E-Books: Evolution or Revolution?

e-Books are evolving and causing a publication revolution.

While on a recent flight to Wisconsin, I picked up the copy of Delta Sky Magazine from my seat back (yes, I forgot to pack a newspaper). In it was an article that was about e-books and publishing. The article broke down devices used for e-books and implications on books as we know them. I am a new owner of an iPad and also bought a Nook e-reader for my children. I’m a gadget guy, so no one had to convince me that these were great devices. However, it’s been notable that many people who are starting to gobble up these devices are not. They are normal people. 10 million iPads have been sold since released in spring of 2010. Interesting also were some of the implications of e-books and the education publishing industry which I am a part of.

Most schools are only just now starting down a digital path. Most still have a foot firmly planted in a print world. There are many reasons too. Print books are a known product, they are durable, and tangible. E-books are a little mysterious. They live in a world of digital impulses, encapsulated in a hardware device, and the lifespan of this market to date can be measured less than a decade. Still, there is no denying the promise of e-books. Cost to create and bring to market are cheaper, distribution is easier. But does that alone make them better? If they are only digital reproductions of a page that would otherwise appear in a print book, then the answer is no.

Some of the best books I’ve found so far on my iPad are called “enhanced e-books.” Meaning they contain animation, embedded video, etc. They are not static pages but have interactivity built at the heart. I’m drawn to these books because they provide my children experiences that they can not otherwise have access too with a print book. As consumers become accustomed to these types of experiences, they will hasten a quick movement in the education market. The text is already and will become a part of a ever-growing multimedia experience with content. These new e-books will utilize all the power of the device that holds them. The book will be more than just expository. It will utilize input from the reader, adapt to their needs, provide social media outlets, and more.

The speed of all this coming to market is racing faster than anyone can really adjust to. Computers and digital devices have always been notoriously susceptible to being out-of-date when they hit the shelf. This continues…what does that mean for the e-books made today? Not only will publishers like TCI have to stay on top of changes in knowledge that can affect content, but they will also have to be super flexible to changes in the devices and systems they use. We have moved our e-books to online as we believe it gives us the best chance to adapt to new devices, new speeds, and new capabilities. Students can use interactive tools to highlight, have text read to them, and can be challenged to review key concepts via LearnTCI. We want a student whose district purchases a LearnTCI subscription now to have a state-of-the-art e-text in 2016, not 2010. So it will improve as new capabilities come about.

As a result of e-books, devices that read them, and consumer demand, publishing will change more in the next 10 years than it has changed in the last 200 years. Scared? Don’t be. We’re on a misty bridge on the way to a desirable location.

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