You Say You Want a (Textbook) Revolution

By, John Conley, Vice President of Publishing, Xerox Corporation

The textbook industry is ripe for a digital revolution – as evident today with Apple’s announcement of interactive, digital education materials. But is removing paper completely from the education equation a feasible option – either from learning or a cost perspective? Will students completely swap textbooks, notepads, pens and highlighters for one electronic device?

Paper is paper no matter what level of education and people are hard wired to use it in the learning process. But with digital textbooks, we are moving from classroom lectures to a dynamic, interactive learning experience where the printed textbook will no longer be the main component in the education process.

With iBooks 2 and iBooks Author, customized digital materials can be created to enhance the learning experience – for example, digital textbooks that integrate labs and real-world experiences paired with supplemental printed handouts that are created by instructors. The combination could take learning to a whole different level.

Universities have been asking for digital textbooks for years and with the proper infrastructure in place and content available, we will see a very quick uptick in adoption.

In the K-12 market, AP courses and specialty one-off titles are excellent targets for this solution. It is unknown if adoption states and open-territory school districts could make room in their budgets for a technology infrastructure update of this nature – it seems likely that the printed textbook for the major K-12 series will hold on a bit longer.  

Xerox will continue to play a role in the education process, providing digital print-on-demand solutions in support of the new and more dynamic textbooks enabled by Apple.

So, what do you think – is the textbook revolution a good thing? 


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  1. Mike January 20, 2012 - Reply

    John you bring up some salient points. Just last night I was attending a Parent-Teacher conference for my sophomore daughter. The high school has bought an iPad for every student. Yes, it is lighter than lugging around 60 pounds worth of books and yes, it is high tech. However, I overheard one teacher explaining to a parent that in order to increase her child’s grade she should have her daughter read the paper textbook when studying. Some people learn better from paper textbooks because paper is more pleasant to handle. Check out and see why Americans seem to prefer print and paper.

  2. John Conley January 25, 2012 - Reply

    What will be interesting to observe is the actual rate of change and where it will take place. Subjects like Reading, Math, Science, and Language Arts require pedigogy and learning building blocks as you move from grade to grade in the K-8 space. How will this be done and controlled in an independent content creation universe and will schools utilize it for these diciplines which drive a big chunk of the print business for textbooks.

  3. Paul J Gardner May 3, 2012 - Reply


    The textbook revolution – the Book Revolution – is a wonderful thing! It creates so many new opportunities for learning and growth, and not just within the institutionalized education environment.

    And yes, I believe that eBooks have a chance to completely replace the traditional textbook, at least for today’s generation of Digital Native students.

    But I do NOT believe that mass adoption of eBooks by students signals the end of the paper book, nor the end of paper as a critical component of learning.

    Many opportunities for paper to prove it’s value as a Premium Product!


    Paul J Gardner
    Print Transformationist

  4. Nithya May 21, 2012 - Reply

    John, I think it is a fantastic thing.

    Replacing paper textbooks with digital devices is a wonderful thing, but certain aspects of a physical textbook cannot be reproduced in a digital device: the familiar feel of paper/book, ease of handling, traditional way of learning, ease with which older adults can participate in the learning process, and finally (this is my favorite), the smell of a freshly printed book! 🙂

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