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Textbooks should not be consumed in isolation

How Inkling brings a community of learners into the textbook experience.

This post is part of the TOC podcast series, which we’ll be featuring here on Radar in the coming months.


Textbook publisher Inkling recently published its 51st textbook for the iPad. Company founder and CEO Matt MacInnis (@stanine) recently sat down with O’Reilly’s Joe Wikert to talk about the company and how its goals go way beyond traditional textbook education.

Highlights from the interview include:

  • Textbook design is going to change — “We don’t think the products people pay for a few years from now are going to be as distinct as the textbook is today from other print products … when you think about learning about cellular biology or something medical, or you think about learning how to crochet or cook or travel — a lot of those products are going to start to look much more similar. They’re going to be more modular or they’re going to be more hierarchical — they’re going to be more interactive. Although our focus today is most certainly on the textbook, there’s a whole world of opportunity for this kind of technology.” [Discussed at the 1:51 mark.]
  • The way textbooks are consumed is going to change — “When you think about the chapter, it is a division of content that’s really rooted in the structure of the book … [We think that as we work with publishers] to build natively digital content, you won’t have a chapter. You’ll actually have an object or you’ll have something that is learning- and outcome-focused that you’ll pay for as a modular bit of content.” [Discussed at 4:13.]
  • Social features work particularly well with textbooks — “Human beings are wired to learn from one another. The textbook is a fundamentally isolating experience, and sometimes that’s good … but with a textbook it’s not such a great thing to be totally isolated from the world around you. It’s okay to focus, but you also need to bounce ideas off people and ask questions and have people show you things you don’t understand. Our goal is to bring the community of learners around you into the textbook experience so that the content is one of the ways you learn when you’re using Inkling.” [Discussed at 7:30.]

For more on Inkling check out the full discussion in the following video:

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  • Kathy Sierra

    I have not yet watched the video, but I love the points in your summary for several reasons. I will say more after I watch it, but thanks.

    This sentence in particular describes what is probably the ONLY useful path forward for everything from “formal” learning to user docs to the kinds of content published by O’Reilly and others:
    “you’ll have something that is learning- and outcome-focused that you’ll pay for as a modular bit of content.”

    The addition of the word “outcome” to “learning” is EVERYTHING.

  • http://textbookrecycling.com Jason@TextbookRecycling.com

    I’m looking forward to see where textbooks head for the generations to come. I think it’s going to be very interesting how new technology is used to help students engage with each other and the content.

    Thanks for posting this interview, and for giving us a peek into what is coming in the world of textbooks!