With all the e-readers and tablets out there, e-books are becoming increasingly popular for general reading. However, textbooks and the demands we make on them are different. I spent some time exploring Inkling, one of the most promising textbook platforms to date. Inkling does not simply present a PDF version of the print textbook. They have actually re-built each book in such a way that things like diagrams and images are enhanced for learning. In many cases, videos and quizzes are also embedded in the content.
Inkling offers all the features you might expect from a good e-reader app or platform
- searchable content
- integrated glossary (look words up by clicking on them)
- user notes and highlights viewable in context or in a separate list
- content can be used offline
It also goes beyond the typical features to include things like:
- interactive quizzes
- high resolution artwork and diagrams, audio, video
- collaborative/social annotations
- free preview chapter for each title
- option to buy one chapter at a time or the entire book at a competitive price
Where it excels
The information is organized and presented in a way that makes it very intuitive to use and very easy to see various elements at a glance and get right to the section you need. To get a sense of this, check out this video demo of an individual medical text:
Not only does the interface not get in your way, it’s actually an improvement in many ways over a hard copy book — and that goes for studying as well as reading.
Where it falls short
As I was using it, a few times I found myself wanting to zoom out to see the entire page at once. This is not possible, although viewing the iPad in portrait rather than landscape mode helps. I must admit though that for readability, it is preferable to be zoomed in as Inkling was designed. I also kept trying to turn the pages by swiping left, however, with Inkling you must swipe up to get to the next page. In both these cases, it’s just a matter of adapting to new interface conventions, and neither would be a problem for a regular user.
The only real shortcoming of Inkling is the small number of titles available so far. They seem to have secured cooperation and rights from key publishers, but adapting each text into an enhanced Inkling version takes a lot of work and time. That being said, medicine is one of the areas with the most titles as of now. If you have an iPad, try out some free chapters and let us know what you think. Has Inkling gotten it right?