Josephtryble's Blog

First Published in University World News( Special Report on E-Books in Higher Education
GLOBAL: China and India to dominate education e-books
Joseph Tryble*
12 December 2010
Issue: 151

China and India are positioned to take a lead in digital publishing including e-books for use in higher education, digitalising existing content or developing digital avatars of print textbooks with enhanced features which, for example, can show up scientific diagrams in greater detail.

China’s digital publishing industry is booming with a mammoth US$12 billion output in 2009. It is propelled by large numbers of digital readers – over 40 companies are manufacturing e-readers in China, many of them offering similar functionality.

These companies are making a big push into the market or promoting their devices to publishers and content providers. Publishers in China have digitised a large amount of content to cater for their huge domestic audience.

The large storehouse of content is integrated with e-readers as free e-books, which helps to familiarise readers with screen reading. That is important because some in the industry believe that once students start to use e-readers, tempted by the free content, publishers can later charge for add-ons such as student assessment packages for course tutors.

Chinese textbook publishers are using the same standardised format, unlike the different standards hampering the e-book market elsewhere in the world, and they are delivering open access e-books to students through CERNET, China’s Education and Research Network, accessed by most of the country’s higher education institutions.

Although e-books are still in their infancy, the reading devices from China – some of them with multilingual functionality – are gaining popularity in Asia as the price per unit is very competitive. This will be important for the growing student market, which is price-sensitive but potentially very large.

Publishers and aggregators have started to source these cheaper e-readers and sell in local markets across the world. Their ePub compatibility gives them an advantage, so it is likely that Chinese devices will percolate to every corner of the world.

India’s advantage is its ability to create digital content for a world audience. The technology and expertise for digitising in India is an attraction, with a strong talent pool that is digital-savvy but is also equipped with multimedia and animation skills -. The number of institutions in the country offering training in these skills has skyrocketed in recent years.

Many technology companies – big ones like Accenture, Tata Interactive, Aptara, and hundreds of startups and smaller players that have mushroomed in Pondicherry, Pune, Bangalore and the environs of New Delhi – are involved in digitising.

But rather than simply copying paper books, academic content from India is being produced with digital enhancements. Indian companies could transform this sector as many are already focusing on e-learning products and have resources in place to leapfrog from pre-press content specialists to full-scale digital publishing offering finished e-books in specific academic disciplines.

e-Books and higher education

e-Books for the higher education audience evolved with Project Gutenberg which provides free e-books and is the oldest digital library, now with 33,000 e-books in its collection. The initial focus was reference books and out of print titles. STM (science, technical and medical) and reference publishers initiated and digitised their current titles and backlists, with reference libraries an assured market for such endeavours.

Then online books available on a subscription basis, the ‘”cluster purchase'” of e-book collections and downloadable e-books entered the academic field, making access to e-books more convenient for researchers.

Another game changer in open access e-books is the free online textbook offerings of Flat World Knowledge, used by more than 40,000 students on more than 400 US college campuses. These compete with leading textbook publishers, but new options such as print-on-demand softcovers, audio books, chapters and self-print options are innovative.

e-Books are preferred by students because of the price advantage over the print version. On average, e-books are 50% to 60% cheaper than the print version. As textbook usage by students is generally limited to the period of their course, online textbooks sold on a subscription basis have started to gain some acceptance in the US.

Digital book rentals and chapter downloads are also being offered. In the United Kingdom Amil Tolia’s start up Reference Tree is generating interest with its announcement that it will offer chapter-wise academic content online.

Universities understand the utility of using e-books as textbooks. Initiatives by the US-based company CourseSmart featuring the textbooks of major publishers have helped digital textbooks gain access across North America.

But a device that could transform the higher education space in the near future will be the Apple iPad. The launching of textbook apps could make the iPad a popular choice for students.

Digitised textbook content needs to be more widespread so that students have a digital option for every print textbook.

Winning over students

However, despite the publishing industry and aggregators’ efforts to convert print buyers to digital, the average student still has an affinity for the printed book. Printed books outdo e-books in portability, ease of use, and as a gadget-free experience, while the price of e-readers is still considered high for the average student.

Adoption of digital books will increase proportionally with the decrease in price of e-readers. Devices from China and India are already being released with attractive price tags. The Bambook from Shanda Literature China and Wink from EC Media India are two attractively -priced products launched this year.

However the uptake rate of e-textbooks in emerging nations is currently bleak.

Korea has positioned itself as a leader in e-book usage and promotes their use, for example through the Korean Ministry of Education-sponsored Education & Research Information Service’s (KERIS) eBook Consortium for Higher Education. KERIS has formed a consortium of over 70 universities to share access to more than 8,000 e-book titles. The Korean example can be emulated by many countries.

Content creation

Authors, editors, instructional designers and multimedia specialists need to understand students’ requirements in creating digital content. These include students’ need to annotate e-books and provide interactive links.

Simply putting PDF content on a digital device does not do justice to digital media. Enhanced Editions and Vooks, which combine video, internet links and text, are demonstrating new ways to produce digital content.

eTextbooks can be well integrated into undergraduate courses. Engineering and the sciences need illustrations and detailed photographs. Digital editions can accommodate greater detail and clarity than print versions, while micro zooming options can benefit biology students.

While e-textbooks can integrate features impossible to offer in print versions, the cost of development would make their cost significantly higher than for printed books.

Meanwhile the multitude of file formats of e-books is still a challenge, although ePub is evolving as a more popular format, thanks to the efforts of the International Digital Publisher’s Forum (IDPF) – the trade and standards organisation dedicated to the development and promotion of electronic publishing – which has adopted it.

Off-shoring digital development to countries such as India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka can keep the development cost lower. As with the success of eTutoring in off-shore tutoring, e-publishing for education too will have a larger presence in India as Indian education specialists can help develop good value e-textbooks. The technical expertise, adaptability of the work force to new technologies and cost savings give the country an advantage in off-shoring digital content development.

The Chinese invented paper in 105 AD and pioneered printing too. China is now positioned to make the world read digitally. Similarly, India’s ancient writings and epics in Sanskrit are a treasure house of knowledge. These emerging countries now have the potential to contribute to learning in the digital way.

* Joseph Tryble is based in Trivandrum, India, as zonal sales manager for the global publishers Pearson Education. The views expressed here are his own.


India need to be ready to train this huge population under the age of 27 years. Infrastructure is the major challenge. Government has invited institutions around the globe to participate in this great task. Primary task is to set up 800+ Universities and 40000+ Colleges.

Community Colleges have a great space to fill in India. 50-60% of this population will be attracted to quality community colleges imparting training in basic trades and vocational disciplines.

Montgomery College initiative supported by US-India Educational Foundation is a great start in this direction. More of the European ,Australian and possibly the Japanese and Singapore Institutions need to make presence in India.

The booming economy is ready to create enough jobs for the trained. US has acted fast on exploring India. More initiatives are expected to be announced soon.

E-Learning and Open Education Institutes will emerge as another big avenue. Great things are about to happen in the Higher Education space in India. Educating India is a great challenge and an opportunity.

How long Universities should adhere with the standardized curriculum?

The universities have carried these standardization baggages of the industrial age for so long. Classroom learning model supported the standardizations.

Teachers have limitations to deliver the curriculum suiting the varying requirement of individual learners. Now, advances in Web 2.0 and its integration in online and blended learning is poised to make a disruptive innovation in learning – making learning personalized.
The Curriculum in the web2.0 era can easily integrate personalization. Social media has become ubiquitous. It is an ocean of personal information. Data Analytics will be the key support technology to personalize curriculum.

Intelligent systems can easily sketch the learner profile and suggest LMS to stream personalized curriculum to the learner.
The developments in semantic technologies, geo-location intelligence and integration of cloud in e-learning will ensure to have cost effective and personalized learning experiences.

Its getting Open everywhere…

Open Course Wares asĀ  MIT OCW’s, Open Syllabii tool as Sakai 2.6,
Open LMS as Moodle,
Open Textbooks as Flatworld Knowledge,
Open Content initiatives,
Open Learning networks,
Open Lecture Captures as Matterhorn….
These technologies are positioned to impact the future of Learning in a massive way.
The swift refinements happening with these technologies will affect all stakeholders in higher education.

University level initiatives to utilize the cloud and social media will make available larger funds to invest further in the development of Open technologies for education. The support of non-profit FoundationsĀ  for Open initiatives will accelerate the pace of development in this front.

Content companies need to reinvent business models to align with the evolving opportunities.

The future is Open!

Brad Inman selling more than 175,000 Vooks is incredible. Peter Collingridge’s Enhanced Editions also demonstrate what the real e-books are.
“A Vook is a new innovation in reading that blends a well-written book, high-quality video and the power of the Internet into a single, complete story. You can read your book, watch videos that enhance the story and connect with authors and your friends through social media all on one screen, without switching between platforms.

Vooks are available in two formats: As a web-based application you can read on your computer and an application for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad for reading on the go. With the web-based application you don’t have to download programs or install software. Just open your favorite browser and start reading and watching in an exciting new way. You can also download and install the mobile applications through the Apple iTunes store and sync them with your Apple mobile device.”
Wonderful! that’s the way digital publishing should evolve.
Vook’s can bring life to textbooks very soon.

Minister Kapil Sibal’s initiative to more than double the GER (to 30%) in Higher Education is a great challenge. The number of Universities and Institutes offering Higher education courses need to be increased exponentially over the coming years. The lack of effective mechanisms to check and take corrective directions is evident in segments where the ‘massification’ has happened. The pathetic quality of engineering curriculum evolving in states like Andhra, TN, Karnataka, Orrisa and recently in Kerala expose the flaws in the system. The quality of the curriculum and quality in teaching cannot be sacrificed in this urge for increasing enrollments in courses that attract students. The increasing number of Universities from China which have come in the top rankings are evident of the emphasis given for the quality in HE space in China. The major research labs in Universities across the world are flooded with Chinese students. The number of research output with Chinese contribution has significantly increased in the near future.
The vocationalizing the Arts and Science streams is also happening in india. These are easier routes to increase the GER figures. The consequences of these decisions would be realized very lately. The Community Colleges in US and Europe does the job of offering vocational courses for the population. University’s core objectives are left undisturbed.
India need to have more of Open and Distance Learning Courses. IGNOU is a great example. There need to be more IGNOU’s in the country. Rather than focusing on making IGNOU the largest Distance Learning University in the world, the focus should be on having a larger number of smaller Universities having quality consciousness.

With AR integration, can printed books live longer assuring enhanced reading experience for the reader?

10 years ago Mark Billinghurst invented ‘magic books’ with AR technology. Publishers hesitated to integrate AR in Children’s books and Educational books?. Now iPhones’ and Androids’ apps may be optimized with AR to have enhanced reading experiences. Augmented Textbooks need to evolve. Students need to experience this new age ‘magic books’. What are the technological and operational challenges for Publishers to integrate AR?



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