The ebook wave is upon us. Digital textbooks, with all their richness, flexibility, adaptability, and flair, are more than a happening thing. They have happened, thanks to creative multiple-media authors and publishers as well as the multiple platforms and buy/borrow/distribute models coming online. The market is here, although it’s still sorting itself out.
This issue of Internet@Schools offers a range of perspectives on digital textbooks and digital learning. Our cover story was written by David Siminoff, founder and chief creative officer of Shmoop. If you don’t know the company yet, it’s an imaginative content provider that has a way with words. David makes the case for moving down the digital textbook road with Shmoop-like style: “Learning is a sense-based experience—sight, sound, taste, touch are all part of the process in which bodies digest knowledge,” he notes. The experience requires sharing. “And that kind of intimate interactivity operating on so many levels is a connection that just can’t happen in a stapled morass of dead trees and ink.” For more, read his piece, The Etext Revolution: Rewriting the Textbook Model (page 8).
Then Idea Watch columnist Carolyn Foote weighs in on digital publishing from her perspective as a teacher-librarian. Not surprisingly, she’s all in favor of traveling down the digital road, but she’s done some thinking and, frankly, a reality check on the digital textbook scene. At issue, for starters, she notes: “More and more ebook vendors are entering the market, yet there are still many particular needs that schools have that are simply not being met. Ebook models that suit school functionality aren’t being developed fast enough, publishers aren’t sorting out their issues fast enough, and as more and more schools go 1:1, either with tablets or laptops, the need to address this issue for schools is growing.” See more of her views on what’s really needed to make digital textbooks work in schools in her column For Ebooks, the Future Is Now … Maybe (page 26).
And in his Tools for Learning roundup for the issue, Victor Rivero offers a straight-up look at a wide range of examples of etexts and the devices they can be used on … after citing some interesting stats and assertions to set the scene. For example, “Over the next few years, textbooks should be obsolete, according to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. As he finishes out his tenure, his hopes may come partly true; some projections put the U.S. textbook market at nearly half digital by 2017 with no signs of letting up.” See Victor's feature, Digital Textbooks: Show Me the Future! starting on page 12.
David Hoffman , editor