According to a report by Rob Reynolds and Yevgeny Ioffe, digital textbooks might account for over 18% of the U.S. textbook market by 2014.
The report cites a number of factors that will influence this growth, including digital textbook and e-content pricing and availability, as well as success of the iPad, netbooks, e-readers, and growth of the smartphone.
Yet they overlook one of the most important qualities for digital content – accessibility across multiple platforms. This is where Amazon’s Kindle gets it right.
While Amazon’s eBook content is still limited, there is the nagging issue of DRM, and authors on average get less in royalties vs. their print offerings, I am quite pleased with Kindle’s ease across platforms. Besides the Kindle reading device, I can access my Kindle content with a Kindle reading app that can be downloaded on my PC and Mac, iPad and my Android smartphone . And Amazon’s Whispersync technology syncs my bookmarks, notes and highlights across all of my devices. This is a part of Amazon’s “Kindle Everywhere” strategy, as describe by Jeff Bezos in an interview with Fortune Magazine:
Our strategy with the ebookstore is ‘buy once, read everywhere.’ If you want to read on your iPhone, if you want to read on your BlackBerry. We want people to be able to read their books anywhere they want to read them. That’s the PC, that’s the Macintosh. It’s the iPad, it’s the iPhone. It’s the Kindle.
Amazon could really get a leg-up on the digital textbook market by applying this strategy working with textbook publishers. Who cares if students access digital texbooks on a Kindle, iPad or smartphone? In fact, Amazon could develop a model where students can checkout school-leased copies of their textbooks at the beginning of the year. At the end of the year, the lease ends and the content disappears (perhaps a decent reason to retain DRM) – ready for another student the following year.
This digital textbook content could be updated on-the-fly, so there wouldn’t be any more 20 year old history textbooks. And there could be text-only versions for the Kindle or a smartphone, and a more interactive version for the iPad and PC (to include photos, graphs and charts). But most importantly, students can access the textbook content anywhere they want to, and at any time.Dale Basler has a digital textbook wish list, including the possibility for student collaboration and availability. Amazon’s Kindle apps actually accomplish this already.