EPUB for Education: what is happening?
Delivering digital formats of educational resources isn’t something new. Most education publishers have been offering electronic versions of texts for decades. Digital developments help to provide interactivity, immediate analytics, and an increase in social connectivity linked to learning. It’s an exciting time to be in the classroom, as the variety of online resources expands a teachers’ toolkit.
The current format of choice for online textbook publishing is EPUB3. The first EPUB3 specification for education was released in November 2014 by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), and was suitably named EDUPUB. It worked by allowing students to really start leveraging the capabilities of digital content, by accessing it online or offline through a device of choice. By using EDUPUB each publisher doesn’t need to invent its own mark-up patterns and metadata, thus digital teams avoid repeating themselves. Not all content creators need to be compliant with EDUPUB, though it is seen as a benchmark of quality.
The first specification of EDUPUB was just the beginning and at no point have publishers been able to rest on their laurels. There are frequent citings of schools requiring students to own their own tablets or digital platforms with the aim of getting children to read. To keep learners engaged, textbook publishers look to what other apps young people are engaging with on their devices. Online games, built by high-end developers have given digital natives a taste for slick user-interfaces and easy-to-navigate online interactions. Clearly as an industry, we can’t let the quality of textbook publishing fall too far behind this, or we will potentially lose our appeal to the learners of tomorrow.
In February 2016, a new EDUPUB profile was released by a working group of the IDPF. The overall aim of updating the format is to remove friction and enable educational content of all types to be reliably interchanged across devices and platforms. In order to achieve this a large number of stakeholders are involved in the process. The 2016 group included executives from influential publishing houses, plus distributors (digital platforms) and audiences (educators and learners) who consume these resources. You can read the technical updates released by the working group by clicking here.
Traditional education publishing companies are built around scale-based business models designed for competition in a learning environment dominated by the printed book. Shifts toward digital content have altered this, and as we look to the future, methods of collaboration and increased interoperability will determine the success of publishing as an industry.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Alfred Essa, Vice President, Analytics and R&D, at McGraw-Hill Education said: “The key to creating effective, scalable ecosystems, in education or any other industry, is having open standards. Our success won’t be predicated on closed systems, but instead, we are focused on building open, interoperable ones, which will allow a multitude of tools, technologies and platforms from various companies and organizations to work together.” EDUPUB is just the start, of how publishers will work together to protect and enhance their digital businesses.