Transforming the textbook industry

Inkling LogoIn the middle of the fifteenth century, Johannes Gutenberg invented the modern printing press and kicked off the Printing Revolution. Fast forward to the early twenty-first century, another printing revolution is picking up speed: digital book publishing.

On February 14, 2012, Inkling introduced “Habitat”, dubbed the world’s first scalable publishing environment for building interactive content. Habitat is similar to Apple’s iBooks Author, but at least for now it is only for the professional publishing houses out there. That means that your next self-published textbook will be still based on iBooks Author; however, it will be exiting to see what features from the pro-world of publishing will make it into the self-publishing sector over time.

What is different about Habitat is that it is built from the ground up for publishing interactive content. Most ebooks today (minus some glorious examples, like Al Gore’s “Our Choice”, that are sold as their own app), started as a paper book and were later adapted into the ebook format. And it shows, as I sometimes have to return ebooks because some tables, charts or images are simply not viewable!

Inkling Habitat

Habitat promises to put digital, interactive content first, while at the same time making it financially attractive for publishers.

Habitat seems to be packed with interesting features that go far beyond what iBooks Author offers. Some of these include cloud-enabled collaboration during the publishing process, revision management, and automated error reporting that will check whether linked content has become unavailable – even in already published versions of the ebook!

Habitat Cross-Platform Publishing

The second checkbox in the image above changes the world in ebook publishing - forever.

The killer-feature, however, is in my opinion that Habitat allows publishers to create and publish ebooks for multiple platforms with a single click! In my review on Apple’s Education Event, one of my biggest concerns was that the new iBooks textbooks were limited to the iPad only.

Habitat, on the other hand, lets authors publish with a single click to “every supported client” and multiple “target devices”. The Inkling webpage talks about the iPad and an Inkling for Web online version at the moment. I would be very interested to see whether clients for Android or upcoming Windows 8 tablets will be offered, or whether users of such devices will have to use the web version.

In any way, Inkling is really pushing forward the transformation of the textbook industry. I briefly looked into their selection of textbooks (they are already offering university level texts for the iPad), and it looks very promising. A more in-depth discussion of their textbook line-up and features will come soon!

Are you are thinking of switching over to digital textbooks for the next class you are teaching? Or have you already made the jump? Please let us know in the comments below!

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