digital textbooks

digital textbooks

Technology in the Classroom Might Not Be the Answer

typingFor almost 100 years, people have been predicting the end of the use of textbooks in public schools. The cause for the decline of textbook use is often due to some new technology that will forever change classrooms.

For example, in 1913, Thomas Edison was a nay-sayer concerning the future of textbook use.

“Books will soon be obsolete in the schools,” he said. “Our school system will be completely changed in 10 years.”

Edison was talking about replacing textbooks with videos to teach students. Sure, we do use videos today in our classrooms, but textbooks are still the main source of information in most cases.

So, should we be surprised that many education leaders, such as U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, are now pushing for the use of laptops and digital books in the classroom? Using history as our source, the answer is no.

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Apple Ushers in a New Way of Learning with New Educational Apps

apple ipadLast week, Apple held a media event in New York City. At this event, the technology-gurus revealed their newest software programs, which could forever change the way that education takes place in the classroom. Currently, there are 1.5 million iPads that are being used in classrooms across the country. There are also more than 20,000 education and learning apps available in the app store. However, these numbers can both be expected to increase in the near future, thanks to the release of these new programs.

So what exactly did Apple announce? On January 19, 2012, Apple announced that it was updating the iBooks app, creating a new category of books in the iBookstore, and also releasing a DIY e-book creator. This means that there are now many more new tools that teachers and students can use in the classroom to learn.

Let’s take a look at all of the new options that Apple is offering to make learning even more interactive and technologically-based:

  • The new iBookstore will have a textbook category. These textbooks will be media-rich and interactive, allowing students to watch videos, play with diagrams, view pictures, and of course, read. These books will be available for students in grades K-12.
  • The new books available in iBooks 2 will have search options, making it easier to find what you are looking for in the index, glossary, dictionary, or the book itself. You will also be able to highlight important information in the books, a feature that many students find very useful.
  • Many of the books will feature a Question & Answer section at the end of every chapter. This will allow students to gauge how well they are learning the material and receive instant feedback on their progress.
  • The books on iBooks will cost $14.99 or less. This is much cheaper than traditional textbooks, which cost about $75 each. For schools that are facing budget cuts or need to save some cash, this will be a great way to do so.
  • A new app, iTunes U, will allow teachers to post their class syllabus, lectures, course assignments, and much more for students to see and access. This new app will allow teachers and students in grades K-12 use it; a previous version was only available for students at certain universities.
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Apple Could Announce New Distribution Platform for Digital Books

digital textbookIf you are an Apple fanatic like me, then you have probably heard that the company is holding a media event on Thursday, January 19, 2012. What is Apple releasing this time? According to, the company will be announcing a new platform that will be the “GarageBand for e-books.” Basically, it will be a distribution platform for digital books and textbooks.

Although some makers of e-books claim that the process of making an e-book from a physical copy of a book is very simple, the truth is that the entire process can be very difficult and frustrating. This could all be changing very soon, if Apple does in fact announce a “GarageBand for e-books” software later this week.

Matt MacInnis worked for Apple until 2009, when he left the company and started his own company, Inkling, which creates digital textbooks. MacInis thinks that Apple is about to make it much easier to actually create these books.

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Digital Textbooks Are Rising in Popularity Among College Students

The Kno Digital TextbookIf you are buying all of your textbooks in the paper version, you are part of a dwindling group. According to, digital versions of textbooks are a growing trend, fueled by the cheaper cost of digital books and the convenience of these educational tools.

“There’s been a boom in digital titles this year,” said Miguel Suarez, the general manager of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s campus bookstore. Suarez said that the percentage of textbooks that are available in the digital format has increased to 25 percent this year; it was only 10 percent last year.

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Inkling Gets Support from Major Publishers to Create Digital Textbooks

Inkling Digital TextbooksInkling, the digital textbook startup, announced that it has won backing from two of the biggest textbook publishers. Among other investors, McGraw-Hill and Pearson are now giving Inkling access to an estimated 95 percent of textbooks available on the market today. However, Inkling’s production will only have about 100 titles, available only on the iPad, ready by the fall.

Currently, Inkling’s relatively slow rate of production is due to the company’s desire to create an interactive textbook that goes above and beyond the digital textbooks that are currently available. According to chief executive and founder Matt MacInnis, the new apps only use the existing textbook as a framework that ultimately casts off “the shackles of the book.” He argues that most digital textbooks are little more than PDF files of the original texts. “It only gets interesting when the content itself changes and begins to respond to your fingertips,” MacInnis said. He wants to work with authors to create new content that’s specifically built for the iPad.

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Examville Announces More Educational Materials from Top Publishers

Examville-logoThe online educational marketplace Examville announced today that they will be offering a greatly expanded array of educational materials from premium publishers. The list of over 75 publishers includes Scholastic, O’Reilly/Microsoft Press, Weekly Reader Publications, Nolo, Carson- Dellosa Publishing, Evan-Moore, and Learning Express.

The materials being made available through Examville cover all levels of education, from kindergarten to elementary school, high school to college. They will offer e-textbooks and study guides for students, in addition to course materials for teachers and tutors. Those who belong to Examville’s 90-day subscription plan receive a five percent discount on all premium document downloads.

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Florida Schools Trade Textbooks for Kindles

kindle-bookAnother school is choosing digital textbooks over traditionally bound books. At Clearwater High School in Florida, 2700 students received Kindles today. They will be using the digital reader in math, English and science classes. Principal Keith Mastorides hopes to introduce even more e-textbooks in the future.

The school has found that not all of the desired textbooks that are available are usable on the Kindle. “With the textbook companies, this is new,” Mastorides said. “None of their books are Kindlized.” Cost posed another difficulty. “We do have to work really hard to get our textbook companies to give us a break on the online version,” said Pinellas County School Superintendent Julie Janssen. She did report that the school managed to save about 25 percent on textbooks this year.

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California Schools Swap Textbooks for iPads

ipad-for-textbooksSix schools across four California school districts are testing a math curriculum that will feature iPads instead of textbooks. Four hundred iPads are being distributed to be used in Algebra classes. The schools are partnering with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which is providing the e-textbooks. Students to receive an iPad will be randomly selected, and their progress will be charted against students using traditional, bound textbooks.

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Barnes and Noble Makes E-Textbook Buying Easier with Nookstudy

Barnes and Noble has made it easier than ever for college students to access electronic textbooks. The bookstore chain is teaming up with Blackboard Inc., a provider of software to educational institutions, and the partnership hopes to launch this integration in the blackboard

How will it work? Simple. When you log on to your Blackboard account and click on one of your enrolled courses, you’ll find links to electronic versions of the course’s textbooks. You’ll be able to both purchase and download these required texts all in one place.

In addition, the two companies will work to make Blackboard content coexist with Barnes and  Noble’s new eTextbook reader, called Nookstudy. Read the rest of this entry »


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