Software and Publishing: Better Together

As a software company, we’re building the world’s best platform for mobile learning content, and we look to our partners to bring their world class content to Inkling.  They’re experts in developing pedagogically valuable content; we want Inkling to be the best digital outlet for everything they create.

So how does it work? We work with the editorial teams at our publisher partners to build Inkling editions of popular textbook titles. We’ve started with those that have rich multimedia assets available for use, and whose sponsoring editors are excited about innovating for this new medium. For each title, we identify the best Blueprints to enhance the existing content. (Blueprints are recyclable software objects that can be populated with content to produce an interactive experience. A complex, multi-step figure with a long caption, for example, will likely look best when displayed as a Guided Tour inside Inkling: a Guided Tour is an example of a Blueprint.) We also recommend a plan for incorporating existing video, audio and animations into the Inkling edition, and we identify opportunities for new content creation. In fact, almost all of our titles include new content that’s only available through the Inkling version.

One compelling example is Lights, Camera, Capture, for which Bob Davis, the author, recorded over 100 explanatory videos that accompany each photo featured in the book. In our textbook titles, most of the end-of-chapter assessment questions are enhanced with hints and feedback that were created just for the Inkling edition. Forthcoming titles have even more interactive content to explore.

Many of our Blueprints were developed as a direct result of creative brainstorming sessions with publisher editorial teams. The “Test Yourself” blueprint, which you’ll see in forthcoming titles, was conceptualized after such a brainstorming session where we discussed the premium that medical students place on study tools. We were able to turn many existing images into powerful interactive study tools.

This close collaboration continues as we build and test new functionality, develop sample chapters, and enhance the content before releasing it for sale to our mutual customers.

Our partners challenge us to innovate in our development of new Blueprints and platform features, and we challenge them to think outside the linear constraints of the book as they create content. Just as iPad provides Inkling with a platform for innovation in software, Inkling provides publishers with a platform for innovation in content creation and distribution. We learn from our partners, and they, in turn, learn from us.

Through this process, we’ve seen that the greatest opportunities for innovation avail themselves when publishers plan for the digital version of a title in parallel with the print edition. It may be as simple as combining a photo shoot for still images with the recording of video clips for use in the digital edition. Rather than just photographing a still object, for example, the publisher may also shoot of a series of images for use in a 3-D exhibit. Subject matter experts may also record short audio explanations of images for use in audio Poptips. And all of this new media is “future-proofed” as it’s collected by shooting video in high definition, storing it in lossless formats, or by developing illustrations in layers and storing them in vector format, rather than rasterizing them and throwing away the originals. Small things make a big difference later on.

A more challenging step in content innovation is to create content from the ground up designed specifically to take advantage of the unique capabilities of multitouch devices.  Future projects will completely rethink the way the content is displayed and the way students will interact with it, although keeping things relevant and pedagogically sound takes time.

So where is this leading us? We see a world in which learning content is modular and dynamic. Think about a museum exhibit, for example. You’re presented with multiple options for experiencing the content. You can sit and stare at the artifact for as long as you’d like, read the notes on the placard on the wall, listen to the audio tour, discuss your interpretation of the work with your neighbor, or, in some instances, reach out and directly interact with it. You also have the freedom to choose which path to take through the exhibit, to turn left or right, or to linger longer on something that captures your interest. In the museum, you have the freedom to explore the content around a particular topic at your own pace and along whichever path you’d like. To the extent that we can make learning this flexible and personal in a virtual environment, engaging your curiosity, we will.

Bringing that vision to reality, of course, is tougher than it sounds. We’ve assembled a team of the best engineers and designers to build a platform that supports this new model to build content that invites students into the learning journey. By partnering with the greatest educational publishers, we’re combining Silicon Valley innovation with the horsepower and institutional knowledge of the publishers. Together, we’ll change the way people learn, one innovation at a time.