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CourseSmart Welcomes Apple to the Party!

January 20th, 2012 by CourseSmart

In response to Apple’s announcement yesterday regarding their entry into the eTextbook market, we at CourseSmart, as industry leaders, would like to welcome them to the party! With the explosion in popularity of eTexts over the past year, it’s certainly no surprise that Apple would want to make a late entry into the market.

Here are our initial thoughts:

We’re pleased about the impact Apple’s statement has made on the way people view the act of accessing educational course materials today. Any announcement which brings more awareness to digital course materials is good for students, and will help move the industry forward. However, yesterday’s Apple offerings left us with more questions than answers.

Here are our initial questions:

Are the apps only available for the iPad or will Apple become “device agnostic?” According to Student Monitor data that was released yesterday, only 9% of Higher Education students own an iPad. Although we do not know, we assume the number may be even lower for the K-12 market due to the price of an iPad. What about the millions of cash-strapped students who already own an Android device, a Kindle Fire or a Nook? Unless Apple intends to offer on other devices, the market will be underserved. CourseSmart was the first to develop an iPhone app, Android app, and Web app that allows even Kindle Fire & Nook owners to access CourseSmart eTexts through their very own device.

Who is developing the content? The new iBooks Author app allows users to create and publish books for the iPad by dragging and resizing images and text, adding definitions, movies, and 3D objects. Apple stated that anyone with JavaScript or HTML5 skills can make their eText interactive. We doubt that faculty will be easily convinced to create their own content when they have hundreds of papers to grade and have to learn JavaScript or HTML5 in order to incorporate interactivity. In fact, the best and most trusted content is created by publishers in partnership with authors.

Will using iBooks 2 offer improved learning outcomes? While it’s great to see Apple providing many parity features that CourseSmart and other providers already offer, iBooks 2 isn’t really reinventing textbooks. Our publishers already have, with “eResources” which are much more advanced technologically. CourseSmart has the largest catalog of eResources from all the major publishers, who have partnered with the most credible authors. Interactivity is cool and interesting, but only if connected to improving student learning outcomes.

The development and consumption of digital content is well underway. Though Apple’s late entry to the market was not entirely unexpected, its impact on learning remains yet to be proven. CourseSmart, founded in 2007, is the world’s largest provider of digital content. Our catalog includes over 90% of the textbooks in use today. CourseSmart customers enjoy anytime, anywhere access. We look forward to the future of the digital publishing industry, and we’re eager to continue to be the market leader for our millions of student, faculty and institutional users.

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Update: eTextbook Pages Load 25% Faster on the iPhone!

September 2nd, 2009 by CourseSmart

What? CourseSmart’s “eTextbooks for the iPhone” will now load book pages upto 25% faster.

How? We eliminated extra info sent with page image. This reduces the amount of data transmitted over the internet.

When? Right now! You do NOT need to update your app.

Why? You spoke and we listened. We prioritized speed and stability over new features in August.

Where? Any iPhone or iPod Touch with an internet connection, active CourseSmart eTextbook subscriptions and the “eTextbook for the iPhone” app installed.

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Design Discussion: Zoom-in and Next Page

August 14th, 2009 by CourseSmart

CourseSmart uses image files to display true digital equivalents of the textbook pages. As you will learn, this has a big impact on the “eTextbooks for the iPhone” application.

Using the Swipe Gesture to Scroll and Pan the Page

In many places on the  iPhone, a swipe gesture is used for next/previous page.  But when you view a “resized” image file, swiping “pans” left-to-right or “scrolls” top-to-bottom.

The app automatically zooms the image file to fit the screen width. This improves legibility immensely. That’s why you can’t swipe to get to the next page.

What’s the Best Way to Zoom-in?

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