Is Apple Set to Revolutionize the Textbook Industry? CNBC

Is Apple Set to Revolutionize the Textbook Industry?

The textbook industry has been waiting for its big digital revolution but so far, it’s been slow going. Apple may be aiming to change that with an announcement that the company has planned for Thursday in New York City. It’s amazing to think that in this digital age, students still start the school year with 10 year-old textbooks with “I love Mike” doodled in the inside cover. Why has the technology been so slow to catch up and how can this finally be changed? The word is that Apple is planning to sell textbooks through its iBooks store directly from textbook publishers such as McGraw-Hill . Apple could also be aiming to integrate those book sales with course material currently offered on iTunes U, Apple’s education portal which allows schools and universities to distribute lesson plans, lab films, and audiobooks through Apple’s free software. In Steve Jobs’ recently-published biography, author Walter Isaacson writes that the textbook industry was one Jobs desperately wanted to change. He had visions of the textbook as a live, document that would include videos, live Web-based text, and other interactive elements. If Apple has achieved this, it could change not only the way textbooks are created, but consumer-aimed literature as well. Digitizing educational material is not a new concept to the publishing industry. They’ve been at it for years with very little success.
Students don’t seem to like the Kindle or other eReaders for te[tbooks because there are so many limitations where students need flexibility: annotation, note taking, highlighting, quick cross referencing, etc. There are apps that allow you to organize your educational life but they don’t integrate with current electronic coursework. And Ama]on does save bookmarks and highlights of your eBooks in the cloud but they are not easy to find, share, and interact with and they don’t integrate with other course material.
If Apple aims to sell truly interactive textbooks through iBooks, it could mean a big boost for the iBooks store, which does not sell anywhere near the volume of digital books that Amazon does through the Kindle store. This could equate to big bucks when you consider how expensive textbooks are in comparison to pop novels. Not to mention that Apple takes a 30 percent cut of every book that is sold through the iBooks store, an industry standard.
Does this mean that all students will get iPads in order to take advantage of Apple’s education plan? Probably not very realistic, although don’t rule it out forever. iPad distribution programs in public schools are being tested in every state in the country. For now, Apple could launch a new textbook and publishing initiative which allows students to access books and other supplementary course material through its free iTunes software, as well as through iPad and other iOS devices for those who have them.
There has also been talk of Apple making a self-publishing tool for interactive textbooks ² like an iMovie for books. I’m less convinced on this one. Why would Apple make an announcement that would compete with publishing companies in New York City, the heart of the publishing industry? My guess is that book publishers are on board with this one and crossing their fingers that it is the digital revolution that they have been waiting for. After all, digital textbooks could mean yearly subscription revenues. Those old “I love Mike” textbooks only make them money about once a decade.

Advertisements

THE REAL THREAT IN THE MIDDLE EAST – F. ZAKARIA

THE REAL THREAT IN THE MIDDLE EAST

By Fareed Zakaria

As 2011 was coming to a close, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a remarkable speech to his parliament. Assessing the Arab Spring barely a year after it had begun, Netanyahu announced triumphantly that it had failed, that events had confirmed his extreme suspicion about the pro-democracy movements in the region. The Arab Spring was moving the Middle East “not forward, but backward.”

Netanyahu seems to endorse the Syrian regime’s approach to political protest. During the uprising in Egypt, he wanted the U.S. to stubbornly cling to Hosni Mubarak–who had cooperated with Israel on mutual security issues–as millions of Egyptians gathered in public squares across the country to demand democracy. But leaving that aside, the evidence for Netanyahu’s pessimism now is that parties advocating an Islamic approach to politics have won pluralities in Egypt’s first post-Mubarak elections. None of these parties have abrogated civil liberties or persecuted minorities or limited women’s rights. Each party has promised to abide by constitutional processes. This may all be a ruse, and they may prove less liberal over time–some surely will–but there is little current evidence from which to draw the sweeping conclusions that Netanyahu did.

In fact, the growth of democracy in the Middle East is under substantial threat, but not from Islamic democrats. The threat arises from the lingering authoritarian impulse of those in power–from ruling political parties and from the military. Obsessed with political Islam, we are ignoring the real danger on the ground.

Consider Egypt. While Netanyahu is fretting about Islamic parliamentarians, the Egyptian military has been busily consolidating its control. A few weeks ago, the government raided the offices of 10 civic organizations whose only mission is to promote democracy, the rule of law and civil rights. It accused a few of these groups, such as Freedom House and the International Republican Institute, of receiving funds from the U.S.

Egypt’s military has used the traditional tools of authoritarian regimes to retain power–arrests, torture, military trials and scaremongering. In Iraq, six years after the country’s first free elections, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is using more unusual methods to cement his grip on the country. He has ordered the arrests of leading politicians–including his own Vice President (who comes from another sect and political party)–centralized the army and intelligence services and inserted his own party, the Dawa, into most of the major organs of government. Many Iraqis believe that Maliki refused to cut a deal with Washington so that American troops would have to leave Iraq and leave him unconstrained.

The most complex case is Turkey, where the former head of the military, General Ilker Basbug–one of 60 officers accused of a conspiracy to topple the democratically elected government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan–was arrested last week. These arrests are cited as one more piece of evidence that Turkey is turning away from its secular roots and toward Islamic fundamentalism.

Prime Minister Erdogan speaks in blunt ways and is a populist. But he has done nothing–no changes in laws or practices–to warrant the charge that he is dismantling secularism. In fact, Erdogan’s government has passed more economic and political reforms than any other Turkish government in history. It has made unprecedented concessions to Turkey’s Kurdish minority. In its quest to secure European Union membership for Turkey, Erdogan’s AK Party has passed hundreds of pieces of legislation over the past several decades to make Turkey’s political system conform to the guidelines set out by the Brussels bureaucrats. And by the way, the Turkish military has, over the years, planned and executed four coups against elected governments, so it is not inconceivable that it had been planning a fifth.

If there is a worry regarding Turkey, it is not about political Islam but about the autocratic tendencies of a wildly popular politician. Turkey has a highly authoritarian legal system, a legacy of its military era. (A human rights group notes that about half the nation’s prisoners have never been charged with crimes.) And Erdogan, having won his third thumping electoral victory, has used this system to harass opponents, including politicians, journalists and generals.

In other words, the danger in the Middle East is not that Islam corrupts but that power corrupts. A more open and democratic system is no panacea, but it will begin to create a more normal, modern politics for the region, one that will allow for populism and demagoguery but also provide greater accountability, transfers of power and media oversight. And that will move the Middle East forward, not back.

 

Wealth Divide Puts Globalization at Risk: Davos Report

Wealth Divide Puts Globalization at Risk: Davos Report

A backlash against rising inequality—evident from the Occupy movement to the Arab Spring—risks derailing the advance of globalization and represents a key threat to economies worldwide, according to the World Economic Forum…

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters.

8 Ways Leaders Can Motivate Employees Beyond Money

8 Ways Leaders Can Motivate Employees Beyond Money

By: Martin Zwilling

Most successful entrepreneurs will tell you that their primary motivation is to “change the world” and to build something lasting, not to make a lot of money. But the conventional wisdom is that employees work for money, above all else. Yet my own experience, and a recent McKinsey survey, leads me to believe that non-cash motivators may be more effective in the long term than financial incentives.

I agree with Charles P. Garcia, who ties motivation most strongly to leadership, in his book “Leadership Lessons of the White House Fellows,” based on this group of more than 600 prominent leaders from every sector of American society. They assert that employees value having strong leaders, who incent them to do their best, just as much if not more than money.

For action, he provides a list of principles for entrepreneurs and managers alike, derived from his first-hand discussions with some of the nation’s greatest leaders. We all need to learn from these as we rebuild employee morale following tough economic times, with limited budgets:

  1. Energize your team. Instead of being the type of leader who sucks the energy away from others, resolve to be the kind of leader who strives to bring passion and positive energy to the workplace every day. Your employees have just helped you pull your company through one of the nation’s worst economic periods. It’s time they had a source of positive energy.
  2. There’s more to life than work. Great leaders have deep reserves of physical, spiritual, and emotional energy, and that energy is usually fueled by a strong and supportive relationship with the people they love, regular exercise, a healthy lifestyle, and setting aside time for reflection.
  3. Put your people first. No organization is better than the people who run it. The fact is that you are in the people business—the business of hiring, training, and managing people to deliver the product or service you provide. If the people are the engine of your success, to be a great leader you need to attend to your people with a laser-like focus.
  4. Act with integrity. In a time when news reports are filled with the stories of private and public leaders who’ve acted inappropriately and have gone against the best interests of their employees or constituents, showing your employees that you value integrity can help motivate them and create a sense of pride for your organization.
  5. Be a great communicator. Leadership is influencing others, and this cannot be achieved without effective communication. If you’re struggling with communicating to your employees, first work on your ability to influence individuals by choosing words that are impactful to carry your message. Then you need to figure out how to communicate to a larger audience.
  6. Be a great listener. The most effective leaders are the ones who take the time to listen not just to their team members’ words but to the priceless hidden meaning beneath them. Remember that during good times and bad, sometimes your employees just need someone to talk to. Communicate to them that you are always waiting with open ears.
  7. Be a problem solver. Post a sign above your office door that reads, “Don’t Bring Me Problems. Bring Me Solutions.” Then set about the task of guiding each person on your team toward the goal of becoming a top-notch problem solver during this crucial period.
  8. Lead through experience and competence, not through title or position. Mentor your employees, encourage them, make partners out of them, and your organization is sure to benefit. If you want to survive the tough economy, that’s exactly the kind of leadership motif you need for your organization.

The fundamentals of leadership don’t change between good times and bad. But when money is in short supply, these principles can be the difference between success and failure. Now is the time to start motivating your employees by applying these principles, and your team will lead you through the hard times.

 

A POST-AMERICAN WORLD IN PROGRESS

A POST-AMERICAN WORLD IN PROGRESS

Why emerging powers didn’t lead in 2011 and won’t in the coming year

By Fareed Zakaria

The past year has been filled with tumultuous events—the Arab Spring, the euro-zone crisis. But the most striking trend of 2011, one that will persist in 2012, was one that got little notice: the emerging powers that weren’t.

By now everyone knows that a new and rising group of nations, including China, India, Brazil and Russia, are reshaping the globe. Yet if 2011 demonstrated anything, it was the inability of these countries to have much influence beyond their borders. They continue to grow their economies, but they all face internal and external challenges that make them less interested and less capable of exercising power on an international or even regional scale.

Let’s start with China. Chinese growth continues to be robust, though clearly the government is worried about the inflationary effects of the massive stimulus program it implemented after the financial crisis, which has created a boom-bust cycle and inflationary pressures across the country. The regime, however, is expert at dealing with economic challenges; political ones are harder. China faces a transfer of power in 2012 that is unprecedented. About 70% of the country’s senior leadership— the top 200 or so members of the Central Committee—will be replaced by autumn. The new leaders—Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang—are the first generation that was not personally blessed and selected by Deng Xiaoping, the architect of modern China. Perhaps as a result, we are beginning to see factions develop within the Chinese Communist Party along regional, functional and ideological lines. The change comes at a delicate moment. Beijing’s foreign policy assertiveness over the past two years on the South China Sea and related territorial issues has provoked other Asian powers to stand up to China, band together more closely and ask openly for American involvement in the Pacific. The result is that Beijing is now quieter on the regional stage. Global leadership is unthinkable. No Chinese leader today has the authority or the inclination to make big, bold decisions that would involve, say, shoring up the euro or initiating a new East-West climate compact.

India is even more obsessed with domestic affairs than China is. With a bewildering array of local and regional pulls on it, the central government has had little scope for foreign policy—or indeed any policy. Facing opposition on –every front, with state and national elections looming, the coalition government of Manmohan Singh is like a patient on life support grabbing for the oxygen mask, simply trying to survive.

Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill noted in late December, on the 10th anniversary of his coining the term BRIC, that the greatest disappointment among those emerging stars has been India. Indian growth rates are declining, its currency is the worst performer in all of Asia, foreign investment is slowing, and government policy has alternated between populism and paralysis. In this context, foreign policy has been almost entirely secondary, confined to regional issues like Pakistan and Afghanistan, and even in those showing little in the way of leadership.

The other emerging powers face their own challenges. Russia has presidential elections in 2012, though the outcome is predetermined. Still, it faces new political dissent on a scale not seen since the rise of Vladimir Putin. Abroad, it has a skeptical Europe on one border, an expansive China on another and a hostile and increasingly radical Muslim population on a third. Brazil is in better shape, though its economy actually contracted in the third quarter of 2011. (If that happens in the fourth quarter, it will technically be entering a recession.) And its moves to become a regional leader have run up against a Mexico that is determined not to be forgotten or dominated. Turkey has been the one emerging power that has successfully projected influence in its region, but there are natural limits to that influence. The rise of the rest is real, but the emerging powers are not ready for prime time.

The U.S. has been able to fill the leader–ship vacuum quite effectively in some places. It has deftly expanded its role in Asia; continues to forge strong ties with India, Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey; and has maintained a good relationship with Russia on nuclear-weapons reduction. But American influence is not what it used to be. During the Mexican and Asian crises of the mid-1990s, the U.S. managed global economic problems almost unilaterally. Today no one expects or believes that Washington could solve the euro-zone crisis or direct the outcome of the Arab Spring. It is a post-American world out there, one characterized more by the absence of great powers than by their presence.