How Employees Learn

How Amazon Plans to Kindle the Fire of eLearning with Interactive Textbooks

Let’s face it: In the learning world, textbooks are probably more akin to a sleeping pill than a shot of espresso. Traditionally dry and wordy textbooks can actively disengage a motivated learner who wants to touch, see, hear, and experience learning material via something more than words. What’s more, textbooks can seem daunting: Thick, unwieldy, and full of scholar-speak, it’s pretty rare to find someone who is excited to dive into Biology 101 with gusto.

Open Platform Kindle Textbooks

Enter Kindle Textbook Creator: A self-publishing device that can actually turn PDF files into engaging eTextbook files that can include interactive tools to wake up learners who are probably using their tablets (and Kindle Fire) as learning devices.

Kindle Direct Publishing is fulfilling a huge plot hole in the world of technical tomes: While Apple iBooks does allow educator publishing for brand-new texts, Textbook Creator can effectively upgrade existing texts that have been created and are already in use. By adding a few tools and areas for interaction, professors can become e-educators, offering students options for experiencing the curriculum.

It’s true that iBooks can offer more in the way of embedded video and interaction, but it’s a fair compromise for educators who already have pages of solid course material that could be better experienced and utilized with an eTextbook version.

Just Like Papera

One of the main advantages Kindle Textbooks will have to traditional texts is the fact that anything you can do with paper textbooks, you’ll be able to do with an eTextbook. When the PDF file is converted, it’s automatically upgraded with the full tool menu offered by Kindle Textbooks, which includes multi-color highlighters, bookmarks, annotations, and even flash card capabilities.

Of course, unlike traditional textbooks, students don’t have to lug around 20 pounds of books from class to class. It also can dramatically reduce the cost of textbooks altogether, since the development and delivery of an eTextbook is much cheaper than printing paper texts.

By offering professors the ability to publish their own eTextbooks, Amazon (via Kindle) has the opportunity to lighten the literal and financial burden of textbooks on students. What’s more, eTextbooks are much more suited to online courses than paper versions. Educators can easily change, edit, and upload the latest versions in real time, so there’s no risk of outdated information or reprinting a minimally edited version of a past text.

eTextbooks in eLearning

Sure, eTextbooks are a no-brainer for K-12 and post-secondary applications, but it’s not especially handy for learning and development on a corporate level. It’s not that Kindle Direct Publishing isn’t suited to corporate tasks, but rather the fact that most L&D learning materials are short manuals, how-to videos, and tutorials rather than thick textbooks.

It could be hypothesized that if a corporation had an extensive compliance manual, it could be converted into an eTextbook for employees to view on their tablets, but compliance manuals rarely require a high degree of interaction. Mostly used for reference, the ability to look up terms in Wikipedia, for example, isn’t especially applicable in a corporate setting.

Whether or not eTextbooks become a part of L&D strategy, Kindle Direct Publishing shows that some learning giants are thinking outside the book for learning materials. Acknowledging the need (and the mass desire) for texts that are more than just words on a page bodes well for the eLearning movement as a whole.