University World News,
published a Special Report on e-Books in Higher Education. London
I am posting my article which appeared in this Special Report.
The full report can be accessed at http://www.universityworldnews.com/
China and to dominate education e-books India
These companies are making a big push into the market or promoting their devices to publishers and content providers. Publishers in
The large storehouse of content is integrated with e-readers as free e-books, which helps to familiarise readers with screen reading. That is important because some in the industry believe that once students start to use e-readers, tempted by the free content, publishers can later charge for add-ons such as student assessment packages for course tutors.
Chinese textbook publishers are using the same standardised format, unlike the different standards hampering the e-book market elsewhere in the world, and they are delivering open access e-books to students through CERNET,
Although e-books are still in their infancy, the reading devices from
Publishers and aggregators have started to source these cheaper e-readers and sell in local markets across the world. Their ePub compatibility gives them an advantage, so it is likely that Chinese devices will percolate to every corner of the world.
Many technology companies - big ones like Accenture, Tata Interactive, Aptara, and hundreds of startups and smaller players that have mushroomed in Pondicherry, Pune, Bangalore and the environs of New Delhi - are involved in digitising.
But rather than simply copying paper books, academic content from
e-Books and higher education
e-Books for the higher education audience evolved with Project Gutenberg which provides free e-books and is the oldest digital library, now with 33,000 e-books in its collection. The initial focus was reference books and out of print titles. STM (science, technical and medical) and reference publishers initiated and digitised their current titles and backlists, with reference libraries an assured market for such endeavours.
Then online books available on a subscription basis, the '"cluster purchase'" of e-book collections and downloadable e-books entered the academic field, making access to e-books more convenient for researchers.
Another game changer in open access e-books is the free online textbook offerings of Flat World Knowledge, used by more than 40,000 students on more than 400
e-Books are preferred by students because of the price advantage over the print version. On average, e-books are 50% to 60% cheaper than the print version. As textbook usage by students is generally limited to the period of their course, online textbooks sold on a subscription basis have started to gain some acceptance in the
Digital book rentals and chapter downloads are also being offered. In the United Kingdom Amil Tolia's start up Reference Tree is generating interest with its announcement that it will offer chapter-wise academic content online.
Universities understand the utility of using e-books as textbooks. Initiatives by the US-based company CourseSmart featuring the textbooks of major publishers have helped digital textbooks gain access across
But a device that could transform the higher education space in the near future will be the Apple iPad. The launching of textbook apps could make the iPad a popular choice for students.
Digitised textbook content needs to be more widespread so that students have a digital option for every print textbook.
Winning over students
However, despite the publishing industry and aggregators' efforts to convert print buyers to digital, the average student still has an affinity for the printed book. Printed books outdo e-books in portability, ease of use, and as a gadget-free experience, while the price of e-readers is still considered high for the average student.
Adoption of digital books will increase proportionally with the decrease in price of e-readers. Devices from
However the uptake rate of e-textbooks in emerging nations is currently bleak.
Authors, editors, instructional designers and multimedia specialists need to understand students' requirements in creating digital content. These include students' need to annotate e-books and provide interactive links.
Simply putting PDF content on a digital device does not do justice to digital media. Enhanced Editions and Vooks, which combine video, internet links and text, are demonstrating new ways to produce digital content.
eTextbooks can be well integrated into undergraduate courses. Engineering and the sciences need illustrations and detailed photographs. Digital editions can accommodate greater detail and clarity than print versions, while micro zooming options can benefit biology students.
While e-textbooks can integrate features impossible to offer in print versions, the cost of development would make their cost significantly higher than for printed books.
Meanwhile the multitude of file formats of e-books is still a challenge, although ePub is evolving as a more popular format, thanks to the efforts of the International Digital Publisher's Forum (IDPF) - the trade and standards organisation dedicated to the development and promotion of electronic publishing - which has adopted it.
Off-shoring digital development to countries such as
The Chinese invented paper in 105 AD and pioneered printing too.
* Joseph Tryble is based in
Joseph Tryble @ Kerala