Thursday Threads: Disruption in Library Acquisitions, Publishing, and Remedial Education plus Checking Assumptions of Cloud Computing and a National Digital Library

If it is Thursday it must mean it is time for another in this series of Thursday Threads posts. This week there are an abundance of things that could fall into the category of “disruptive innovation” in libraries and higher education. If you find these interesting, you might want to subscribe to my FriendFeed stream where these topics and more are posted and discussed throughout the week.

The User-Driven Purchase Giveaway Library

“[W]e have reached the important tipping point where digital files can be read on machines that are nearly as good as paper books and where paper books can be created and delivered nearly as quickly, cheaply, and reliably as digital files. This makes it possible for libraries to radically rethink their fundamental approach to providing documents to users.

In this EDUCAUSE Review article, David Lewis — dean of the IUPUI University Library — proposes a brief thought experiment where he argues that it is more cost-effective for academic libraries to stop purchasing physical items just-in-case. Rather libraries should acquire the rights for digital delivery and print-on-demand production of works from publishers, suggesting that the licensing and production costs would be cheaper in the long run than buying, cataloging, circulating, and storing the physical artifacts. Lewis mentions use of the Espresso Book Machine, a earlier topic on DLTJ and I’ve commented on Lewis’ work before, and I highly recommend looking at the full description of his thought experiment.

Amazon’s Kindle Singles e-books: One shrewd business move

Amazon’s Kindle store is getting more like a music store everyday. Now you can buy a whole book or just a single—an e-book that’s about twice as long as a New Yorker feature. In a statement, Amazon called on writers, business types and other big thinkers to create Kindle Singles.

This post on ZDNet is an opinion piece about Amazon’s announcement for the Kindle Singles program. A “Single” is intended to be longer than an article but shorter than a full length book — about 10,000 to 30,000 words (roughly 30 to 90 pages, according to Amazon’s press release). But what it really seems to be about is the disintermediation of traditional publishers in the Kindle digital distribution world.

Blackboard to Sell Online Courses Through New Partnership

Blackboard announced today that it is teaming up with a for-profit education provider, K12 Inc., to sell online courses to colleges that want to outsource their remedial offerings. The companies say their plan will offer a new way for students who lack basic skills to get caught up. Blackboard would sell online courses that are designed and taught by employees of K12. The courses would be delivered on the Blackboard course-management system. It is the first time that the company has sold full courses, and not just software to deliver them.

Very interesting. A posting at the Chronicle of Higher Education Wired Campus news stream. This is arguably a Christensen-inspired disruptive path. Blackboard and K12 create a product that takes the unwanted consumers from market incumbents (those that need remedial work to meet the minimum standards for starting credit-earning courses). While doing it establish a tight vertical market where you can add value. Then move “up-market” and start to take other low-margin consumers from incumbents. Will we see Blackboard teaming up with for-profit education companies to offer associates and bachelor degrees next?

How energy-efficient is cloud computing?

Researchers have found that, at high usage levels, the energy required to transport data in cloud computing can be larger than the amount of energy required to store the data.

The researchers looked at the aggregation of energy needed to store and process data on a user’s own computer versus using servers “in the cloud.” The PsysOrg.com article is a brief summary of the study to be published in the Proceedings of the IEEE.

One Step Closer to a National Digital Library

Can the nonprofit world create a national digital library to put America’s collective intellectual wealth within everyone’s reach? Robert Darnton, the historian who directs the Harvard University Library, has been one of the most public champions of the idea. This past weekend, Mr. Darnton convened a group of 42 top-level representatives from foundations, cultural institutions, and the library and scholarly worlds to talk about how to build that library. In a short statement, the group endorsed the idea of “a Digital Public Library of America,” envisioning it as “an open, distributed network of comprehensive online resources” drawn from the country’s libraries, archives, museums, and universities.

This is another short news post from the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus news stream and it takes the form of an interview with Robert Darnton. Although the details of a U.S.-oriented National Digital Library still seem to be sparse — the most comprehensive information comes from an article by Darton in the New York Review of Books — the implementation of this concept is certainly something to keep an eye one.