Textbooks Go Digital

Textbooks Go Digital

Are Apple's iBooks a Sign of the Future?

eBooks have grown in popularity in recent years, with people turning to Kindles, nooks, and even iPads to read. So, it was only a matter of time before academic books became accessible digitally as well. With Apple unveiling its iBook technology, which includes iBook textbooks and an iBook app for iPads, students might not be lugging cumbersome textbooks around campus for much longer.

iBooks offer a number of advantages over the traditional textbook. Students will no longer have to search through an index and flip from page to page to find a definition or topic. Instead, iBooks will include a search feature, where students can easily access information. Likewise, navigation will be easier with a textbook in digital form. Textbooks will be more visually engaging as well. Rather than lots of text and minimal images, iBooks will feature interactive images and videos to show students what they’re reading about rather than simply telling them.  Finally, students who rely on their trusty highlighter to mark important content can use highlighting and bookmarking tools in the iBook, allowing them to make digital notations.

Transitioning to iBooks and other eTextbooks won’t happen overnight, however. First, the thousands of textbooks used at schools across the country will have to be translated into digital versions, which certainly isn’t a minor undertaking. While the cost of iBooks will be less than a traditional textbook, students would need an iPad, which starts at $500, to use the iBooks feature. So, there’s a significant upfront cost that some students simply will not be able to afford.

eTextbooks are promising, and they are likely the future of learning. However, there are a number of hurdles to overcome before iBooks become the standard on college campuses across the country.