eTextBook Review: MBS Direct Digital

This is a followup to my recent posts relating to digital textbooks, Apple iBooks for eTextBooks- getting there? and EdTech Policy – Drinking the Kool-aid?

I recently attended a live demo  of MBS Direct’s Direct Digital solution, in which I and several colleagues (teachers and techies) got to Q&A a top developer on the current product and where it is headed. The verdict in a nutshell? Overall all pretty impressed, but watch out for those DRM agreements!
(View a recorded demo here: Blue “WEBINARS” button, then choose the third pre-recorded option – “Direct Digital: Your Content, Your Reader, Any Device”)

I dutifully report here what we discovered.

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Apple iBooks for eTextBooks- getting there?

OK, so Apple launched its new authoring platform for iBooks which is supposed to revolutionize eTextBooks. I’m not sure the revolution is fully realized yet, but this would appear to move us in the right direction. We might be at or near step two of three in the near-term evolution of eTextBooks, which I see as:

  1. Textbooks transliterated for reading in eReaders. Basically, the benefit here is that students can stop carrying around those insanely heavy backpacks. Downsides include lack of ability to notate or highlight, or clumsy ways of doing these things.
  2. eTexts have rich media, ability to notate, some social/sharing component, and include a mechanism for backing up texts and associated meta-data.
  3. All of the above, but platform independent.

From the demo in link above, it looks like rich media and notating are fairly well developed, but I’m waiting to see what social components there are, if any, and how easily they back up meta-data. I’m also a bit turned off by Apple’s continued monopolism (see a discussion here about the controls on content development for the iBook).

MBS Direct has supposedly finally ironed out their web-based reader, and I will report back here after I have been able to test that (in the next couple of weeks).  My problem with web-based readers is that, although they are platform independent, they require an internet connection when you want to access content (barring an “offline” mode which they may have or might develop).

Please comment below with thoughts on where eTexts are heading, what you are using, what you would like to see…