E-book conference indicates paradigm shift

Are we satisfied that the use of electronic books is the way of the future – oh how we long for the luxurious and satisfying feel of beautiful glossy paper as we revel in the sensuous intoxication of our eye-candy and how out of touch are we with its poor quality replacement on the screen?from BIZCommunity.com 

The Van Schaik In Search of E-learning Excellenceconference was held on 5 May 2011 at Zevenwacht Wine Estate in the Cape where key speakers addressed the paradigm shift in the parameters of booksellers’ business models and the academic book market with the increase in e-books.
The key note speaker, William Chesser, VP of Vital Source, a division of Ingram USA, highlighted the current trends in e-book retail in the US and global case studies of e-book implementation at individual and organizational consumer levels. He set the tone for an informative discussion on the future of e-textbooks, as an alternative to the traditional textbook.

Other speakers at the conference included, Arthur Atwell from Electronic Book Works who focused primarily on an African perspective in advancing digital rights; Martin Butler from the Business School of Stellenbosch University who shared his recent research into e-textbook usage by MBA students; Prof Wendy Kilfoil from the University of Pretoria who shared her experience from an academic implementation of distance learning perspective and Ben Williams of Little White Bakkie, who showcased digitization technology. 

Audience expectations

The audience, which included representatives of leading South African publishing houses plus academics and librarians from selected tertiary institutions were there to address two strategic objectives: to evaluate the way forward for academic e-books in the South African context; and to explore the benefits of adopting this technology into the academic environment.

This conference offered publishers the perfect opportunity to make inputs about the changes taking place in their industry. Representatives of universities also used the opportunity to share their expectations, challenges and frustrations.

The attendees also had an opportunity to see exhibitions of some of the latest hardware, access platforms and other software involved in delivering academic e-reading and course management. In addition, they had the opportunity to pose questions to the panel during panel discussions.

The ultimate aim of the conference was to start the debate, revisit current models, and create an environment where people are willing to create new and fresh models that would fit the South African market for e-textbooks.

Embracing technology

Philip de Kock, from Swets Information Services, which has been supplying e-journals to libraries of leading tertiary institutions in South Africa for more than a decade, is convinced that most institutions have the necessary facilities to embrace e-textbooks. “The transition was not necessarily easily accepted, with some hesitation but training and testing of this technology made it a preferred option.”

Melvin Kaabwe, digital manager, at Van Schaik Bookstore, believes that e-books are the future. “We recognize that the potential of e-books in the academic market is enormous and we are striving to keep pace with technological developments. Our intention is to make e-books more accessible and to provide the best available e-book solutions to our customers.”

Leanne Martini, GM of Van Schaik Publishers’ said that the conference was worthwhile and stimulating.

The group, which has been in the industry for nearly a century, has already taken the lead in the South African academic textbook industry by utilising appropriate technology in the publishing and hosting of its m-novel (mobile novel) and the developing of an EDI system (Electronic Data Interchange), which is a business-to-business electronic ordering system for libraries.


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