Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Digital Textbooks -- Heavy Topics, Light Reading

Students with mobile phones seemingly attached to their heads are common sights on college campuses. But coming soon to a college near you will be steams of students with iPad and Kindle readers under their arms -- because digital textbooks are a natural, for a number of reasons.

Using digitexts on an iPad, students can highlight text in any of six different colors to categorize topics. They can jot notes or use the iPad's built-in microphone to record audio notes. They can search for text by subject, topic and other criteria. They can even play videos
embedded in the digital text to bring engineering and science to life in ways that ink on paper never could -- just think how rapidly the learning curve would rise if nuclear engineering students could follow a lecturer into a reactor and ride the coolant water on a tour, following reactant, from refined ore to nuclear waste. Students can take interactive quizzes and track their right and wrong answers on the device. They'll affix e-notes and insert bookmarks. And they'll eventually do group study and tutoring from remote locations.

There's discussion that online bookstores will allow students to buy individual chapters, so professors will be able to assign specific content  rather than entire volumes in which substantial sections sometimes go unread. Publishers -- or even professors -- could update digitexts as soon as new material surfaced. New editions would be unnecessary because publishers could simply issue online updates, much as software publishers update their products.

Skeptics immediately point to price as a deal-breaker -- at $499-829, the iPad seems a bit hefty for most students. But the low-end $499 version plus inexpensive e-texts will be a drop in the bucket in comparison to the costly ink-and-paper tomes that become used books or doorstops after a semester.

Publishers have jumped on the digitext wagon. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Kaplan Publishing, McGraw-Hill Education and Pearson will be among the first to transform 500-page monsters into zeros and ones that're iPad-friendly.


It's a brave new world for authors, readers and publishers. Read more...

E-Reader Applications for Today, and Beyond

Inkling Lets Textbook Makers Embrace the iPad

Students Need iPad for College Text Books