The end goal is to define use cases that reflect most of the uses of an advanced e-text book, on a global basis: e-text books can only be successful if they are independent of the underlying technology, and oriented to a mass market, gathered from customers all over the world.
In this effort to accomplish that task we shared some information about the situation of e-books in Spain, which is quite different from that of the United States.
In Spain, there is not a business model for re-buying and re-selling used text books on a large scale basis. Only individuals sell them through internet. As a result, market lacks used books. For that reason, e-books compete directly with new books, although they are not very popular.
Regarding primary and secondary school environment, text books change from year to year, that is, children and teenagers cannot get used books from their brothers. People are used to pay for text books without having any refund, but they complain about high prices. To solve this,Government pays a “book check” to families with low income or more than two children. E-books can improve the learning experience and reduce the prices families invest on education, and also provide much more services for the same price.
At University, students rely on their lecture notes to study, and borrow books from the library. They buy cheap technical notes edited by the University. University libraries have a number of copies of text books as a function of the number of students registered in a particular subject. Students are not used to buy a book per subject and, for this reason, they are not willing to invest money on e-books. Nevertheless they could probably change their minds if e-text books offer a comforting and effective learning experience and learning process improvement.
There are some e-books repositories available for free at public Universities, but statistics of usage are discouraging. This is due partly because of the shortage of books in some subjects and partly because of this e-text books are just plain text ( i.e. you can watch them on your screen, but interactivity does not exist).
The challenge is to define attractive e-text books that give the students new possibilities to improve their learning experience. These e-text books should be interactive, flexible and contents should evolve as faster as possible. All the same, users should have the possibility of improving the content with their comments or suggestions.
Europe is suffering a crisis in its education system. School and College are failing to motivate students. Old methodologies are not working anymore.
Young people are the Web 2.0 generation and if we succeed in adding the Internet 2.0 philosophy to the new e-materials and learning processes, not only would we improve the learning experience but also could find a new way of motivating young people.
Could you share with us your vision about the learning experience in your country? Which capabilities do you think are important for an e-text book to be successful?