh, the courier looks very drool-worthy! But I’ve come to love my iphone in the couple months since I got it, and use it for every little thing. Since the rumored apple tablet is supposedly an iphone with a 10″ screen, I might have to wait until it’s out. I can definitely be swayed toward the courier, even though the videos don’t yet show how it’d handle music, video, and ebooks, which is mainly what I’d use it for; but having the two devices out at the same time so I can make a side-by-side comparison would be a great help. There’s nothing like tech regret, especially when you’ve shelled out major bucks for the device that’s not quite as all-around awesome as expected.

    And what’s wrong with the hunt and peck method of typing? As long as you’ve got an idea of the keyboard layout, there’s not nearly so much time spent on the “hunt” portion. I type 90+ wpm “hunting and pecking” in my own self-developed style. It was only when I tried to take a typing class in college and learn how to type the “right” way that my speed dropped down to a pathetic 15-20 wpm. I’ll stick with my hunt and peck, thanks. I must admit though, I got a typing program for my daughter when I bought her laptop. But mostly because I thought she’d like the game portion; I don’t know how much actual benefit she’s getting out of the typing lessons.

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  11. Caligi
    Nov 05, 2009 @ 22:39:34

    My father-in-law has written and published a number of books as a two-finger typer.

    It’s ugly, but it works.

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  12. Marianne McA
    Nov 06, 2009 @ 04:01:23

    I agree, I think hunt and peck works okay. I think we did, at some point, have a game to teach the children proper typing, but weren’t strict about it, so they defaulted to hunt and peck. (I’m so old that I’m pre-digital, and learnt to type correctly on a typewriter, and I still use h&p).
    The children type at decent speeds using that method. (I don’t think there’s any hunt going on, to be honest.)
    I do wonder at what point the schools will allow children the option to type their exam answers – mine type more naturally than they write, and if their typing skills are good, their handwriting is pretty illegible.

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  13. Grrrly
    Nov 06, 2009 @ 05:56:28

    Oh, my daughter’s handwriting is absolutely terrible. It’s been a constant complaint from her teachers since kindergarten, and I’ve attempted to work with her on it, but mine is just as bad. The best we’ve been able to do is take it from messy, illegible scrawl to slightly less messy “I think I can make out a word here” scrawl. I’d like to have her tested for dysgraphia since she’s also ADHD and particularly prone to it, but I wonder how much of that is wanting an excuse for my admittedly lazy approach to handwriting. I think the only thing I write by hand these days are my signature, and the very occasional post-it at work. She’s had teachers in the past who have let her type up book reports and other special projects, but with three laptops, a desktop, and multiple printers, cameras, cellphones, TVs, ipods, and video game systems-hand-held and hooked-up-in our house, I know we’re more firmly on the “have” side of the digital divide than many of my daughter’s classmates.

    But I’d still like her to have the opportunity to type for school more often, since she’s better able to concentrate on the actual content of her report when her grandmother and I aren’t constantly looking over her shoulder to tell her “I can’t even read that mess, erase it and write it over.” Plus she ends up writing more, because we all know how a half page of typing looks compared to a nearly full page of writing. Honestly, I don’t know why schools aren’t jumping all over this and investing more of their budgets in digital media centers for their students.

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  14. JulieB
    Nov 06, 2009 @ 09:08:02

    I’m with you on bad handwriting, Grrrly. If that were the sole criterion for admission to medical school, I’d have been a shoe-in for Harvard. My son’s is bad, too.

    His second grade teacher allowed him to type his spelling homework if we turned off the spell check tools in Word. He still had to write them in class, but as you say, he was able to concentrate on the content rather than the execution and it was a big help.

    One good thing I can say about our school district is that they adopted computers in the classroom early on. They’re trying their second experiment with handhelds. The tried using Palm Pilots several years ago but the technology wasn’t ready. Now they’re looking at storing etextbooks on iPods. They also have a program where they take donated equipment and refurbish it for low-income families to use. DA readers might want to see if their school districts have a similar program. It’s a good use for gear you no longer need.

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  15. HeatherK
    Nov 06, 2009 @ 09:44:52

    My 7y/o’s handwriting is horrible as well. He mixes lower case and upper case letters all the time. Gets some letters backwards. Can’t stay on the lines and forgets to put spaces between words. You can image what a mess that is to read. He HATES it when he does his reading homework and “writes” his story because mommy editor comes out. Much whining, wimpering and moaning ensues. I’ve taught him to put his finger at the end of words then write the next word on the opposite side of his finger, which seems to be helping with the spacing.

    Writes is in quotes because he tells the story, I write it up with minor tweaks, and he then copies it. And yes, his teachers know we do it this way. He’s special needs, so the sheer fact that he DOES it gets him points because more often than not, he won’t cooperate.

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  16. Grrrly
    Nov 06, 2009 @ 10:06:19

    Have you had your son tested for dysgraphia heather? Because he sounds like a textbook case. My daughter’s had computers in the classroom since first grade, but it’s too bad schools have classroom computers but not actual media centers with multiple machines. Students need computer skills these days, and the ones that aren’t exposed to them outside the classroom are, I’m sure, falling far behind the ones who are. People I work with quite often ask me to type up their emails or how to do things in office programs that to me seem like basic tasks everyone should know. Technology’s not going away any time soon, and it would be more useful to students going out into the world to know how to use it. More so than being able to write a 5-page essay neatly at any rate.

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  17. HeatherK
    Nov 06, 2009 @ 11:07:54

    I talked to the school about testing, and he’s in an environment where the teaching techniques are the same as they would be if he was diagnosed with any learning disability. He’s severe ADHD/possible Asperger’s (the line between the two are blurred in cases like his). So he’s been in therapy for nearly five years now. His therapists are making excellent progress with him. He’s a totally different kid now than when he first started school a couple years ago.

    He loves the computer and has an older laptop of his own. He plays video games (system games) better than I do and is really bad about telling everyone else that plays how to play them. He’s beaten all the Lego games (Indy, Batman & Star Wars). They really help with his fine motor skills as well as his memory and thought processes, which is the primary reason he gets to play them as much as he does.

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  18. BC
    Nov 06, 2009 @ 21:51:57

    I can’t believe amazon doesn’t make any money. It’s just so weird especially since I buy from there constantly; free shipping for $25 dollar purchases. Wow. Weird.

    I definitely see the classroom going digital. All of the classes I take now seem to all require me to log onto some digital website or another in order to participate in the class. Also, the bookstore is offering more options as far as textbooks go; ebooks and echapters. They are cheaper but unfortunately these options also mean that after a certain period your no longer allowed access to the chapters or ebook you paid for, which just seems wrong to me. Plus, because you don’t get to keep the books you also can’t sale them back to the campus bookstore, an outside book vendor, or another student like the hard print books. If the book costs $100 then the ebook could be priced at $50 or so and the echapters are priced by how many chapters are in the book. The school started offering these alternatives about a year and a half ago so there aren’t many books available. They can be a good option depending on the book but I haven’t tried either choice, mostly because they don’t tend to offer them for the courses I take.

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  19. Helen
    Nov 06, 2009 @ 22:39:29

    I taught pre-k kids how to use computers for a year. (prek-8th grade students actually). I did not have much experience with teaching small children computer use so I spent a bit of time reading stories about computers to them (I remember one Arthur story quite well!) and preparing them to use the computer. The big day finally came. I had taught them what a mouse was, what it did and how to use it before ever sitting down at the computer. 10 bright pairs of eyes started intently at me as I said, “Ok everyone, point your mouse at the Barney on the screen” every one of them picked up their mouse and touched it to the icon of Barney on their desktops….back to the drawing board (after I spent 5 minutes laughing of course!)

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