The Move to Digital: Four Obstacles to Overcome Before Digital is Universally Adopted

I’ve talked a lot (and a lot, and a lot) about how new digital tools like E-Books are being used and are changing the game. But the fact of the matter remains: no matter how excited we may be about the technology, we’re still a long way away from wide-scale adoption. Before we jump the gun, here are five challenges that have arisen in the move over to digital, and that E-Books and other digital resources will have to overcome to become the standard
1. Universal access

If schools start implementing digital textbooks as a required source, it would be have to be a technology available to all. K-12 is dictated by the lowest common denominator, so if not everyone in K-12 can access an e-textbook at home or at school then it would make the move to digital slower. Because public K-12 institutions have to enact change across an entire jurisdiction, adoption can’t happen until everyone is ready.

This isn’t as big of a problem on college campuses; they tend to have access to Internet through the campus or surrounding areas—and if they don’t then the College students are expected to be able to find it regardless of their location. But that’s not to say that on all campuses it’s going to be a wide spread phenomenon. With all the new technology out thereiPad,Kindles, etc. it’s hard to detect if the basic student population is going to be able to keep up, especially when the public still views E-Readers or iPads as a luxury.

2. Professor Inertia

In K-12, it’s the school boards determining whether to adopt new technology. In higher education, professors can dictate use of new technology. A lot of college professors write their own textbooks, granting them even more freedom of how to disseminate content. While some companies, such as Flat World Knowledge, allow professors to edit the content to make it their own—it still takes away from the professor activity in the process of creating their textbook.

3. Students have found digital textbooks problematic

The switch to digital is still fairly new, so there are going to be problems that need to be fixed. One major problem that students have encountered is the inability to take notes and highlight. Inkling, one of the larger interactive online e-books, has been working on making their products more interactive. But not everyone has figured out how to incorporate student interaction. This is an important component to help students to study—and without this addition a digital textbook wouldn’t be suitable as a study aide

4. Lack of titles

A recent New York Times article stated that even Inkling only has around 30 titles, though they plan on having around 100 by fall. The problem that arises here is, as the author puts, “whether publishers will distribute their top-selling titles to multiple tablet-textbook applications or whether it will be a winner-takes-all market.” As of right now the market of books is still at a low number—making it hard for educators to adopt these e-textbooks. Once more titles start appearing it will become a bigger market.

There are many significant changes being implemented in the e-book industry. It’s off to slow start, and as you can see there are some issues that need to be tinkered with before there is a real boom in the industry. Until then—what do you think is more efficient? Print or e-textbooks?  How can innovators and companies alike speed up the adoption process?

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  1. Pingback: The Move to Digital: Why Publishers Want It to Succeed (and what we’ve learned) «

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