I’ve been off-line for a few days now while attending a strategic planning retreat, and on the flight home last night an elderly chap was sitting next to me was reading a novel on his iPad. it made me think of my experience of presenting some workshops for the staff from Manurewa High School earlier last week, where I reflected on some of the challenges and trends ahead in 2011. I introduced them to the thinking from the 2010 Australia/NZ edition of the Horizon Report, which lists e-books as one of the emerging technologies likely to impact on education in the next 12 months. To illustrate, I showed the clip above from YouTube, which introduces Discover from Cool-Iris, voted the top iPad app in 2010 in the US. Discover lets you find, read and explore content from Wikipedia in a magazine-like interface on your iPad.
Among some of the staff in the group there were obvious reactions of disbelief that e-books may be gaining such attention – but it’s difficult to ignore the fact that considerable advances have been made in both the technology of the e-book readers themselves and in the availability of e-books (and magazines) to read on them in the past 12 months, making the e-book much more ‘acceptable’. As the US edition of the Horizon Report (they are more conservative in their estimation with e-books rated among the 2-3 years adoption bracket) notes…
As the technology underlying electronic readers has improved and as more titles have become available, electronic books are quickly reaching the point where their advantages over the printed book are compelling to almost any observer. The convenience of carrying an entire library in a purse, pocket, or book bag appeals to readers who find time for a few pages in between appointments or while commuting. Already firmly established in the public sector, electronic books are gaining a foothold on campuses as well, where they serve as a cost-effective and portable alternative to heavy textbooks and supplemental reading selections.
What brought this home to me even more was when I read the article in the NZ Herald on the plane, reporting on the launch of Rupert Murdoch’s iPad newspaper, “The Daily”. The Daily is a digital newspaper created specially for the iPad that will be sold solely through Apple’s online store and cost US99 cents a week. This is an ambitious enterprise for Murdoch, but he seems to be convinced of the potential, and has put over $30M into the development of The Daily.
Adding to my thinking was a recent article from the BBC titled “Is this the end of the book?“, quoting figures released by Amazon showing that for the first time e-books outsold paperbacks in the United States, and so asking “do traditional books, printed on paper and sold in shops, have a future?”
As technology develops, and our appetite for engaging with it follows suit, I’m convinced e-books will become more widely adopted in education over the next short while. And while some may still be struggling to come to grips with the concept of an e-book in its current iteration, that’s likely to be short lived, with new limited not just to text and pictures, but audio and video clips, and even games. It won’t be long before we will be able to see films from within books – imagine a class reading the traditional version of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and at different places in the text, being able to view the film version from Baz Luhrmann starring Leonardo DiCaprio, before then switching to Alvin Rakoff’s interpretation from the BBC.
Finally, in today’s edition of the New York Times there appeared an article titled E-Readers Catch Younger Eyes and Go in Backpacks, in which the journalist reports:
In 2010 young-adult e-books made up about 6 percent of the total digital sales for titles published by St. Martin’s Press, but so far in 2011, the number is up to 20 percent.
The article explains how the growth in e-books has been primarily driven by the adult reader market, but in recent months this has changed with a noticeable shift to include teen readers.
Perhaps this will, indeed, be the year of the e-book?