Enterprise Mobility & Connected Devices Blog

Turning the Page on e-Textbooks

by Chrysanthos Nicholas | 07/31/2013

The fact that today’s book stores are more a relic than a real destination for those in search of textbooks reflects the digitalization of an entire industry. Both Borders and Cengage have declared bankruptcy over the last two years and companies like Barnes and Noble have tirelessly transitioned their strategy towards an online presence as opposed to their brick and mortar beginnings. It is therefore easy to cite the e-textbook as the next cutting edge in disruptive technology, especially due to price advantages posed by resellers like Amazon and their aggressive strategy towards digital content.  Take for example the survey released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group that revealed seven in ten college students claimed not to have purchased a textbook at least once due to prices that were too high.

The pricing advantage of digital content however is not the only disruption the e-textbook poses for its traditional counterpart. In fact, the e-textbook market is only in its infancy as the following capabilities pose a threat to not only replace the textbook but re-imagine the quintessential learning experience:

  • Capacity to embed interactive tools  and multimedia
  • Ease of access to real time, updated content and Open Educational Resources (free, open licensed resources for the public)
  • New distribution channels that offer instant, ubiquitous access to content, cannibalizing traditional models of distribution
  • Ability to leverage big data and analytics

Simply transferring textbook content onto a digital platform is only the first step for the e-textbook market. In the horizon we see a complete transformation of once static content that promises to change how content is purchased, relationships with authors and the classroom as a whole. As such, the future of the e-textbook market boasts the following opportunities:

  • Embedded assessments and interactive tools that align with core curriculum standards
  • Social and collaborative platforms for discussion between students
  • Leveraging data based predictive analytics and personalized learning
  • OER based on established and proven pedagogy
  • Ubiquitous support and resources for OER

As these opportunities become realized, established dominance by major textbook and publishing companies will be questioned, encouraging consolidation of the market. Smaller vendors specializing in these capabilities like Inkling and CaféScribe may be acquired while major vendors will be forced to continue to adapt to a changing textbook ecosystem as Pearson has already shown through its OER project Blue Sky. The rise of OER will severely disrupt existing textbook market control and bring legal battles over copywrited material to the forefront. Those looking to succeed will need to look beyond simple, digitalized content and embrace the change of the learning environment.