Etextbooks - what's not to like?

The advantages of etextbooks seem obvious, yet student acceptance is still low. Marydee Ojala explores the latest etextbook trends and initiatives.

<< back Page 2 of 2

The biggest problem Glushko encountered in creating his intelligent content textbook was ereaders. They're not as intelligent as his intelligent content.

Most cannot handle what he's creating because they're not open or extensible enough. The content depends on the capabilities of the readers, which Glushko hopes will soon catch up.

One company that may have a remedy for Glushko's dilemma is Kno, which announced its Advance platform, designed to turn a flat file or a PDF into an interactive ebook in minutes. McGraw Hill Higher Education is an early proponent of the system.

Increasing acceptance rates

If Glushko's approach catches on, and more professors create intelligent content texts, the acceptance rate for etextbooks may go higher. That already seems to be the case in parts of Africa. South African publisher Van Schaik is using Ingram's Vitalsource Bookshelf platform to offer etextbooks to university students. Unlike the situation in the US, South African students have less access to computers, so the Vitalsource platform, which lets students read textbooks on any internet-enabled device, including smartphones and tablets, and can even be read offline via an app, is a huge improvement. Publishers such as LexisNexis, Juta, Wiley, Elsevier, and Oxford University Press are represented by Van Schaik.

In Europe, the eTernity initiative (European Textbooks Reusability Networking & Interoperability; is exploring etextbook ecosystems across Europe. The project is sponsored by CEN Workshop on Learning Technologies (CEN WS-LT). If successful, eTernity will put standards into place to establish 'a common reference framework for European textbook marketplaces'. At its first meeting, held January 16, 2013 in Brussels, eTernity stakeholders discussed accessibility, interactive and multimedia content, quality assurance, alignment with curricula, varying content to meet individual learning needs, and etextbook interactions with learning systems.

Some developments with etextbooks, however, rank high on the creepiness scale. CourseSmart, in January 2013, announced an expansion to its analytics program. Still in beta, CourseSmart Analytics captures what students do with the texts-including page views, notes taken, and highlighting-and reports individual student's engagement with course material to faculty, who can then challenge "at risk" students before they fail the class.

Etextbooks that are static have little to recommend them to the academic community. It's innovation, effective exploitation of technology to encourage an interactive learning environment, and insertion into learning systems that will boost the acceptance of etextbooks.

Marydee Ojala is Editor-in-Chief of Online Searcher: Information Discovery, Technology, Strategies and Advisory Board Member, Internet Librarian International.

Image courtesy of CollegeDegree360 via Flickr.

<< back Page 2 of 2