Yun Xie interviews Vikram Savkar for Ars Technica. Savkar is the Senior Vice President and Publishing Director at Nature Publishing Group.
According to Savkar, it seems there is a huge interest in digital textbooks:
Ars: How will you introduce digital textbooks to university professors and instructors? They’re the ones who will ultimately choose textbooks for classes.
Savkar: California State University is the first to adopt the interactive textbook, so they’ve helped spread the news. We only announced our plan for the textbook about a month ago, and 800 faculty members from colleges signed up the first day to get a demo.
I’m not surprised. The opportunity for digital text books has got to be wide open. Textbooks are a multi-billion dollar market and cost the average student $700 per semester. For the cost of one semester’s worth of textbooks a student could instead buy a tablet computer and then purchase cost-efficient, backpack-friendly textbooks at a lower rate for the next 7 semesters.
However, after reading this answer from Savkar during the interview, the future of digital textbooks suddenly seems a little less bright:
Ars: Would a student be able to read these interactive textbooks on laptops, iPads, Android phones, and other devices?
Savkar: Our textbooks are born digital, which means we created it for what digital can do. As I said before, we didn’t write a regular textbook, make PDFs, and put it online. Our textbooks will be available for iPad, smartphones, Androids, and other devices. These textbooks are born accessible.
What does it even mean these are “born digital” and “born accessible”? I fear it means they will be awkward, buggy, and frustrating.