Shmoop figures out that DRM is dead in ed

Shmoop has figured it out...Anyone else coming up with a good way to license e-materials in a way that makes sense for schools?
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor on

I've featured Shmoop before, calling out the company for its solid content and modern approach to providing students with powerful learning tools in easily digestible formats. As I noted in another earlier post about Shmoop:

...with Shmoop, we’re way beyond Cliffs Notes. Rather, Shmoop provides portable and/or Internet-accessible guides for a variety of topics that can live on iPhones, Nooks, Kindles, and now, Sony Readers.

One of my major complaints about e-readers, e-texts, and other related materials for schools has always been the issue of DRM. With dead-tree books, it's simple: 1 class uses them and then another class gets them the following semester (or quarter, or week, or whatever, as the length and curricular needs dictate). How do you pass around a book on a Sony Reader or an iPad if it isn't an EPUB with an open license? You certainly can't do it with books from the Kindle store.

Shmoop, however, has solved this problem by providing site licenses (announced today) and bulk downloads of their app-based materials for schools and libraries. According to the press release,

Shmoop...now offers awesome, affordable group rates on its subscription products: Test Prep (for SAT, PSAT, AP Exams) and Teacher’s Editions. Shmoop Site Licenses are available to schools, districts, and public libraries of all shapes and sizes. Shmoop will also give a group (rate) hug to homeschooling collectives. Shmoop Site Licenses allow schools and libraries to give all of their students, teachers, and patrons complimentary access to Shmoop’s subscription products anywhere they have Web access – at the library, at home, or on a smartphone...Every user chooses his or her own username and password, so there is no hassle for the school or library offering Shmoop services.

Specifically, the Test Prep materials are comprised of "online prep [courses that include] deep content reviews, hundreds of drill questions and 2-3 full-length interactive Practice Exams." The Teacher editions, on the other hand, provide great lesson planning resources with both paid and free content:

Shmoop Teacher’s Editions include:

  • Free: hundreds of standards-aligned classroom activities and assignments, a primer for teachers who haven’t taught the topic previously, and interdisciplinary readings in English and Social Studies
  • Premium Content Available via Site Licenses or Sold Individually: quizzes with answer keys, discussion and essay questions, current events and pop culture articles, and multimedia

Many of these Teacher's Editions have corresponding student materials available as iPhone, iPad, and Android apps. Schools can purchase these apps in bulk (currently, only those for iOS are available in bulk), making it easy for students to download and use them.

It figures that the founder of Shmoop, Ellen Siminoff, was a founding executive at Yahoo!. It took a Silicon Valley bigwig to make some progress on DRM for educational materials. Anyone else out there care to follow Shmoop's lead? I'm sure we'd all appreciate it.

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