Interactive eBook Apps: Reading and Interactivity
The invention of the tablet PC has created a new medium for book publishing. Interactive books are everywhere and have revolutionized the way people consume the printed word. With the recent software available to allow easy creation of interactive books and with the race to bring these products to market, there seems to be a more and more dilution of quality and a loss for the meaning of interactivity. When publishers create new eBook titles or convert a traditional printed book to a digital interactive eBook, they often miss the added value this new medium can provide.
It’s important to understand the distinction between apps and eBooks, as it’s something that often confuses both publishers and consumers. It basically comes down to formats; apps are mostly native iOS or Android software, whereas eBooks are documents of a particular format, such as the open standards EPUB and Mobipocket (.mobi). And eBooks can be further distinguished from “enhanced eBooks,” which use formats such as ePUB3 for iBooks (Apple) and Kindle Format 8 (KF8) for Kindle Fire (Amazon).
eBooks were the first to appear on devices such as the Kindle, and have very limited interactivity. You are mainly able to flip the pages, search for content, or highlight words to see a dictionary definition. These devices also allowed font size to be increased to enable visually impaired readers to enjoy books more easily. This gave publishers the unforeseen benefit of regaining a large population of users who couldn’t read printed books.
Enhanced eBooks (ePUB3) are a new digital publication standard that allows easy integration of video, audio, and interactivity. I expect this format to advance the future of textbooks and other educational material. Future textbooks might be able to “read themselves” with audio narration, perhaps preventing students from actually reading. But the benefits outweigh the downsides; for example, the new textbooks might also offer the ability to make and share annotations without destroying the book, interactive self-tests throughout the chapters, and generally a much more enjoyable learning experience.