, Salem, MA


August 22, 2012

New kind of book for a new kind of student

College bookstores offer high-tech, interactive texts

SALEM — Last week, Bharti Parris, an incoming freshman at Salem State University, tried out the new high-tech, interactive textbooks at the campus bookstore.

Standing at the iPad display, she deftly scrolled through the pages of a biology book, zoomed in on a graphic of the human heart (”that’s cool,” she said), and even clicked on the self-quiz.

“I’ve definitely used something like this in high school,” said Parris, 19, a Manchester Essex High School graduate.

That familiarity is one reason Follett Higher Education Group, the company that manages the bookstore, started offering Inkling interactive textbooks this year, a textbook platform available for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch and through any web browser.

“(Students) are coming in with a completely different skill set and completely different expectations of how they want to learn,” said bookstore manager Elisabeth Phinney. “We’re catching up to them, so this is really putting them in their own element.”

For those who grew up in the world of paper textbooks, the idea of an electronic, “interactive” textbook might seem foreign. Imagine a textbook where you can not only turn pages and read graphics and sidebars, you can zoom in on graphics, watch videos and follow links to additional information. In one Inkling book at SSU, users can listen to a clear, authoritative female voice explaining a complex concept differently from the way it’s explained in the text — providing an additional way for students to grasp the material. An online demonstration video shows a user manipulating 3-D images of a heart and a double helix with the swipe of a finger.

In this age of social media, no electronic thingamabob would be complete without the ability to share it with friends. Inkling does that, too: users can highlight a passage, type notes, and comment to peers and professors.

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