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Entries in Matt MacInnis (1)

Inkling: It's like iTunes for your Textbooks

(edit: Video removed - YouTube version was not authorised, text amended to refer to Inkling website to watch the video)

Inkling_Two_Up_highres.jpgImagine the scene:  You are about to leave home for the first time and enter the  world of Higher Education, you're off to College or University.  You are excited and nervous. Everything is packed, and you are ready to walk out of the door and into your new 'adult' life, but just as you are about to leave your Parents hand you an A4 sized box.

"Yes", they say, "it is an iPad!". They also tell you that all of your textbooks are in that little box too, and there's more, they tell you that you have credit enough on your iPad for hundreds of individual chapters from any textbook you need. "Don't spend it all at once!" they say, and they mean exactly that, you don't have to spend all of your credit at once on one very expensive textbook. Instead you can buy just the chapters you need that term (semester) and just the ones you will need for the rest of the year.

With the release of Inkling for the iPad, this is now a reality, and we think it has very important implications for the publishing business as a whole.

What is Inkling?

Inkling is the name of a new app, and also the company who have developed, with the publishers/authors, new electronic versions of certain key textbooks. The four launch titles, all from McGraw-Hill, are:

This is certainly only the beginning.  As faculty and institutions begin to see the impact of using electronic versions of these textbooks and the learner engagement that comes from using the iPad, and arguably other tablet-type devices, we are certain that this type of application, if not just Inkling themselves, will radically change the way that key texts are delivered and distributed to students at all levels of the Education stream.

It is a development that has got the team here at iPad Creative very excited about the future of publishing and Education.

What makes Inkling books special?

These textbooks are not just PDFs or electronic versions of the paper version. No, these are enhanced textbooks feature interactive illustrations, video, text highlighting, electronic versions of margin notes, and one of the most interesting and creative features in our opinion, collaborative note sharing with other registered Inkling users that you know, e.g. those studying the same course, as well as faculty members.

That's right, you can make (electronic) notes in the textbook and share these with other Inkling users by connecting with them via their username, but more impressive is the ability to subscribe to a Tutor's note stream, enhancing the learning interchange and providing Educators with another route for learner engagement, something that they are on constant quest to maintain and improve.

(This video is hosted at CNN and it looks like the embedded Flash video will not work on your iOS device, but you might be able to watch it on your device here. We mention the pertinent points for our discussion below anyway.)

In the video above, Matt MacInnis, says that Inkling went back to the authors and publishers to make these electronic textbooks so much more than the paper version, adding in interactive features such as quizzes which not only give you feedback on correct or incorrect answers, but if you are incorrect, it tells you why, and what the correct answer is to help you learn where you went wrong.


 

Not so different in the Classroom

Inkling_Reading_C_highres.jpgYou might imagine with all this new fangled stuff that it would be a bit weird sat next to fellow students with their traditional paper version when your Professor calls out, "could everyone turn to page 128". Because of the different nature of the electronic textbooks in Inkling, they do not really have pages as you would in a paper book, but Inkling have made efforts to help users out in this area by making it easy to jump to any page. The built-in search gives you the advantage though, enabling you to quickly access any text or illustration in the book, as well as in your own notes that include those key terms.

The iTunes Music Store Pricing Model

One of the key features that stood out about Apple's iTunes Music Store when it was introduced, and one of the aspects that shook up the Music Industry, was the ability for customers to buy individual songs from an album. Before, we had to buy the whole album on CD and, although there were other online music stores around, this purchasing model and improved customer choice really hit the mainstream with iTunes. In other words, we could pick and choose what we wanted, or needed, to create an à la carte product tailored to us as the customer.

Now a very similar model can be applied to the academic publishing industry. Previously, the only option for students was to buy the whole tome and swallow the hefty price tag but now, with the introduction of individual chapter purchasing, Inkling are opening up a new, à la carte, way to buy.

The price of buying the paper version of the textbooks quoted in the above video is $180, but by selecting just the chapters that are needed the student could only end up spending about $50. Savings that both the student and Parents will appreciate, arguably providing less of a barrier to accessing learning resources for those who find it difficult to afford, especially if the iPad does not have to be purchased by them, but is issued to the student by the Academic establishment as part of their enrolment (from reading the FAQs it looks like your purchases follow you to a new device if you get an iPad after finishing your studies, so your purchases are not lost).

Some of us who are not so close to College age any more might bemoan the loss of the traditional paper based books and the feel of physically flipping through the pages and scribbling notes in the margins. It has to be acknowledged though that the form factor of the iPad lends itself perfectly to reading textbook pages, being about the same size, and for a generation that are not as used to holding and using paper books, it is probably not much of an issue and is certainly what the future will look like.

Guided_Tour_in_the_Park_CMYK_highres.jpg

More info

There is a good FAQ at the Inkling site which answers a lot of questions about the detail of using the app and there are some nice little video demos of the key features too.

As we have already said, the launch of Inkling and no doubt other similar products eventually, fills us with a good deal of excitement about the future of publishing and the user benefits it will bring, even if it is a shift in thinking for the Publishing houses. With a big name like McGraw-Hill behind Inkling's launch though, it looks like an inevitable march towards a different purchasing model, at least in the Academic sphere where not all of a book is required or needed.

Your thoughts?

What do you think? Are you involved in Education in some way? Do you have any thoughts on how this might be a good move? Or do you have some serious reservations about this development?  Let us know in the comments below, we would love to hear from you.