The textbook is no different. A couple weeks ago, our class saw a digital book presentation by McGraw Hill. They are developing digital versions of their print books, starting with the best sellers and moving down the list. They supplement those with PowerPoint presentations, test banks, links to video, etc. geared to that textbook.
But, like the Gutenberg Bible, this is only the first step. I do not know where the textbook is headed, but I know we are not yet there. A few rough guesses as to future directions are that ...
- There will be a place for collections of modular teaching material rather than integrated textbooks for an entire course -- the professor will become a curator or editor, assembling material as opposed to a textbook adopter, selecting a textbook.
- Communities will form -- students, professors, and authors of learning material will be able to interact with each other, and their roles will blur.
- We will have different user interfaces. We are beginning to see new options with touch interfaces on tablets, but will see more. For example, we should be able to use voice input with speech recognition for control and annotation.
- Standards will evolve for formats, user interfaces, social platform interaction, etc., just as we evolved standards for book pagination, format, and punctuation. We are at version .1 today.
- The International Digital Publishing Forum is a trade and standards organization. Their activities include holding an industry conference and developing the open Epub format.
- Epub is an open standard for book publishing -- you can see reviews of Epub readers here.
- Archive.org has pioneered online access to audio, video, books, Web site archives and more. They have books in many formats including Epub, Kindle and PDF.
- Internet Archive also has a prototype reader. To try it out, pick a book, navigate to its detail page and click "read online," or jump straight to this example: Darwin's Voyage of the HMS Beagle.
- Pushpop Press has a noteworthy publishing platform and tablet user interface. Check out this 6 minute video demonstration featuring Al Gore's latest book.
- The Institute for the Future of the Book is a research institute focused on, no surprise, the future of the book. They value scholarship and research as well as aesthetics.
- If you'd like to read an old-fashioned book on the history of the book, check out Ivan Illich's In the Vineyard of the Text: a Commentary to Hugh's Didascalicon, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1993.