By John Ott and Eric Freese, Aptara
Welcome to class. Take your new tablet— your only textbook this semester— out of your backpack. It’s about the same size, but lighter and thinner than your old textbooks. It’s also battery-powered, similar to a big touch-screen, like your iPhone.
Use that touch-screen and download the first chapter of your first lesson. That’s right—your lesson is an app. Plug in your earbuds and tap the screen to begin the introductory video.
Cool, the presenter is that famous scientist from the cable show…
Now the video goes into full documentary mode; scenes from real life. Major ideas from the lesson appear as text at the bottom of the screen; so do vocabulary words. Now the presenter is back and he’s working out a big idea step-by-step on the whiteboard…
Video over. Time to read.
The text repeats and expands upon what you saw on the video. Tap an unfamiliar word and a popup gives you a definition; the voiceover gives you the proper pro-nun-ci-a-tion. Have some text you want to highlight? No magic marker needed—just tap and color the passage in one of six colors. Use the virtual keyboard to write yourself some study notes…
Tap Figure 1.1 in the text and it becomes a little animation—no step-ones and step-twos and little arrows like in your old textbooks. Graphs, charts, and diagrams each have their own animations – watch the bars grow; see how the pie chart is sliced; the voiceovers explain everything that happens. Here’s a still photo; tap on it and it becomes a slideshow—with narration for each picture. Other photos turn into additional short videos.
Well, did you learn anything? Tap the screen and bring up the exercises. Tap to answer the questions—and your textbook will tell you if you got the right answer or not. Have a real question? Use your textbook and email it to your teacher.
So, that was science. On to the next class—where you’ll use tablet for history. And for math. And health.
And you can use your tablet to record your teacher’s lecture in Spanish class.
And you’re really looking forward to English Lit, because you get to watch Shakespeare and read along at the same time.
Finish off the school day at band practice. Need the music? Got an app for that. Download it. While you’re waiting for the conductor, give a listen what the piece sounds like. Tune to a perfect “C” from your tablet; then tap up the sheet music, prop your tablet on the music stand, and toot that horn.
Now you’re on the bus going home; you’ve got homework. The Moby Dick app is on your tablet, but the writing is pretty dense and you think you’d rather watch the old 1956 John Huston-Ray Bradbury movie… or watch that Harvard professor lecturing about the book… or watch the documentary video on whaling… it’s all part of the app. Well, maybe later.
Your tablet is also a web browser…
Wow! James Cameron has another Avatar sequel coming out… there’s an eBook app already available. Navigate to the store and download it. Cool— it’s got clips and outtakes from the movie and tons of concept art, and video interviews with the stars and supplemental fiction and special animations… and links to sites where you can buy every authorized piece of Avatar merchandise…
This all sounds great, right? So when—? In about ten weeks. Plus the time it takes publishers to learn their way around Apple’s new, revolutionary iPad and start putting product on the market.
Apple’s iPad is likely to be the first tablet device to capture the public’s imagination and the mass market, opening the floodgates for similar devices and sparking a gold rush among eBook publishers. Its ability to incorporate color, video, interactivity, and sound into the eBook experience, along with its user-friendly touch-screen interface, means that publishers will now have to move beyond the model of simply reproducing printed pages on an electronic screen. The distinction between eBooks and apps will disappear.
Soon, there will be only two kinds of eBooks: those with video, motion graphics, and sound, and those without.
The Aspen Post put it very well:
“At the end of the day, at the end of this decade, the iPad will be seen as the first device that collected all the media together in one truly portable place… the tablet is literally a tabula rasa for the commingling of audio, video, text, and graphics—of movies, books, pamphlets, plays, diaries, novels, novellas, non-fiction, newsreels… and the list never ends…. In two or three more generations the iPad will become a true multimedia monster that changes the means of production forever.”
Touch-screen interaction is part of the whole spectrum of features (color, sound, video, motion graphics, interactivity) that make the iPad a breakthrough eBook device — not just an electronic substitute for paper. The thing publishers have to focus on now is not how to adapt legacy works to electronic formats, but how to completely reinvent their educational and mass-market products to take advantage of what the iPad, and subsequent devices, can do.
Traditional books don’t have moving parts or make sounds, and now suddenly publishers have to become experts on eBooks that do— video, audio, animation, motion graphics, and interactivity. They have to become— among other things— multimedia producers. Expect to see publishers pairing off with expert partners in multimedia fields real soon.
O brave new world for publishers…
But don’t worry. There will probably be an app for that, too.
John Ott is Senior Multimedia Designer at Aptara; Eric Freese is Digital Solutions Architect, Aptara. Aptara provides digital publishing solutions that deliver significant gains in quality, time-to-market and production costs for eBook publishers.