As technology and education continue to merge, mobile textbook developers are continuing to create platforms for making traditional textbooks accessible on mobile learning devices.
Two companies, Inkling and GYLO, are among those developing of textbooks on mobile devices. Both companies’ founders are participating in this week’s Connected Summit.
A California-based mobile textbook developer, Inkling already has a dozen textbook titles available on the iPad. Founder and CEO Matt MacInnis said Inkling will have more than 100 textbooks available for the iPad this fall, covering all major undergraduate topics.
“We are a company focused on what’s possible today,” MacInnis said. “It’s fun to look five years down the road, but it’s also really important to seize the moment and make the most of technology we have now.”
Inkling was founded in 2009 as a company devoted to creating platforms and interfaces for the iPad. MacInnis, a 2002 graduate of Harvard University, said the company is comprised of former employees of Apple, Microsoft and Google.
“We build a software platform for mobile learning format,” MacInnis said. “We work with major publishers and take their regular textbooks and make them into an interactive app for the iPad.”
MacInnis said Inkling’s mobile textbooks have features that are not possible with regular textbooks. Students can utilize social note sharing, highlight and share passages and have immediate access to videos and sound files within the textbook. Additionally, he said the books would be sold by the chapter in order to help students save money.
In the future, MacInnis said he hopes students will view Inkling much like they view book-renting companies like Chegg. He said he envisions a time when students will look to mobile platform providers like Inkling first to see if mobile titles are available, before reverting back to paper textbooks.
“We aren’t here to serve the institution, we are here to serve the students,” MacInnis said. “My vision is that Inkling becomes a brand students learn about when they come into college. We aren’t trying to reinvent education. We are just trying to make it more efficient.”
In Texas, a company also is working to develop mobile interfaces for textbooks. Austin-based GYLO, short for GetYa Learn On, is developing interfaces for devices like the iPhone. Founder and CEO Dr. Michael Mayrath said multi-touch devices like the iPhone and iPad are the future of education, and his company is working toward the future.
“Our vision is a digital learning ecosystem,” Mayrath said. “I use the term ecosystem because I envision a device-neutral system. You’ll always be connected with a cloud, whether it’s a phone, laptop or tablet computer.”
Mayrath said his company did a pre-test and post-test in the spring of 2010 and found that those who found the app useful significantly raise their grades. Mayrath said using mobile apps like the statistics course textbook developed by GYLO is going to revolutionize education. He said much of the revolution began at ACU.
ACU is leading the way for sure,” Mayrath said. “The faculty and leadership from the top down have been entrepreneurial. It’s great that out in West Texas you have the leaders in mobile education.”
Dr. Rick Lytle, dean of ACU’s College of Business Administration, used a an iPad textbook in one of his marketing classes in the fall. He said he sees mobile platform technology as a key player in the future of education.
“My guess is that we will see significant market change within the next three to five years. If you compare textbook publishing to music publishing, you can see the future is in digital format,” Lytle said. “However, many people would incorrectly guess that 70-80 percent of music sales today are online. That number is still only about 25-30 percent though growing. Thus, some might argue that it will take 10 years or more for digital books to dominate sales.”
Regardless of how long it takes, Lytle said his students benefited from the chance to work with the iPad and a mobile textbook.
“The students enjoyed the text, its video capabilities, its information retrieval capabilities and the graphics and format,” Lytle said. “They took their iPads everywhere. They do not take their textbooks everywhere.”