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A Stalled Digital/Mobile Content Revolution?
September 8, 2011 - 9:31pm

Is the promise of a shift from physical to digital content stalled? By academic year 2011-2012 I expected to discover, receive, and consume most content digitally. And while I always thought that our academic curricular content would lag somewhat behind the move to digital in our consumer/entertainment content, I did not expect things to be so static.

Evidence For A Stall:

Video Streaming: Let's call it like it is. Netflix streaming sucks. The loss of the Starz deal is not going to make things any better. My Netflix DVD queue contains 419 movies. My queue, 168. And I don't want to particularly watch any of those 168, while I can't wait for my next DVD (Breaking Bad, Season 3, Disc 3) to arrive. At one point I thought that academic libraries would be able to stop buying DVD's, and just give every student, professor and staff member a Netflix streaming subscription. This was a dumb argument when I made it (streaming movies can't be mashed-up and edited, Netflix had no university deal etc.), but is even dumber in light of the poor streaming collection.

E-Books: I love my Kindle, and I think the Amazon e-book buying experience is terrific. But Amazon, B&N, and the publishers are trading short-term profits for the long term advantages of building loyal (and paying) readers. I came to e-books already a fully formed book lover. The books I fell in love with are ones that I borrowed, either from family, friends or a library. Amazon, B&N, and the publishers have done very very little to allow (much less encourage) book lending. Lending books encourages buying books, as norms of reciprocity ensure that sooner or later the lendee will want to become the lender. DRM will prove bad for authors and bad for readers.

Course Curriculum: Try an experiment. Decide that all of the curriculum for your course must be available digitally, viewable on a mobile device. I bet you will have problems. Course video and course monographs may not be available digitally, may be prohibitively expensive, may not work on the range of mobile devices your students carry, or all of the above. The work involved in figuring out how to make all of your course content digital and mobile ready, and then figuring out how to get it to your students, will be way more effort than if you just did it the old fashioned way with paper and course reserves.

Should we be pushing, as both academics and consumers, to get this digital revolution in high gear?

Are we wrong that today's high school students will expect to consume their curricular and fun content on whatever mobile device they arrive with on campus (and will ignore it if is not available)?

Has the digital/mobile revolution really stalled?


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