COVER STORY: Inside the Ebook Test Kitchen
While it's impossible to know which way this will all break, what the ultimate benefits and consequences will be, it's a safe bet that because of what's happening today, things will be very different in some not-too-distant tomorrow.
With an eye toward divining what the ebook future might look like, we talked to some of the companies driving this change, and asked them about what they're doing to move ebook technology forward, and what they see on the horizon.
How Knowing Works
In the secular world, there's nothing more fundamental than the textbook. And for the most part, at least in the minds of millions of current and former schoolchildren, there's little more lackluster. Think of the textbooks from your childhood: stodgy, often out-of-date and oddly subject to the editorial preferences of the largest institutional buyer (such as the Texas Board of Education).
As Apple tried so diligently to impress upon us with their big New York education event in January, there could be a better way. While the results of Apple's big e-textbook push remain to be seen, there are companies pushing to refine the model, and redefine the delivery of knowledge.
"For us, this is definitely about a new medium," says Matt MacInnis, an Apple vet and founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Inkling. "If you zoom way out, what we're doing is we're looking at the world of experts, whether that expertise is in travel, molecular biology or knitting—it doesn't matter. There are people out there who want to consume that expertise."
MacInnis, speaking via cell phone Bluetooth while driving in Northeastern Canada, describes his company's mission succinctly: "We're trying to define the medium that replaces the book."
It's a grand statement that nods to the idea that learning can be a multi-sensory process involving text, audio and video, often in tandem.