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ETEXTS Digest - 9 Feb 2012 to 11 Feb 2012 (#2012-9)

Greetings –


I’m also new to this list, but one thing that stands out for me, beyond what’s already been discussed about availability of texts on various platforms, is the broader issue of interoperability. The Digital Textbook Playbook from the FCC (thanks for that link) has some broad descriptions of functionality to look for when selecting “a device”. And that *may* make sense in a K-12 environment, where the device is provided. But if a higher-ed environment, it seems that issues of pre-existing device ownership may make any semblance of a homogeneous environment unreasonable to hope for, if not impossible to achieve.


Assuming that’s true, then interoperability will be the name of the game from the consumer (institution, individual, and other perspectives), and perhaps even for some of the publishers. In this case, though, interoperability will likely be measured in several dimensions, including at least:

-          Book publishing format (hopefully an open one)

-          Notes from device – standards for how those notes are captured, stored, and retrievable across devices (when my device crashes, falls in the water, or otherwise fails, I’ll need to be able to get a new device and pick up where I left off).

-          Uploading notes for writing papers, etc. – will all devices support this in some standard way?

-          Sharing notes, highlights, and other textbook interactions across reading platforms – this is the whole collaboration issue. Can I see what others are highlighting (even if it’s anonymized)? Can I explicitly share notes with others in my particular class, but not beyond?

-          Textbook functionality – the hardware elements themselves drive constraints on functions – Kindle (black and white, keypad controlled); Kindle Fire (color, touchscreen), iPad (color, touchscreen, but different OS than the first two), and Inkling (flexible app run-able on a range of platforms). Some tools will offer built-in video, sound, animations, 3-D models, etc. to interact with. Publishers will need to work out how to deliver the appropriate content for the specific device/platform, without inordinate spending either on content creation or on a myriad of platform-specific testing requirements.


Just some initial thoughts, spurred by prior discussions here. Thanks for getting the ideas churning!


Best regards,

Paul Witman


PS: Have you visited our new School of Management Blog? Find up to date insights by professors at CLU’s School of Management at!


Paul D. Witman, Ph.D.

(805) 493-3562 (office) - (805) 493-3479 (fax) - (818) 292-3949 (mobile)

Ass't Professor, Information Technology Management

Director, MS-Information Systems and Technology Program

School of Management

California Lutheran University



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I like what you have written about interoperability, but maybe this highlights another issue with these readers. They presuppose a fixed set of tools that limit what and how a student can do. The flash card idea in iBooks and iBooks Author, for instance, is a very nice idea, but users have relatively little control over it. We definitely need standards, but we also need to make sure there are utilities (e.g., mashup tools that let a student combine materials from the textbook, the web, and voice annotations, or something like Zotero for textbooks) that can take those standards and allow students to customize their experience of the text to an even greater extent. I do not mean a single monolithic system, but a number of tools that suit the needs and tastes of different students. Right now we are getting textbooks as stand-alone ecosystems but we need to get textbooks that can live in a variety of ecosystems. Guy Wilson Educational Technologies at Missouri University of Missouri-Columbia