Friday, January 23, 2015

Kindle Self-Publishing eTextbooks Offer

The internet age has started to enable classrooms without walls, or even borders and promote the leading educators to engage with all students. But is this reality today or merely technology waiting to be adopted and adapted and fighting much educational technology inertia? We have the same curriculum and exams, but an often significant variance between how students are engaged, motivated, learn and achieve the standards sought.

Learning resources, such as textbooks help teachers to deliver the lessons, but can now technology allows them to do it smarter and more consistently?

One approach comes from, The Stephen Perse Foundation in Cambridge. They are a leading UK private school and the current ‘Independent School of the Year’, boast some of the best results in England and have announced that they are publishing 12 digital multimedia textbooks for IGCSE biology. The textbooks will be available to download free online from Apple's iBooks online store to use on iPad tablet and cover an entire exam syllabus. The course is currently taken by some 500,000 students in 160 countries.  They also plan to extent the list to cover other topics such as molecules and enzymes and animal nutrition and already claim to have had a significant market response to their 100 course they have made available through iTunes U courses.

Today Amazon announced another new approach via KDP EDU, or what they refer to as Kindle Textbook Creator. This is aimed at empowering all to create eTextbooks and other educational content that is enhanced with digital features such as notes, flashcards, bookmarks and highlights. Content can be prepared, published, and promoted as eTextbooks alongside and other learning material and all can be access on tablets, iPads, Android tablets and smartphones, Macs and PCs. This venture could therefore allow the best educational authors to do it themselves, to self publish and lead to an explosion of material and provide choice. But who will determine the good, bad and indifferent?

Kindle Textbook Creator claims to make it easy for ‘anyone to take any PDF and create a richly featured and widely available eTextbook.’ Kindle Textbook Creator will offer authors royalties potentially up to 70%, while keeping their rights and maintaining control of their content. They can also enrol their books in KDP Select for additional royalty opportunities like Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and access to marketing tools like Kindle Countdown Deals and Free Book Promotions. But are these potential extras real opportunities for this material, or false incentives to lure authors?

It is often said that each of us has a book inside us and self publishing is unlocking many of these today in the trade market. But does every teacher have a textbook inside them and will this start to unlock these or will the lure of the reward still deter the best to stick with the traditional route.
So which publishing model will prevail, the self published, the traditional, or the best school?   
Many big questions remain. How will Amazon police copyright, through the implementation of plagiarism-detection services and links to registration databases, to ensure copyrighted material, be it text, pictures, artwork, graphs etc doesn’t merely just get ‘cut and pasted’ into a new work. How will quality rise to the surface and will there be a mass adoption of ‘my textbook, teacher notes and associated material, or will the majority opt for the tried and tested and publisher underwritten option? Will a flood of resources effect the current pricing  and drive down or raise the cost of traditional material?

Today there should be no reason why the standard of education is governed by location, your purse or access to materials and resource. Yet education is still localised, standards vary and engagement is down to individuals. Facilities such as TED Ed and the Khan Academy are viewed with skepticism by many, some would suggest that the curriculum is more geared to robotics than to learning and the take up of technology varies significantly in spend, application and quality.

To learn more about publishing textbooks through KDP, or to download Kindle Textbook Creator, visit

1 comment:

Inkling said...

Ah, yet another reason Amazon ticks me off. There's a special app to create comic books for Kindles. There's one to create children's books. And now there this special Kindle Textbook Creator for textbooks.

This is getting old. Amazon is always about Amazon—first, last, and always. The don't care about the troubles their proprietary standards create for authors and publishers. When I queries KDP about creating fixed layout ebooks for Kindles, I was told to hire a third-party company for thousands of dollars. InDesign will let me do that for the iBookstore in about two minutes from an already done print edition. Two minutes versus two thousand dollars.... it's not hard to see who is the author's friend.

Even more disgusting, at every retail price but a narrow $7 window, they pay half the royalties that Apple pays (35% rather than 70%). For many authors that's the difference between eating beans at home and taking the spouse and kids out for a meal once in a while.

This is sickening. I've written, edited and published dozens of books. I don't want to learn a different app for each kind of book. And I especially don't want my labors of layout and design confined to the Kindle store. Heck, I'll even need to use different software to create a book for Amazon's own Createspace. What sense does that make?

I want Amazon to get off it's We Rule the World kick and assign a few of their staff to Adobe's InDesign team a mere 10 minute drive from Amazon's own corporate headquarters. And I want Amazon to make InDesign able to export quality Mobi and KF8 files like it already exports quality PDF/print and both reflowable and fixed-layout files.

In short as a author I want Amazon to quite acting like it has been appointed King Fuhrer of the Publishing Universe and expecting everyone to use its special apps and format ebooks just for it. It can play ball like everyone else and cooperate with others. If publishing were a grade school, Amazon would be the fat little rich kid who always gets marked down for "Does not play well with others."

In a nutshell: Amazon needs to start acting like one retailer among many. It needs to pay industry-standard royalties to authors and it needs to work with industry-standard tools such as InDesign.

[Steps off soapbox. Picks up soapbox and walk away, waving arms in the air.]