Book and Reading News

Kindle grabs for an educational advantage, but Apple gets priority

Blackboard, developer of an electronic coursework management software, has allied with Amazon and Apple to make its educational materials available on the Kindle, BlogKindle reports. Schools can install a new component, called a “building block,” to their existing Blackboard server system and begin distributing coursework to Kindle users immediately.

But Blackboard made a bigger move toward the Apple iPhone with its acquisition Tuesday of Terriblyclever Design LLC, which develops iPhone and mobile Web (e.g., for smartphones) applications for education. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the fact that the publicly traded Blackboard (NASDAQ: BBBB) invested in access to the iPhone market suggests that the company believes the shortest route to student’s attention is through a device they already have—a smartphone and, particularly, the iPhone—rather than one they need to buy, the Kindle.

“Today’s students want to do everything with their mobile devices, including managing their social, school and work lives,” Michael L. Chasen, president and CEO of Blackboard, said in a press release. “Mobile is just beginning to emerge and no one is doing more to define the space in education than Terriblyclever. The newly acquired technology provides deeper integration with an institution’s classwork and schedule than is currently possible on the Kindle. The presser says it will provide schools with:

  • Navigate a school’s entire course catalog and utilize one-touch navigation to directories and maps to find out more about course professors and locations.
  • Identify exact campus location using GPS, search for buildings by name or address and see photos of the building.
  • Check news, schedules, and real-time scores for athletic teams and browse and receive alerts on general news articles for the institution.
  • Access iTunes U, YouTube, or custom video content including course lectures.
  • Find students and staff in the school directory, access calendars for special events and campus happenings and browse and share images from a school’s photo archives.

A Kindle partnership makes sense and is notable, but the fact Blackboard put money into accessing iPhones and other smartphones tells me the most expedient path to young readers appears, to Blackboard, to be through those multi-purpose devices.

The Reading World

Book people must watch Sputnik Moment

David Hoffman, a filmmaker and friend of mine (he once followed me around with a camera for an AT&T “vision video”), has released on YouTube his new film, Sputnik Moment. Everyone should see this, but book lovers in particular, because books found a new vitality after the USSR launched the Sputnik satellite into space.

The film shows how competition from the Soviet Union, through that catalyzing moment of the Sputnik launch, stimulated the United States’ investment in itself through quality education. It’s a lesson we need to re-learn today. David has captured how the value of knowledge found new expressions and technologies evolved in response to an international challenge. The “egghead stigma” the film describes was the real challenge, an internal psychological barrier to success, that faced U.S. education in the 1950s. We’ve developed that same prejudice against education today.


David writes:

When I finished my 2008 feature documentary, Sputnik Mania, critics and allies said that I needed to tell the story of how America changed. On my own, I made this movie with the help of one terrific movie collector in Chicago who had the footage I needed to prove the case. I’m trying to make it available first to the schools of America.

Watch. Learn. Think. Discuss.