Big Idea: How Books Can Move Beyond the "Tradigital"
Book Business asked industry thought leaders to discuss the big ideas that are changing the book industry. We are excited about the future of publishing, and we hope these essays invigorate you with new and illuminating perspectives on that future. View the complete essay collection here.
Open web standards such as XHTML5, CSS3, and EPUB 3 represent the foundations of a new set of publishing tools to develop and deliver next generation content and services that are engaging, interactive, accessible, and responsive. The potential of these new technologies is particularly exciting in the education space, enabling richer learning experiences through audio, video, and interactive elements in formats that are responsive to different learning styles and personal preferences, while supporting assistive technologies for persons with disabilities. These new, more modular learning objects, enhanced with robust metadata, will allow the tracking and analysis of user data (while protecting privacy) to enable adaptive learning and efficacy reporting. This will improve learning outcomes through faster subject mastery and increased retention. This technology will also provide information back to the publisher about the effectiveness and value of the content that will lead to improved products and services.
But to unleash the power of this new technology, publishers and educators need to move beyond the "tradigital." Too many digitally delivered products today are based on content that was originally conceived for the ink on paper paradigm, then converted for digital delivery after the fact. While this is an understandable approach initially, it's a poor compromise that negates the strength of both formats. By reimagining content creation through the powerful new set of digital tools and recognizing the constraints of this distinct medium, we can develop content that is flexible, reusable, and captivating to users, delivered on platforms that are feature-rich.
In order to realize this vision, fundamental conceptual shifts must occur. Content must be viewed not as text and images to be published on two-dimensional media that can be tightly controlled, but as dynamic software powering innovative products and services that perform at the highest levels of quality and consistency on multiple platforms and devices, both online and offline. This benchmark can only be achieved by adopting robust open standards across our industry and applying them at every part of the supply chain that designs, develops, assembles, enhances, and delivers our content and products. This is an ambitious set of requirements that will be challenging to meet, but once the foundation is laid and the capabilities of the new toolset realized, the creativity and expertise of instructional designers, content authors, UX/UI specialists, and software developers will produce a new generation of experiences that will improve learning outcomes and enrich the lives of learners, make educators more productive, and reduce costs to consumers.
Paul Belfanti is the Director of Content Architecture at Pearson.
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