Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Coming ePublishing Revolution in Higher Education

It's been quiet here since last January when I talked about the new iBooks Author and its implications for eTextbooks in higher education. That's because writing that piece in January raised questions in my mind that couldn't be set aside. Even while vacationing in Europe its grip never lessened. All of this led to my publishing my first multi-touch book entitles, "The Coming ePublishing Revolution in Higher Education." Here are the basic facts:
First things first, here's where you can buy this book for the munificent sum of $0.99:

(click on the badge above)

Why $0.99? At first, I wanted to make it free since the book is, in part, about making eTextbooks free to students. However, I wanted to know how many copies were actually read as opposed to how many copies were downloaded. My thought is that people are more likely to read what they have paid for, even if it is just a token sum. I suppose we'll see about that. By the way, the copyright is CC-BY-NC-SA so one is free to use or re-use any part of the book as long as they attribute the work to me and share any improvements they might make with me.
So what's the book about? Thinking about the potential implications of new digital authoring software such as iBooks Author, Pages, Sigil et. al., I realized that higher education might be a spacial case with regard to the potential for the dis-intermediation of the academic publishing industry. After all, most of the people who write academic papers, books and textbooks are also employed in the higher education sector. This brought forth the entangled relationships between academics seeking promotion and tenure, the institutions that employ them and commercial publishing houses. I wanted to see if the technical potential to dis-intermediate could actually be translated into action in this byzantine culture. I think that I've gotten a handle on it and laying that understanding out is what the book is about.
Why an iBook that is only readable on the iPad? It's one thing to assert that a single subject matter expert (professor) can develop and deliver an eTextbook without assistance from a publisher and make it available to students at little or no cost. I wanted to test that assertion and use the results of that testing as evidence in support of the idea that dis-intermediation of the academic publishing is technically and economically feasible. UPDATE: The iBooks app for MacOS X 10.9 expands the potential audience to include MacOS X as well as iOS.
If dis-intermediation is technically possible, what's to stop it? As it turns out, the most formidable obstacle has little to do with technology. The primary barrier to dis-intermediation is not a technology problem. It's a people problem. It's the culture of academe exacerbated by recent economic issues that make the outcome of this story so difficult to foresee. What I think is achieved in this book is that we now have a better idea as to where we should cast our gaze and what to be looking for. Those who know what to look for will be among the first to understand how this will all turn out.