Digital textbooks are becoming a highly discussed and contentious issue. I am not a huge fan of textbooks, but where we do use them, they need to be interesting and engaging.
My flight today was delayed due to a cyclone, so I took the time to catch up on my reading. A report on the plans for wide scale introduction of digital textbooks in the USA was very interesting: “Playbook:Digital Textbook direction in the US“. It follows the plans in the USA to use digital textbooks across different states, and describes the huge financial investment by the government in textbook creation, high speed Internet provision, computers and tablets for students.
The launch of iBooks 2 showcases Apple’s new venture in digital textbook publishing. I have reviewed some of the digital textbooks and have found them very disappointing – they are just glorified PDF’s.
The challenge for textbook writers is to exploit the interactivity and engaging nature of ePubs in textbook production. They can be rich multi-modal documents with the embedded multimedia.
Many students don`t approach text in the way we have traditionally, reading pages from top to bottom and left to right. They tend to scan pages with their attention moving to the embedded hyperlinks and multi-media. It is also important that digital texts allow the reader to engage with the text through annotation and highlighting functions.
Digital textbooks can encourage student collaboration through the sharing functions. The e-book “Our Choice” by Al Gore uses some of the engaging, interactive features of digital publications that can be used in textbooks.
There are a number of apps and traditional software that allow you to create your own e-books. You can create an e-Pub in Pages, but you need the full computer version not the iPad app. Book Creator is the best ePub creator for the iPad.