The textbook landscape is changing so rapidly that it's hard to pinpoint current state in order to benchmark it against possible evolutionary paths. [snip]. But that industry is fast-reforming and the reforms are worth noting for both consumers and competitors alike. Here's a brief recap of some of the activity.
In 2009 digital textbooks generated an estimated $40 million in sales and in 2010 it is expected to grow to $80 million — but that’s still just 1 percent of the total higher education textbook market.
Digital textbooks offer a number of real benefits to both educators and students, including convenient access, cost … , search/findability, chapterization, integration with online ancillary products, etc. eBooks in general are one of the most-cited emerging technology trends affecting education, … .
One of the leading providers of digital textbooks is CourseSmart. They offer a wide array of textbooks (7,000 +) and students can choose between online and downloadable versions, … . CourseSmart is a very real reformative option being developed by the textbook players themselves -- it is a partnership of Pearson, Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill Education, Bedford, Freeman & Worth Publishing Group (Macmillan), and John Wiley & Sons.
Additional digital textbook delivery vendors include Jumpbooks, Zinio, eCampus, and Universal Digital Textbooks. [snip]. And this will only become more prevalent -- K-12 initiatives like the CK-12 Foundation's FlexBooks program increase the likelihood that today's K-12 learners will grow accustomed to, and expect, eTextbooks as they enter Higher Education. [snip].
Online collaborative environments (as a subset of digital textbooks) are being introduced that fundamentally change the learning model and hence challenge the textbook model. CafeScribe is a platform owned by bookstore giant Follett that allows students to "view, study, and collaborate around eTextbooks and PDF files". [snip].
The digital textbook environment allows for many additional innovations, including the ability to change the fundamental authorship model. FlatWorld Knowledge is one of those innovators. The company provides free, open-content, customizable textbooks for faculty. [snip]. Connexions is another offering -- "an environment for collaboratively developing, freely sharing, and rapidly publishing scholarly content on the Web." [snip]. Free textbooks can be found at Textbook Revolution and Textbooks Free.
The era of the 'app' has introduced new options for textbook providers as well. eTextbook apps have been introduced by Barnes and Noble, CourseSmart, and all the major publishers. [snip]. And new entrants like Inkling combine all the best elements of the categories described above. Many publishers are inking deals with companies like ScrollMotion to develop the apps. [snip].
The nonprofit group Project Tomorrow surveyed 281,000 students from K–12 in all 50 U.S. states in 2008 and asked them about digital textbooks. Here were their desired features and functionality:
- Ability to personalize book with highlights and notes (63%)
- Self-assessment (62%) or self-paced tutorials (46%)
- Links to real-time data like NASA and Google Earth (52%)
- Tap into an online tutor whenever necessary (53%)
- Link to PowerPoints of lectures supporting content (55%)
- Explore concepts through games (57%) or animations and simulations (55%)
- Access videos (51%), videoconferences (30%), podcasts from subject experts (34%)
- Create own podcasts or videos to support learning (48%)