A Digital Library Or Netflix For E-Books – What Is The Future Of Classroom Materials?

shutterstock_237601468Last week educational literacy platform LightSail published the results of its latest survey, which sought to understand the perspectives of educational leaders and their migration from paper books to digital books. The findings, compiled of responses from 475 US educators, makes for interesting reading and suggests a surging e-book market with a strong demand for new technologies.

According to the State of the Digital Book Market survey, 94 per cent of respondents predicted an increase in their use of e-books over the next two years, with 52 per cent reckoning they will come to account for more than 40 per cent of all books in their school or district in the same time period. As more than half of those surveyed say that currently less than 10 per cent of all their books are e-books, these findings represent huge growth in a short amount of time.

One particular area of focus was that of purchasing models for e-books, with a majority (40 per cent) indicating a desire for a library model, where the texts are owned by the school and checked in or out by students onto their devices. Sixteen per cent preferred a subscription model, akin to Netflix, where students pay a monthly fee but can access a broad library. Just 4 per cent opted for a single, time-limited checkout per rental model.

Still, whichever the preferred purchasing model, it is clear that school and district leaders are embracing the migration to digital books, as 52 per cent say that they prefer students to be reading digital books rather than paper books going forwards. They also feel that using digital books can offer more than just material for reading; when asked whether they were looking into digital literacy tools (such as personalising material, assessing and measuring behaviour, or allowing annotations) 86 per cent of respondents reported that they had researched at least one of aforementioned tools. Fifty eight per cent have researched 3 or more tools.

The survey also highlighted some of the concerns that educators had about e-books. This included challenges finding the right books in a digital format, a feeling that e-books need to be better designed for note-taking and navigation, and concerns about web access or device compatibility. Other issues included fears about the cost of the transition to digital and reassurance that students will be accessing books “appropriate for their social/emotional level.”

I know I am probably stating the obvious, but publishers of educational material and popular classroom literature will need to be prepared for the surge in demand for digital versions of their texts and should start building in the appropriate functionality to meet student needs sooner rather than later.



Date Published : 25th of February 2015

Steve Odart

Published by : Steve Odart

About the Author : Steve Odart is the founder of Ixxus, with 28 years experience in the publishing industry. He started life at the London College of Printing, following his grandfather into the printing industry. He spent many years working with Quark through its launch of Quark XPress, and the Quark Publishing System, before setting up a publishing division within one of the UK’s largest Sun Microsystems Resellers. He then joined Oracle, as EMEA Business Development Director – Publishing and Media, prior to founding Ixxus in 2004. Steve has an extensive knowledge of publishing past, present and future, and has worked with the majority of the largest global publishers in his career to date.