All posts tagged e-textbooks

Digital Textbooks in South Korea

Students read textbooks on notebook PCs at Guil Elementary School in Seoul, South Korea. /Yonhap

The College of 2020 in South Korea will be online and accessible through tablet computers nationwide. In what now positions South Korea at the forefront of digital education initiatives, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology in South Korea recently announced it would invest more than $2 billion in digital textbooks for students nationwide. South Korea is not wasting any time moving towards a digital education – in less than four years it will have all textbooks digitized. At that point, the majority of learning will be centered on tablets. The ultimate goal is to have all textbooks digitized by 2015 and available to students through a cloud computing system. All students will have free access to the textbooks through tablet PCs, which the government will supply to low-income families who cannot afford them.

The goal of the project is to make knowledge more accessible and free for students starting in elementary school. This digital-textbook initiative will both personalize and enhance the ability of South Korean students to learn at their own pace, as well as give institutions and parents the ability to create custom learning plans for students.  According to the South Korean newspaper ChosunIlbo, The Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology also wants to start offering classes online for students who fall behind or get ill. These online classes would count as regular attendance.

Without a doubt, South Korea’s investment in a digital textbook program represents a significant shift in education. In the United States there are a number of key interactive textbook companies – including Inkling, Kno, and PushpopPress, but without large-scale adoption and endorsements they will be competing on price and available titles. Also large scale adoption will likely take longer. In the US, textbook sales are a $4.5 billion market, so large-scale collaboration is also highly improbable. But, if the United States or a collective group of US institutions were able to spearhead a similar digital textbook initiative it would create an incredible opportunity for students – to both accelerate learning and provide greater access to knowledge.


The Mobile Campus: Textbooks for iPad


This is the third post in a four part series on The Mobile Campus. This series examines how students are using mobile devices and the impact on higher education. To read the first post on student mobile application usage trends click here. To read the second post about location based application Foursquare’s partnership with universities click here.

Backpacks will be a lot lighter this fall when student’s head back to class at some colleges.  Inkling, a San Francisco start-up has developed an interactive textbook platform for the iPad. Both universities and investors have taken notice. Publishing companies McGraw-Hill and Pearson are early investors. According to the Association of American Publishers, $4.5 billion worth of textbooks were sold in 2010. The universities already set to use Inkling iPad textbooks this fall include Brown, University of California-Irvine, and the University of Central Florida.

But will they college students use interactive iPad textbooks? Are they interested? Turns out it’s exactly what they want. A July 2011 research study by Kelton Research revealed college students can expect to spend more than $2400 on textbooks before getting a degree and the average student carries 20 pounds of books around campus. According to the same study, 62% of the college student respondents revealed they would spend more time studying if they had either online or mobile access to their textbooks, and 71% of respondents were ready for required reading to be accessible through a mobile or online application. Although there are dozens of mobile tablets on the market, The iPad is the most advanced and popular, making it the perfect platform for interactive textbooks.

When it launched in 2010, Inkling had 4 books for the iPad, but by fall semester there will be over 100 textbooks downloadable within the iPad app. Currently students are able to buy book chapters through the iTunes app store at $2.99 each. Art, business, history, and medical textbooks make up a bulk of Inkling’s catalogue. Users are able to interact in many ways with the textbook – from rotating images, to zooming, to watching imbedded videos. Medical textbooks that show 3D renderings of the heart and other elements of the circulatory system have been receiving rave reviews from medical students.

Inkling is currently the frontrunner in the interactive tablet textbook space, but they certainly have competitors – including CourseSmart, which offers PDF e-textbook services and Push Pop Press, an interactive iPad reading platform which was recently acquired by Facebook. Another competitor Kno has a database of 70,000 textbooks that can be downloaded and read on mobile devices, but they lack the interactivity of Inkling’s iPad offerings.

So what does this mean? One thing is for certain – students will carry fewer textbooks in the coming years. Whether it is Inkling or another company, textbooks will continue to transition onto tablets and other devices that make them more accessible and engaging. As long as digital textbooks meet the needs of students they will dominate the market by 2020. If they make learning easier, more efficient, engaging, and fun, then they will disrupt one foundation of learning.

To learn more about Inkling visit

To download the application, visit the Apple iTunes store by clicking here.