I have an inkling…

August 26, 2010

In many recent presentations I have given on e-books I have said that the way publishers market their publications needs to change. Just “digitising” traditional books as e-books is not necessarily the way forward for e-books.

If we look at other traditional media and see how they have evolved in new digital forms it may give us an idea about the future of books.

Watching films use to mean going to the cinema, sitting down through adverts and trailer before the main presentation, oh and popcorn. Through television, VHS rental, purchasing video tapes, DVD, Blu-Ray and now iTunes downloads, the way in which we consume films has changed. In many ways television has changed even more fundamentally. Digital TV means for many, many more channels and choice. A lot of TV series are now viewed by DVD box set over watching it when originally broadcast. Services such as YouTube, iTunes and BBC iPlayer have allowed us very different ways in which to consume television. Even with iTunes it is now possible to buy an individual episode of a TV series.

When we first started watching postage stamped sized video on our Windows 95 PCs, I expect very few of us had any inkling about how we would be watching video via our computer fifteen years later. It was very easy to consume video through physical media such as DVD or Blu-Ray, but it is now even easier to consume video over the web, either through iTunes or services like BBC iPlayer.

We use to buy music either as albums or singles, now with the iTunes Store or Amazon we can buy individual tracks from albums.

I am sure similar changes will happen with books, with e-books just been the start of this process.

One thing I have said is that publishers need to move away from the traditional approach of selling the whole text book as an e-book and start thinking about selling individual chapters to users, in the same way that we can buy individual episodes of a TV series.

I have said we should move away from digitised versions of print books and take advanatage of the digital medium with interactive content and media.

So I was pleased to see that at least one publisher, Inkling, is going to go down this road. As Gigaom reports:

The company believes the iPad — for now, at least — is the future of the textbook. Inkling’s software turns textbooks into interactive content, with video, hyperlinks between text and images, notes that can be shared between students and teachers, and even 3-D molecules that can be viewed from any angle.

In addition you can buy individual chapters or the whole book.

The company’s interactive textbooks can be downloaded by the chapter for an introductory price of $2.99 each, or the entire book can be downloaded and installed at a price of $69.99

This is just the start for digital textbooks.

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