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New report based on research to over 250 global IT
professionals blended with expert commentary from writers,
publishers a...
The Interactive eBooks Revolution IDG Connect
2
Introduction: What Can Laurence Sterne Tell us About eBooks?
It was 1759 i...
The Interactive eBooks Revolution IDG Connect
3
Reading eBooks: What is the State of the Market?
Commercially, “eBooks hav...
The Interactive eBooks Revolution IDG Connect
4
A lot of people we interviewed talked about price and convenience. Many fe...
The Interactive eBooks Revolution IDG Connect
5
In Sierra Leone, where literacy is rated at a shockingly poor 47th in Afri...
The Interactive eBooks Revolution IDG Connect
6
Learning: How Interactivity Can Add the Extra Dimension
Dan Oja and June J...
The Interactive eBooks Revolution IDG Connect
7
It is of course, impossible to predict the future but it is safe to say th...
The Interactive eBooks Revolution IDG Connect
8
The problems appear to be two-fold. Firstly, getting publishers to buy int...
The Interactive eBooks Revolution IDG Connect
9
He continued, these should allow us to “be able to go ‘between the pages’ ...
The Interactive eBooks Revolution IDG Connect
10
Conclusion: Tristram Shandy & the eBook Revolution
Across the globe there...
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The Interactive eBooks Revolution

New report based on research to over 250 global IT professionals blended with expert commentary from writers,
publishers and eBook companies worldwide.

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The Interactive eBooks Revolution

  1. 1. New report based on research to over 250 global IT professionals blended with expert commentary from writers, publishers and eBook companies worldwide. The Interactive eBooks Revolution: A Tristram Shandy Approach to Education, Literature & Publishing?
  2. 2. The Interactive eBooks Revolution IDG Connect 2 Introduction: What Can Laurence Sterne Tell us About eBooks? It was 1759 in deepest Yorkshire and an Anglo-Irish vicar was undergoing an intense personal crisis. He was 46, his mother was dying, his wife and daughter were ill with fever and he himself was ravaged with consumption. This spurred him to write furiously. And, by the end of the year, he had completed the first two volumes of his massive nine-volume novel. The publisher, Robert Dodsley, immediately rejected his story. But, not to be squashed, Laurence Sterne paid a local York firm to produce the book. And Tristram Shandy bucked all convention, defied all expectations, and proved a runaway success. The narrative is comical, bawdy and entirely unique. The eponymous hero is not born till the third volume. And this is not the strangest part. The completed work includes a black page when one character dies, a blank page for readers to add their own illustrations, little diagrams within text and even tiny hands to alert readers to particularly important sections. It was like a literary PDF document for the 18th century and the public loved it. Sterne was a publishing phenomenon overnight and rapidly attained celebrity status throughout Europe. The critics however, were not so impressed. In 1776 Dr Johnson said: “Nothing odd will do long. Tristram Shandy did not last.” This was nonsense of course. It was the standard reaction to anything new. And Tristram Shandy has become a set text on numerous university syllabuses and proved an inspiration to modern writers including Salman Rushdie and Peter Carey. Now, in 2014, the whole phenomenon of eBooks offers a similar crossroads for storytelling. “We’re in the very early stages of eBooks, sort of like version 2.0 Alpha,” explained one individual who took part in our survey. This will have implications for writers who, like Laurence Sterne, want to find unusual, and some may say gimmicky, ways to tell their stories. It will also have implications for publishers who, like Robert Dodsley, will need to accept new ways to present information. Interestingly, Dodsley himself rushed out a reprint of the first two volumes of Tristram Shandy in early 1760, complete with illustrations by William Hogarth, as soon as he saw just how much money could be made. Finally and perhaps most significantly, eBooks will also have resounding implications for education. This format changes the way information is produced and disseminated. It makes it easier to update and upgrade textbooks. But above all it provides whole new interactive ways to learn, which were simply not possible before. Through this short report we take a look at the full potential in the market. We address the pragmatic implications of shifting from paper to digital but we also discuss some of the more forward looking opportunities afforded by an interactive format, which blends audio, visual and perhaps previously unthought of features. This analysis includes interviews with a range of industry professionals such as writers, publishers and eBook producers, along with the opinions of a global sample of over 250 IT professionals. It was like a literary PDF document for the 18th century and the public loved it. Sterne was a publishing phenomenon overnight and rapidly attained celebrity status throughout Europe. “ IDG Connect
  3. 3. The Interactive eBooks Revolution IDG Connect 3 Reading eBooks: What is the State of the Market? Commercially, “eBooks have become the most relevant driver for growth in international publishing markets,” stated the Global eBook Report published in May 2014. The two largest markets are still the UK and US, which have a total combined share for eBooks of around 20% of trade sales, and 30% in fiction. However, this increase has now reached a “plateau” and other countries like France, Spain or Italy are seeing a continuous expansion of eBooks, in tandem with a growing penetration of devices, and tablets. There is also a clear growth of companies from emerging economies, most notably the BRICs: Brazil, Russia, India and China. Our research across 250 global IT professionals takes a more holistic view of the market and shows that 69% surveyed believe that eBooks will become more popular than paper books in the future. These professionals feel the biggest beneficiary will be education but also believe the group that will prove the “biggest stumbling block” for more innovative, interactive developments will be publishers. Do you think eBooks will become the most popular format? Agree Neither Disagree eBooks are still in their early phase and we have a long way to go before they reach their full potential. They have reached different stages around the world: “Physical books are much more popular than eBooks outside the US,” suggested one respondent “and also outside the high-tech zones of the US. You can actually find real bookstores in those places, unlike the situation in San Francisco. Not everyone buys into the Kindle Life. I have some eBooks for tech reference and for trash reading, but most of my purchases are still of physical books.” The full spectrum of eBook development is also quite diverse. Their potential covers more utilitarian ideas like functionality through the entire gamut of innovation. And opinion from respondents ranged from “Interactive = made for idiots who can’t read. They have to have pictures,” through to the other end of the spectrum: “Smart multi-purpose devices will need to replace the minimal functionality devices to give consumers the [full] interactive reading experience. [This will allow books to] incorporate video, audio and extensions to the text via the web to deliver the ultimate reading experience. While not so important for casual entertainment reading, this functionality will be mandatory for education, business and other reading.” 69% 17% 12%
  4. 4. The Interactive eBooks Revolution IDG Connect 4 A lot of people we interviewed talked about price and convenience. Many felt eBooks could never replace their paper equivalent: “I now do most of my reading with eBooks,” wrote one. “But there is a certain satisfaction when I want to read and relax to sit in a comfortable chair and turn the pages of a regular book. I’m also dismayed that publishers are keeping the price of eBooks at a higher price than physical books; I’ll buy more eBooks when the prices start to approach the discount price of paperbacks.” Many others talked about how much space they save through using eBooks and the environmental benefits. “In smaller houses, yes; they don’t have to be dusted and they save trees,” put one, succinctly. Numerous individuals talked about how, in the future, the two formats would be used in tandem: “Print books and eBooks have two distinct audiences; confusing the audiences is a key limitation. This is not an either/or matter, rather it is a both/and matter,” said one. Another added: “Certain coffee table books will continue to do well.” “The human senses require the tangible experience of real books - touch, smell, experience,” one professional summarised. “Both the tangible and intangible (eBooks) will be used.” Education: Understanding eBooks’ Global Potential Over the last few years there has been a huge surge in technological platforms to help students learn. eBooks have formed one tiny part of a digital movement which has included distance learning sites like the Open University and real-time webinars and Massive Open Online Courses or ‘MOOCs’. Earlier this year the BBC World Service ran an excellent documentary, ‘The Education Revolution’ on the impact of all this in emerging regions, like Kenya. These developments strongly tie in with the greater emphasis placed on education in emerging countries. As James Hanaway, Head of Development at eLearning charity Camara, explained: “There is a real ambition to be in school across [all] the countries [we work in, through Africa]. This is the pathway to bettering yourself and there is hunger for education that is a lot more apparent within the kids in the school [than you ever see here in the UK]. They want to absorb everything.” This opens up clear opportunities for eBooks in the developing world. Dan Oja and June Jamrich Parsons are based in the US and have produced eLearning content and technology solutions for several decades now. Over the last couple of years they have been building partnerships with companies on the ground in India, Pakistan and the Middle East, to supply technological platforms and premium quality materials: “In the US [the educational emphasis tends to be] let’s think about the process and not think too much about the result. In these [emerging] markets it is [all about] the result. It is a different focus; a different thing you’re trying to do,” explained Oja. “There is a clear internalisation that education is the pathway to success,” added Parsons. “And no legacy stuff in terms of IT. [Through the big publishers in the US] Learning Management Systems [LMS] have been in place for 10 years now and there is a vested interest in using them. In emerging markets their infrastructure is paper books, so they’re [more] open to new sophisticated ways of doing things.” There is a clear internalisation that education is the pathway to success. And no legacy stuff in terms of IT. June Jamrich Parsons “ Print books and eBooks have two distinct audiences; confusing the audiences is a key limitation. This is not an either/or matter, rather it is a both/and matter. Survey respondent “
  5. 5. The Interactive eBooks Revolution IDG Connect 5 In Sierra Leone, where literacy is rated at a shockingly poor 47th in Africa according to the African Economist, the government is looking at new ways ICT can deliver learning materials that students can use outside the classroom, ideally on cheap, solar-powered tablets. This could deliver real social value. As one of our survey respondents put it: “eBooks are great as they can be edited and updated without repurchasing.” In India, Apurva Ashar has founded e-shabda the local language eBook section of enterprise and IT solutions company Cygnet Infotech Pvt Ltd. He stressed eBooks’ potential for children goes beyond formal education: “We have [a lot of] Indian language young children born in other countries,” he told us. “They speak Guajarati in their own home but they don’t read it. I see a lot of scope for interactive books which contain audio as well as the script. [This would definitely be a benefit] for the sake of a small child. [It would] help bring them back to their roots.” Yet eBooks are still not mainstream. Alicia de Wet, a freelance editor, proofreader and publishing project manager based in Johannesburg, South Africa, said “the eBook market is actually struggling to get ahead” and that in education “eBooks are being phased in very slowly and that there is a lot more room for growth.” However, she added: “I also don’t think that eBooks, at the moment, are what is best for the market. A lot of time needs to be spent to make eBooks appealing and more user-friendly.” In which industry do you think eBooks hold the most potential? Education Entertainment Business The potential for eBooks in education is clearly phenomenal. However, de Wit is concerned that at the moment the format can be messy. Canadian author, Alessandro Cassa agreed with this broader point. “eBooks, [have the potential to be] much more than only a non-paper version [of a text] and need to be adapted in education [for highlighting the] specific objectives of learning.” Sophie Tergeist who is commissioning editor at Bookboon.com, an organisation that supplies free academic and business eBooks, financed by a few in-book ads, told us eBooks “are still in an early stage.” In her experience speaking with professors of tertiary education in various European countries university libraries are happy to acquire electronic articles and books, but these are not being promoted yet. 59% 26% 15% eBooks, [have the potential to be] much more than only a non-paper version and need to be adapted in education [for highlighting the] specific objectives of learning. Alessandro Cassa “
  6. 6. The Interactive eBooks Revolution IDG Connect 6 Learning: How Interactivity Can Add the Extra Dimension Dan Oja and June Jamrich Parsons are both early pioneers interactivity. They had their first interactive eTextbook published in the US in 1996. This was in the award-winning New Perspective series and as Parsons explained, even in those early iterations “photos would turn into videos and there would be in-context questions that students would answer and get graded – so students could get immediate feedback on how well they were doing.” Today Parsons is still working on some pretty progressive approaches to learning and has just pioneered a concept called “Reading with eyes shut”. “People who love to read have one thing in common they create pictures in their mind,” she told us. “They see the characters and they see the setting. But for reluctant readers [she quantifies these as often, though not exclusively, young boys aged 8 -12] they spend so much time trying to decode the words on the page that all their mental activity goes to that so they have nothing left over, no free mental capacity to do that visualisation. They don’t get appreciation for reading.” The story and accompanying technology Parsons has created is intended to overcome this obstacle as it allows the child to press a button and have the story read aloud to them. This means they can visualise the pictures whilst not having to worry about deciphering the words. And in a lot of ways it means a tablet can perform the same function as a parent who reads bedtime stories to a child who traces the words. Yet this is just one part of the picture. As Parsons demonstrated in a SlideShare report on digital textbooks released earlier this year, the textbook market itself might have reached a tipping point. It is currently worth a mammoth $14 billion. However, although numerous students are purchasing eTextbooks, the price of digital versions is almost the same as print editions. This issue of cost is something that is reiterated time and again by our own survey respondents. “I refuse to pay more for content in a medium that costs less to produce and distribute,” one respondent firmly told us. In fact, in 2013, the average price of a print textbook was $64, whilst the average price of its digital equivalent was only $3 less, at $61. Now popular digital formats offer different educational features which allow agile new entrants to challenge traditional market leaders. Free textbook suppliers like bookboon (42m downloads), Boundless (1m downloads), Flat World (300,000 downloads) and OpenStax (170,000 downloads) are proving extremely popular. Yet this “open and free educational software is mostly experimental… for now,” wrote Parsons. “It’s also a question of financial means,” she added. “Educators need to be sure that their students can access the right textbook at all times. Because of library subscriptions and limited access, this can sometimes be difficult. I definitely believe that as eBooks are becoming accessible through all devices and are improving their features, and considering the high prices of printed textbooks in addition to the now higher costs of higher education, eBooks will be in higher demand and educators will choose this medium over print.” I refuse to pay more for content in a medium that costs less to produce and distribute. “ Surevy respondent
  7. 7. The Interactive eBooks Revolution IDG Connect 7 It is of course, impossible to predict the future but it is safe to say that children who have grown up with iPads will most likely have different expectations of how they access information to older people. On top of this, free eTextbooks are virtually destined to provide precisely the type of disruption that free information has for all those other forms of publishing like fiction, magazines and newspapers. Evidence suggests the time has come for the old guard of textbook publishers to both cut their digital costs and offer something that print books don’t provide. It looks like the time for interactivity may have finally arrived. Interactivity: Taking eBooks Towards Their Full True Promise Today Tristram Shandy is credited as instrumental in the formation of the modern novel. The flawed anti-hero and comic, discursive text is no longer regarded with abject suspicion. And even the more ‘interactive’ elements, which aren’t to everyone’s taste, are recognised as part of a tradition that can be followed. Yet looking at the facts bluntly, Sterne’s initial rejection is not all that surprising. The ability to spot something genuinely new and good is a notoriously difficult problem for publishers - after all, these ideas haven’t been tested. And so instead, scores of rip-off versions of Harry Potter or 50 Shades of Grey edge their way up through the slush pile to the dusty light of publication… whilst anything a bit difficult to smell the money on receives considerably shorter shrift. The problem has remained the same since time immemorial, except now eBooks complicate things further by throwing format as well as content into the mix. The potential for new interactive ways of showcasing information is absolutely incredible. This could be additional ways to put the reader into the story, or it could be multimedia to bring the text to life through songs, graphics and spoken word. Cutting-edge technology could deliver the full scope of what Tolkien committed to paper in his mammoth fictional universe ‘Lord of the Rings’ but this sort of content is hard for authors to self-publish. Do you think interactive eBooks will catch on? 83% YES NO 17%
  8. 8. The Interactive eBooks Revolution IDG Connect 8 The problems appear to be two-fold. Firstly, getting publishers to buy into writers who tell stories in new engaging ways is bound to be a tricky sell. Secondly, ensuring that these experimental stories really work in practice will never be as easy as printing a book. In truth, the production of these works could become a logistical nightmare as it would probably require some kind of collaboration between writers, developers, animators, illustrators and actors to produce inovative virtual theatre. Not surprisingly then, interactive eBooks are still not very common in fiction aimed at adults. Yet conversely, the slew of reading apps which are now flooding the marketplace are all emphasising the more interactive element. It seems like there is definitely a disconnect somewhere. An interview with Henrik Berggren, CEO of fast-growing reading app Readmill, conducted by Michael Grothaus for Fast Company, for example, highlighted the socially interactive nature of the future reading audience. Whilst when we spoke to the founders of Ether Books - an app which gives writers a platform, readers a community and publishers a new mobile distribution model - last year they were very keen to stress how ‘on trend’ they were by promoting engagement through gamification. Freelance South African editor Alice de Wit said “[the] added features and the interactivity of eBooks might actually help grow the reading market, as young adults and children are often easily bored while reading. They have been taught to interact with everything around them and having to interact with their imaginations has become difficult.” Alessandro Cassa suggested: “Interactive eBooks are very interesting, and offer a lot of opportunities. They are a great way to transit from paper to virtual, and [can be] used together, side by side, one being the complement of the other. Like a game, or a puzzle, with animations and sounds (some are just beautiful). Those interactive eBooks are close to the vision I have of the potential of experimentation of eBooks.” Alice Frances, Editor of the New London Writers Press, an organisation which is all about “the promotion of writers” and which she described as a “labour of love”, told us: “Publishers, especially large mainstream publishers, are frightened of innovation for the usual monetary reasons. Formula publishers do acknowledge that there is no such thing as a guarantee of the next big best-selling novel. If your pitch is convincing enough some will accept a proposal for ‘something new’ but interactive books may have more defences to crack.” What do you think the biggest stumbling block to interactive eBooks catching on is? 11% Publishers Readers Writers 47% 42% Tomorrow’s books will not be just pure books, that is what I see. All these different features such as visuals and spoken word are coming together as one. “ Apurva Ashar
  9. 9. The Interactive eBooks Revolution IDG Connect 9 He continued, these should allow us to “be able to go ‘between the pages’ of a formal book. [These should provide] a way to define a subject or a point of interest in the text, for example [to] discover a new chapter, or a part of the story that you can find only on the interactive device. [We have] a young technology, that sometimes, seems to be near ‘websites’ or ‘interactive games’… interactive eBooks could be a perfect way to stimulate the love of books to children.” Children might be the most obvious recipients for these new interactive ways of telling stories. But children of today are the adults of the future… and perhaps the most interesting element in all this is the potential for eBooks to fundamentally change reading habits? This is happening already in numerous different ways, but looks set to continue. A survey conducted last year by Survey Monkey to 265 readers showed that when directly asked whether they “preferred” eBooks or printed books, nearly 40% voted for “both”; a statistic which seems likely to increase over the coming years. “I see these [future eBooks] as fusion,” said Apurva Ashar, founder of e-shabda, “[Tomorrow’s] books will not be just pure books, that is what I see. All these [different features such as visuals and spoken word are] coming together as one.” Frances, of the New London Writers Press, believes these are the future too, but is cautious about the time scale: “[I think] it will take very much longer than expected for people to shift their habits of reading. Words, that is to say pure text, are still very powerful, very persuasive, and won’t easily be replaced by multimedia. I envision a future whereby the varying book platforms operate side-by-side and pure text, whether electronic or paper-based will become something of an elite occupation, for the better educated perhaps.” “The cost of creating an interactive eBook is significantly higher than with a traditional book and requires a broader set of skills,” warned one respondent in our survey. “Traditional publishers will [eventually] be replaced with eBook publishers which provide in-house interactive capabilities.” “At present [though],” added Frances, “the sheer technical difficulties involved in creating multimedia platforms for eBooks are a disadvantage, but these will be overcome and they [eBooks] may [well] end up taking a huge share of the market. Obviously, the scope for creativity and reader engagement is tremendous.” Interactive eBooks could be a perfect way to stimulate the love of books to children. “ Alessandro Cassa
  10. 10. The Interactive eBooks Revolution IDG Connect 10 Conclusion: Tristram Shandy & the eBook Revolution Across the globe there will always be millions of readers who prefer real, physical books. The pleasure of browsing round an old higgledy-piggledy secondhand bookshop will remain unmatched for many people. Nothing will replace that smell of the paper or feel of worn pages to a true bibliophile. Yet eBooks offer numerous advantages. On the pragmatic level they should be cheaper to distribute and update, which has enormous educational and social benefits. Whilst interactive eBooks offer a completely different promise across the entire spectrum of education, business learning and entertainment. This in no way undermines actual paper books but makes an ideal supplement to them. In education, interactive eBooks should allow for more intuitive ways of conveying information such as complementary multimedia experiences. They should facilitate testing students and storing their data. And these overarching benefits should tie in well with attitudes to education that tend to exist outside of established markets. The same is true for ongoing business learning where eBooks should help develop the careers of busy professionals. In entertainment, the possibilities are harder to visualise, but the full creative potential is even greater. It is here that the biggest innovations, which will feed through to other more practical spheres, are likely to take place. Interactive eBooks should provide a whole new collaborative way of producing work and previously unthought of ways of bringing stories from around the world to life. This could blend movie-techniques and gamification with old fashioned storytelling to provide a previously impossible, fully immersive experience. Much of this may be untested, but the precedent for innovation can be seen across the entire canon of English literature. At the start of 1759, Laurence Sterne was just a vicar with a slightly odd idea that he was desperate to commit to paper. Nobody else could see what he was driving at and, even once he had written it down, the reaction from professional circles was predominately, raised eyebrows and scathing scepticism. Everyone knows only different thinking will ever change the status quo. eBooks in their most interactive form may not have arrived yet, but when they do, it seems likely they will surprise us all. eBooks should provide a whole new collaborative way of producing work and previously un-thought of ways of bringing stories from around the world to life. “ IDG Connect IDG Connect is the demand generation division of International Data Group (IDG), the world’s largest technology media company. Established in 2006, it utilises access to 38 million business decision makers’ details to unite technology marketers with relevant targets from 137 countries around the world. Committed to engaging a disparate global IT audience with truly localised messaging, IDG Connect also publishes market specific thought leadership papers on behalf of its clients, and produces research for B2B marketers worldwide. About IDG Connect

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