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The Rise of Digital Content

A Pew Internet study released in April, “The Rise of e-Reading,” notes a gathering American trend of embracing digital content. The report found that 43 percent of Americans age 16 or older have read an e-book or other long-form digital material, such as a magazine article, over the past year. Of those in this age group who read every day or almost every day for work or school, 54 percent use tablets or other e-book readers. The report also says that those who read with e-book devices read more than others, and that portability and speedy access are major drivers of this trend.

For middle and high schools especially, the promise of digital textbooks and other customizable content is proving a primary motivator for district leaders looking to save money, streamline access to core materials, and infuse interactivity and 21st-century capabilities into the curriculum. McGraw-Hill’s subscription-based CINCH Learning program, an all-digital, cloud-based curriculum for K12 math and grades 7-12 science, is an example of how innovative technologies can enliven materials. Vineet Madan, McGraw-Hill’s senior vice president of strategic services, says the program includes videos, games, social networking features, and other elements that lure users and facilitate discussions with peers and teachers.

Spurring even more interest in the concept of digital material for schools was Apple’s announcement earlier this year of a new e-textbook strategy for iPads. The initiative, called iBooks 2 for iPad, teams up Apple with the three largest textbook companies, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill and Pearson, to develop and deliver interactive, digital textbooks to be sold through Apple’s iBookstore for $14.99 or less, a considerable savings over traditional print textbooks, which can range anywhere from $30 to $100.

Apple has also released a new iBooks Author app, a free tool that will allow educators or others to create their own customized digital textbooks or other resources.