As the medical and educational sectors across the continent explore the possibilities of integrating tablets into not only their respective curricula but their workplaces as well, the educational eBook market is becoming increasingly cutthroat, with companies like Apple and Amazon duking it out to become the ubiquitous choice for both platform and eBook selection.
But this situation has put many medical and educational institutions in a bind, as the constant need to reduce costs and balance budgets is now sharply juxtaposed with the desire to attract the best talent and retain students.
The reality is, however, that whether or not the medical or educational sectors need or can even afford such technology, the digital advancement continues unabated, with many predicting that within the next two years eBooks will replace outright the traditional textbook. It’s a situation that has many concerned that picking the wrong eBook provider, the wrong tablet, or even the wrong school, may mean restricted access to important content.
To gauge the effectiveness and even the necessity of tablets, medical and educational institutions across the continent are launching pilot programs, putting tablets in the hands of students, doctors, and educators alike to see if having apps and information available at the swipe of a finger is something that these sectors not just want, but actually need.
The findings of most studies, it should really come as no surprise, are that tablets are incredibly useful tools, offering aspiring doctors and other such students the ease of data access, note-taking, and reading (to name only but a few features) all on one digitally advanced (yet relatively portable) platform.
But while many are already convinced of the wondrous power of the tablet, the problem for many medical and educational institutions is, which tablet is for us? You see, the problem with choosing a tablet is that in doing so one is choosing a platform; and in choosing a platform, one is also choosing a format, particularly for eBooks; and in choosing a format, one, somewhat unintentionally, marries oneself to a particular line of e-textbooks.
The issue is further exacerbated by the fact that competing e-textbook distributors continue to “try to cut exclusive deals and limit competitors’ supplies of e-content,” leaving “educators from the kindergarten to university level…wondering if their choices of learning material will be choked as a result.”
The extant issue, it seems, is that should medical or educational institutions choose the wrong platform, the wrong tablet, or the wrong e-textbook distributor that they will be missing out on valuable content that other institutions (and don’t forget that medical and educational institutions do compete with each other for student and doctor retention) might be able to provide.
In the end, while I have no doubt that, as textbooks insiders predict, the traditional textbook will go the way of the Dodo bird in the next several years, a relic of a bygone era that our kids will only be able to see in museums, I do fear for the accessibility of information in the coming paradigm shift, particularly as that information, for the time being at least, will be device specific. Oh for the simplicity of a book!