E-Readers for Education: No Longer Just a "Novel" Idea
According to a recent report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, over 20% of American adults have read an e-book in the last year. When asked about their use of e-content more broadly, nearly 43% of Americans age 16 and older say they have either read an e-book or other online long-form content, such as online magazines or journals. Clearly digital reading is no longer “novel.”
A rise in e-reading naturally has far reaching implications for education, especially in the digital textbook marketplace. The increasing popularity of such e-content has spurred innovation and now a number of key players are vying to bring digital reading further into the mainstream. Inkling, which makes interactive textbooks for the iPad and iPhone, recently announced a partnership with Follett, the largest college bookseller in the country. Inkling’s titles can be bought in store or online and include an assortment of features unheard of in the textbooks of the “old days” (not so long ago) – video, interactive assessments, animation, audio, slideshows, and 3D models. The partnership also includes a noteworthy feature that allows students to purchase only three chapters of a text at a reduced price.
Microsoft, which recently announced that it has invested $300m in Barnes & Noble, is forming a new division called “Newco” which will unite the bookstore’s digital and college divisions. This strategic partnership is intended to “accelerate the transition to e-reading, which is revolutionizing the way people consume, create, share and enjoy digital content.” Newco’s first project is to launch a Windows-based NOOK application, further extending the device’s reach.
Many publishing companies have taken a more direct route. McGraw-Hill Education is currently partnering with the University of Minnesota to make its full catalog of e-books and adaptive learning products available to all 65,000 enrolled students. The new program will allow the university’s bookstores to identify the digital materials each instructor requires for classes and bill students’ tuition accounts directly. Students will have automatic and immediate digital access to course content through the college’s learning management system.
In addition to these solutions for higher education, other companies have begun to target K-12 education. Scholastic’s Storia allows teachers to assign interactive e-books that are age-appropriate for individual learners and enables parents to track student progress on this platform. This represents the reach of e-reader adoption across the education age spectrum.
These models represent unique approaches to delivering digital content in adaptive and cost-efficient ways while enhancing the student learning experience. At this early stage, no clear winner has emerged. Indeed, it’s likely that student preference will determine the most effective method of e-content delivery, at least for the higher ed market. Of course, it’s also possible that universities' inclinations may steer the development of this new market as has happened in the past, leaving many to wonder if this new fad is merely a repackaged mandate on student’s pocketbooks.
Regardless of the path these new developments take, it’s a potentially lucrative market for the best innovations that are able to lower the cost of teaching and learning while delivering high quality content to scale. And with millions of enrolled students eager for new ways to learn, the playing field is big and worth entering.