“What’s really terrific about e-books,” says Rik Kranenburg, president of McGraw-Hill’s Higher Education, Professional and International Group, “is that the technology lends itself to all kinds of new applications and learning formats—new ways that students learn, and instructors can use and integrate the technology to instruct.”
McGraw-Hill offers many of its e-textbooks in the context of a wider, digital learning suite called Connect that includes multimedia and interactive learning experiences, such as searchable lecture capture and personal learning diagnostics.
“E-books are embedded in that platform … but … are just a subset of what’s in the product offering,” explains Kranenburg.
E-books could drastically change the business model for college textbooks, which have long been a rising cost of higher education. According to Kranenburg, most McGraw-Hill e-textbooks sell for about 60 percent of the cost of their print versions, but usually aren’t resold on the used-book market, which helps balance sales over the edition’s life.
McGraw-Hill is also experimenting with distribution models that would allow students to rent the e-book for the duration of a class, and perhaps lend it to a friend using technology that limits access to one user at a time—a technology already used by some libraries.
The E-reader Upsurge
The growth of e-books is mirrored by the proliferation of e-reading devices. The two most well-known are Sony’s Reader and Amazon’s Kindle (which was the first to find truly mainstream legitimacy when Oprah Winfrey embraced it as a “life-changing” gadget). The two devices have battled for market share since. Late this summer, Sony released three e-readers that challenge Kindle’s utility and price point—touchscreen devices starting at $199, with an Internet-connected Daily Edition at $399.
While the Kindle is tied to Amazon’s store, new devices from Sony and other manufacturers can access everything from Barnes & Nobles’s catalog to hundreds of thousands of free e-books through Google, Project Gutenberg and other digital archives. Plus, smartphone apps, such as iPhone’s Stanza, allow millions of smartphone users to access e-books. Plus, an e-book can be released as a stand-alone app, as O’Reilly Media has done.