Inkling + McGraw-Hill and Pearson = A Digital Textbook Future

In the past few weeks the future of digital textbook content has suddenly looked a lot brighter. For a long time it looked like the big book publishers were cautious to dip their feet into the digital market, but a company called Inkling may have set the future in motion.

The CEO and Founder of the Inkling Matt MacInnis spoke about this a month ago on the company blog

For universities, the Catch-22 around iPad adoption may finally have been broken. Many institutions have been on the sidelines waiting for quality educational content. They have been understandably underwhelmed by what they’ve seen before Inkling. Indeed, now that Inkling has a full line of textbooks for business school, medical school and undergraduate courses in production, institutions can move forward with confidence knowing there will be fantastic content available on iPad for all of their students.

This was announced after McGraw-Hill and Pearson, two of the worlds largest education publishers, invested an undisclosed amount of money into the Inkling startup. According to the press release the textbook companies are sharing content with Inkling, to allow them to publish the top 100 undergrad titles from the McGraw-Hill Higher Education catalog, along with other medical textbooks and the top undergrad titles from Pearson Education. Inkling provides the expertise to shape the content into a digital format that is accessible through their propriety app available on the iPad. Here is a promotional video for a biology textbook that is now available. (If this video looks like a little like an Apple advert you might be correct. The founder Matt McInnis used to work from Apple Education in Asia, before setting up the company.)

Inkling is a product which supports a pedagogical style of 21st century learning that lots of educationalists are striving towards. The Inkling app is interactive, crisp, easy to navigate and includes an aspect of social networking. If I choose to annotate a digital chapter, I can decide to share these annotations with others users who have also read the same chapter. There are some nice explanations in a blog post by one of the companies Content Architects, Nicolle Romero about the pedagogical power of Inkling.

From design elements that assist with comprehension of difficult concepts (1), to image enhancements that maximize the effectiveness of graphical aids, we have the learner in mind at each step. For example, in our layout, image thumbnails complement the corresponding text as organizational aids, a form of mental scaffolding that helps you organize the information within your existing knowledge of the subject matter (2). In addition, Inkling allows you to navigate easily between sections across a title, which facilitates the formation of cross-content connections that are key to meaningful learning.

I downloaded the free Inkling app onto my iPad and the preview chapter of the an Economics textbook – The Economy Today, By Bradley R. Shiller. You can pay per chapter for each book, much like the iTunes model of music distribution. Teachers overtime will be able to get students to purchase a exchange rate chapter from one textbook, and then a chapter about development from another author to create a library of resources for the class. It seems like the paradigm of buying an entire textbook from one author could be gone in digital world.

Here are some screen shots of me using the Inkling App and the Economy Today textbook.

clicking on words with the blue symbol brings up the definition

Lots of nice interactive features to click away at

Adding comments to the chapter, which peek in from the margins

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