One day, our grandchildren’s grandchildren will sit on their mommies’ and daddies’ knees and hear an almost unbelievable account of how people used to actually cut down trees to make paper. They will regard you and me with the same combination of sympathy and condescension that we have for outhouse owners, “Those poor, uneducated peasants.”
Luckily all that is swiftly changing. Paper based publications are struggling to stay alive in the face of electronic media. Gigantic printing presses will slowly grind to a stop and all of our reading materials will be available as multimedia files. I know this is not new information for our readers. I just love to revel in the imminence of the technological future.
On the scale of ecological guilt, textbooks are right up there with newsprint. Almost every year new textbook editions come out, and the old spine crunching tomes get stacked in a closet or (hopefully) recycled.
In steps the tablet, eReader or laptop to hold all of that wonderful information in a tiny, lumbar friendly package. Restricted only by storage space, these devices could potentially house entire libraries of wonderful and riveting knowledge. Up until now, however, eReaders and eReader software had a major disadvantage. You couldn’t get out the pen and highlighter and really interact with the book.
The Inkling iPad app has taken the textbook to a whole new level. They’ve combined the ease of use and portability of the electronic medium with the touchable interaction of a real book.
Content: Choose from hundreds of textbook titles at the Inkling store (or request a title if not yet available). You can purchase the entire book or only one chapter at a time. The prices are competitive with those of the hardcover additions. For example, Biology Tenth Edition by Sylvia S. Mader is available from Amazon for $151.60 with free shipping. At the Inkling store you can get the whole book for $139.99. Of course, there are always used books available (even paperback editions in some cases) that would bring the price down. With Inkling I also have the option of buying one or more chapters of this book for $3.99 each (per chapter price varies per book). It never fails that a professor will teach out of only a 3rd of that book for which you just plopped down a pile of dough. This is also great for the college student on a shoestring budget. Signing up for four classes usually meant buying four books. With Inkling you can get started with little more than about $25 for books, total. If you drop a class after the first few weeks, you’re only out the cost of one or two chapters. Also, many books have at least one chapter available for free. I downloaded a chapter from the book Pathophysiology of Heart Disease, by Leonard S. Lilly, MD. The chapter is called Basic Cardiac Structure and Function. Now I’ll have a more in-depth understanding of what those meatball subs are doing for my innards. A college student could get a free chapter of the text and then have a basic understanding of what to expect from the class. If it looks like a painfully dry subject he may save it for when the rest of his schedule is a little lighter in content. Download the books in a matter of seconds and you’re ready to go.
Navigation: Inkling has been designed for maximum ease of use. The chapter index has graphic and text clues for rapid movement to where ever you want to go. Tap the chapter to open it to full screen. Once in a chapter, tap arrows to go to others, or use your finger to move down the navigation slide. Dots and dashes on the slide indicate how far you are to the end of that chapter and the beginning of the next. There is a search feature for text or page numbers.
Interaction: Text size is adjustable, and you can highlight lines or make notes in the margins. Mark the notes as private for just yourself, or make them public so that other people can see them. A community of readers can interact about the same materials by viewing each others’ notes and highlights in real time, or create an ongoing discussion. How awesome is that to get a whole class to benefit from a communal train of thought? Awesomer still is if a mom or dad in Bangor, Maine can help their struggling Sophomore at Virginia Tech by viewing the same chapter and seeing his notes and the notes of others. But my favorite part is the interactive chapter quiz. Test your knowledge to prepare for an exam or just to solidify the content in your little melon. If you get an answer wrong it tells you where to go back to study a little more. Look at a diagram of the pancreas and identify the different parts using interactive labels, for example, or take a multiple choice quiz.
Leave the backpack at home. Inkling is a great new tool to keep your books organized, available and annotated for school. The app is free from the Apps Store. Content is available at varying prices.