While the e-book revolution has disrupted the traditional publishing of mainstream books, textbooks are still published on paper. One of the reasons is the lack of a flexible, uniform platform to distribute electronic textbooks easily. Poland is one country where electronic textbooks are being adopted much faster than elsewhere in Europe. In upgrading its educational system, Poland introduced an electronic way to distribute educational material because it is much faster, less expensive, and helps facilitate teacher-student collaboration.
A new generation of e-textbooks is opening the way to a much richer learning experience, and online access allows educators and parents to follow students' progress in real-time. IBM announced earlier this month a collaboration with Wydawnictwa Cyfrowe LLC., a leading Polish digital services provider for educational e-textbooks, based in Gdańsk. IBM will provide access to the company's e-textbooks platform on Softlayer infrastructure.
As a result, publishing houses will be able to distribute electronic versions of textbooks easily, so both teachers and students can have access to new forms of interactive education. There is growing demand for more interactive electronic textbooks. Until recently most e-textbooks were just digital copies of the print version, with no additional features. This was frustrating for students and teachers, who had to adapt to a new format without any real advantage. Many teachers complained and revolted because they had to instruct students in how to use the devices while also trying to teach their main subjects.
But interactive e-textbooks are creating a paradigm shift. Students are familiar with computer games and social media, so it is easy for them to adapt quickly to interactive learning materials. And teachers can tailor the distribution of new chapters and the difficulty of the learning process to the ability of individual students. It is like having a customized version of the textbook for each student in the class.
But the lack of standards has always been an issue. Some publishers and tablet makers have been pushing for walled gardens, where schools and teachers can only use one brand and platform. Also the system needed to be scalable to accommodate the growing number of titles and devices. As a result a cloud solution seemed the best approach.
According to Marcin Strzalkowski, co-founder of Wydawnictwa Cyfrowe:
Today, social networks and mobile devices generate a great challenge for publishers of traditional textbooks. The next generation approach entails providing a learning platform for students and teachers, who can work with a variety of educational materials. This requires a secure cloud computing service which we are providing with IBM. Another very important factor was scalability. The market of e-textbooks is currently growing, so the key issue was a guarantee to obtain greater capacity for increasing needs.
The cloud platform developed by Wydawnictwa Cyfrowe allows publishers to convert existing materials or create new interactive electronic textbooks easily, saving money and time while complying with the standards set by the Polish education authorities.
When the platform is fully operational it will also facilitate distribution and sales. Poland is one of the most populous European countries and, if its experience proves successful, the solution could quickly expand to other European school systems.