Sunday, July 4, 2010

E Is for Explosion: E-Readers, Etextbooks, Econtent, Elearning, E-Everything

Social media and learning technology have been hot for some time now, but with the sudden proliferation of ebooks, e-readers, etextbooks, and interactive digital content, technology in education is approaching its flash point.

In case you weren’t feeling it, welcome to the revolution! By the end of 2010, Gen Y members will outnumber Baby Boomers, and 96% of this new generation has already joined a social network, according to author and social media pundit Erik Qualman. Radio took 38 years to reach 50 million users, television took 13 years, the internet just 4 years, the iPod only 3—and what about Facebook? The king of social media added 100 million users in less than 9 months.

At the same time, a 2009 U.S. Department of Education study showed online students outperforming their face-to-face counterparts, while 1 in 6 higher education students enrolled in online courses. Also, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 57% of experts agree with the prediction that, enabled by information technologies, the pace of learning in the next decade will increasingly be set by student choices. In 10 years, most students will spend at least part of their “school days” in virtual classes, grouped online with others who share their interests, mastery, and skills.


And how does the rock star of gadgets, the iPad, change things? The iPad fallout is just now arriving in classrooms near you. For starters, there’s an app that makes chemistry more student-accessible in 2 minutes than a century of instruction has ever done (see The Elements). And all those publishers aforementioned? They have big plans for the iPad. More on that soon.


[snip] ... [W]hat began decades back as a dream and a vision is now a solid reality. Technological (bandwidth, devices), cultural (tech-native students), and economic factors (desperate schools and desperately innovative companies) have converged to yield the current scene. Not since the advent of Gutenburg’s printing press has there been such radical change to the very core of education—the written word. Nor has a change been this widespread—or rapid.

But really—what do you think? Overhyped? Overwhelmed? Excited? Jaded? Clear your mind for just a few moments—that’s all it may take before technology advances yet again to blow away any possible preconceptions or misconceptions you may have. [snip. And as seeing is believing, here are some of those innovative companies to watch in the swiftly evolving etextbook, econtent, and digital learning space:

Discovery Education ( >  A content company at its core, what was once a supplemental resource house has matured into a full-on replacement for basal textbooks, with historic, large-scale adoptions of its content happening in states such as Oregon and set to happen in Florida and Louisiana. Built-in assessments and hordes of interactive, dynamic, engaging, standards-aligned content  ... .

Shmoop ( >  This isn’t your father’s CliffsNotes. In fact, it’s more than that by far. [snip]. It’s a hip, smart, consistently humorous destination that will have you hooked on the humanities—and then some. Teachers are raving. Students are learning. Love of great literature is blossoming. Find it on the iPhone, Kindle, nook, and Sony Reader.

CourseSmart ( > With 10,751 titles available in 1,074 course areas and across 117 disciplines, this 3-year-old company is just getting started. Etextbooks save students an average of $67 per book and up to 50% compared to print textbooks, and you’ve just found one of the largest single sources of etextbooks available anywhere. [snip]

Follett’s CaféScribe ( > [snip] With ebooks residing so close to the social media universe, CaféScribe was bound to happen. Follett, the nation’s largest provider of library materials and library technology to K–12 schools and a leading operator of college bookstores, lets students form virtual study groups, share notes and insights, and other Facebook-y kinds of collaboration.

Zinio ( > “Over 100 literary masterpieces, digitized and bound in the finest electronic leather. [snip]. The classics are free, and, in partnership with McGraw-Hill, hundreds of textbooks are up to 50% off print prices.

CengageBrain ( > Formerly iChapters, this site offers textbooks at up to 60% off, etextbooks always 50% off, and “eChapters” are as low as $1.99. It also offers audio versions of texts and an option to rent instead of buy printed texts. [snip]

Taylor & Francis ( > ... [T]his leading international academic publisher isn’t fading into the back of the library stacks anytime soon. Not with more than 1,000 journals, about 1,800 new titles each year, and a backlist in excess of 20,000 specialist titles. Its ebookstore features “eCompile”—readers can browse and buy individual pages or chapters from various ebooks and merge them to create their own customized e-reference book.

eCampus ( > Offering high-speed search options, electronic note-taking capabilities, and online and downloadable versions, this site offers more than 4,000 popular etextbook titles and is adding more every day. Users generally subscribe to an etextbook for 180 days and can add notes to, read, and search the book until their time is up.

Wikibooks ( > A project of Wikimedia, this “open-content textbooks collection that anyone can edit” currently has 2,463 academic textbooks with 34,753 pages—even Wikipedia started with a single page. [snip].

OverDrive ( > A leading distributor of ebooks, the company has been around since the heyday of CD-ROMs, but much has changed, and so has OverDrive. Its School Download Library provides K–12 ebook and audiobook download,  ... . Like other companies, it offers ebooks for iPads, Sony Readers, PDAs, smartphones, and other platforms and devices.

Copia ( > The first social e-reading experience “designed so you can discover, connect and share what’s meaningful,” this company isn’t just changing the format—it’s “rewriting the whole reading experience,” as it claims. [snip].It offers conversations, notes, and friends all in an attractive environment, plus good-looking e-reader devices with trendy names such as Ocean and Tidal.

Complete Curriculum ( > This etextbook provider offers teachers a web-based instructional interface with curriculum supplements, daily lessons, and a publishing platform to help meet rigorous academic standards. Developed by teachers, academics, and editors, it offers complete digital textbooks with an academic year’s worth of content and activities,  ... .

There’s certainly more where that came from. Technology in education is really approaching its flash point. We’ve never had such an opportunity as we do now to transform learning. [snip]

Victor Rivero is a contributing writer for MultiMedia & Internet@Schools . He is based in Colorado Springs, Colo. Reach him by email at  

‘The First Completely Interactive Textbook Site’

Macmillan has a new imprint > DynamicBooks (, an interactive digital textbook platform on which educators and authors can actually create personalized textbooks using a combination of their own and Macmillan-developed content. Authoring tools allow them to edit their own stuff and then present it to the world—or at least to their class. [snip].


Goodbye Flat PDFs, Hello Interactivity

From New York-based startup ScrollMotion (, there’s more interactivity to come. Most of the major players in the educational publishing arena ...  have not missed the fact that last year, this young company proved it knows how to work an iPhone app. That’s why it’s jumping on the iPad wagon this year, inking deals to create interactive texts that will do the following:

• Play embedded videos
• Record lectures linked to chapters
• Offer digitally interactive self-assessment tests
• Provide annotation capabilities and live glossaries highlighting words of interest
• Pose interactive charts, graphs, equations, and sentences for study and engagement

This all will basically stretch the boundaries of what we now call “reading a book” into something more like what we might soon describe as “an interactive, touchscreen viewing experience.”

Skiff Magic

Do you ever wonder about that tech magic you saw in some of the Harry Potter movies? For example, the map with real-time footprints? The book that writes itself? How about the electronic newspapers with their ever-moving photos and headlines? Imaginative, yes. Fiction, not quite. Have a look at Palo Alto, Calif.-based Skiff (, an e-reading, advertising, and digital media company that produces the Skiff Reader, an oversized yet sleek e-paper, nonglass, touchscreen display unit with four times as many pixels as most e-readers. [snip]

Ebook vs. Printed Book


> Availability. More than 2 million free books are available for download as of August 2009.
>> Portability, storage. E-readers potentially contain thousands of books.
>>> Language access. Translations are broadly available.
>>>> Readability. Low light? [snip]. It may not matter as the book may light itself in addition to providing changeable fonts for reader comfort.
>>>>> Costs. Initial cost is greater, but e-readers quickly make up for it with very inexpensive books. [snip]
>>>>>> Security. If damaged, backup and recovery is an option.
>>>>>>> Distribution. Ebooks are less expensive and easier for self-publishing authors; they also enable instant delivery.
>>>>>>>> Green. Ebooks use no paper and no ink. [snip]


> Changing technology. Formats, file types, proprietary limitations, and unreliable PDF and epublishing standards are all issues.
>> Availability. Not all books are available as ebooks—yet.
>>> Aesthetics. A single book is an authentically crafted, wrap-worthy gift; [snip].
>>>> Power, shelf-life, durability. Books don’t turn off, get lost in cyberspace, or break ... .
>>>>>Artistry/author’s vision. Screens are for rapid grazing and fast reading, and they may be less pleasurable. A printed work conveys quality. [snip]
>>>>>> Costs. E-readers far exceed the costs of a single book; some ebooks are nearly the same price as their print counterparts. [snip]
>>>>>>> Security. E-readers are an easy target for thieves, and then your whole library is gone.
>>>>>>>>Limitations. Screen resolutions, unusable formats, glare, and difficulty holding the device can all pose problems.
>>>>>>>>>Digital rights management, piracy. Resale or loaning is illegal; [snip]
>>>>>>>>>>Not so green. They’re toxic, nonbiodegradeable, and contain batteries.

Source: Wikipedia



No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.