The perspective of students carrying tablets fully loaded with eBooks and other types of eResources in a near future is becoming a reality. The revolution is well under way and we shouldn’t just think of college students: kids at primary level will also benefit from this move and are likely to embrace the idea with more intensity than anyone else.
The stakes of seizing this opportunity or at least playing a significant role in the textbook business are high. Major industry players are becoming avid and hungry. Microsoft is creeping its way into the market by teaming up with Barnes & Nobles to create a subsidiary focusing on the eBooks and college textbooks businesses. One of the first results of this venture will be to position the Windows 8 tablet as a new contender in the educational market by benefiting from a strong and large content source (remember, content is king). Concretely, it means that you will find a Nook application for the Windows 8 environment.
With this move, it seems obvious that Microsoft (through its joint-venture with B&N) is looking to compete heads-on with Apple on the eTextbook market. It is the old story of PC vs Mac, yet transposed to a very targeted audience. The complexity of this market means that further investment will still be required to build a complete eco-system which will involve authors, publishers and the like.
The consequence of these major players taking on the eBook market could be positive for the EPUB format (www.idpf.org). Given that Amazon and Apple are forcing the use of their proprietary format, B&N could well throw its weight behind EPUB. The risk indeed of introducing yet another format (by Microsoft for instance) would be too high in the publishing industry, an industry that needs time to strengthen its production workflows in order to comply with already too many distribution outputs.