E-Book Revolution?

February 14, 2012

Just a couple of weeks ago Apple announced its iBooks2 initiative as a way to help educators create and make cheaply available books that could  be viewed on their iPad.  I’ve just learned today of a company called Inkling that is attempting to market to professional publishers to assist them in creating e-books.

I am very interested in the possibilities of e-books and do believe that these will be the wave of the future.  However, many of the current forms that e-books take is really not much different than a traditional paper bound textbook.  E-books have been available for years and typically consist of the publisher taking the existing book and putting into an electronic form.  My anecdotal reports have been that students typically do not enjoy this or prefer this over a paper bound book.

The newer publishing software, however, promises opening new doors to e-publishing.  More interactivity, more media.  So I went to Inkling’s site, got the free chapter from an intro psych textbook and took a look.  I was actually pretty disappointed.  This book, though interactive in the sense that you tap on a term and a box pops up with the definition is really not much different than the existing e-books already out there.

I’m ready for the new evolution of e-books.  Something with much more interactivity, more hands-on learning using electronically delivered applications, and perhaps more self-quizzes to test for comprehension.  It will take creativity (something that many of us academic writers tend to lack) and vision.  For me it will almost take having a creative team much more so than the current model of textbook publishing.  It will also take more consistent updating and willingness by authors to consistently revise and change the content as new information arises.

I see a bright future, but one that seems to be taking its sweet time in getting here.  I do believe that these will soon be a demand for this form of textbook (within the next 5 years). Those in the publishing business need to get on the front end of the wave and take a risk.  I wonder if I’ll be one of those authors….future sabbatical project perhaps!