[Mla-cds] Inkling demo
mefunk at med.cornell.edu
Thu Aug 25 11:12:22 CDT 2011
Several top executives from Inkling gave a presentation at Weill
Cornell Medical College last week, and I and our director were invited
to attend. Inkling <http://www.inkling.com/> is a startup company made
up of many ex-Apple employees. They are working hard to sign up as
many textbook publishers as possible for their iPad delivery system.
For medicine, they already have books available from LWW and McGraw-
Hill, and they are ready to close on a deal with the Publisher Who
Must Not Be Named. I think they have a bandwagon effect happening, and
publishers don't want to miss out on this lucrative market.
I say lucrative because, at least for medical books, there are no
bargains for students who wish to purchase e-books. While most non-
medical e-books from Inkling are 30-40% cheaper than their printed
version, there is almost no discount for medical books. Inkling's
philosophy in dealing with publishers is to point out that most
students sell their books after the course for about half the price,
so why not sell the books at that price anyway? Students buy the e-
books from Inkling, and they own it forever, but they can't re-sell
it. Apparently that philosophy doesn't work for medical publishers.
For example, Bates' Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking,
10th edition, lists for $111.95. Inkling will sell it to a student for
$109.99. Practically no discount, and no ability to re-sell it. Amazon
sells the print version of Bates for $86.65.
An interesting difference is that most books are also available for
purchase by the chapter. This is ideal when the instructor assigns
just a few chapters in a book - the student can purchase (and own
permanently) only the chapters he or she needs to read. Chapters in
Bates' Guide are $6.99. If a student purchases 15 chapters from Bates,
he/she will have spent $104.85. When the 16th chapter is purchased,
the student gets the whole book, since the price now equals the whole
The books are quite well done, and really show the power of the iPad.
Every chapter has quizzes and self-assessment tools to help the
student. This is particularly nice with the anatomy books, where
students can quiz themselves on muscles, nerves, blood vessels, etc.
Images can be zoomed into, and many have pop-up annotations. Many
books have videos as well. Videos, because of their large size, are
streamed to the user, and not stored on the iPad. Students can
highlight and annotate material just like a printed book. I'm not sure
how useful it would be for medical texts, but the history book we were
shown demonstrated how people can read other people's annotations.
These "others" can be classified as Facebook friends, experts (chosen
by the publisher), or anybody in the world who also owns the text. By
"starring" a comment, the reader can follow that other user. "Starred"
comments also rise to the top of the list of comments. The
instructor's annotations can also be followed by the students. (This
demo set off quite a discussion among the faculty, who weren't sure
about the usefulness of this, since it can allow errors and just plain
distraction to the students.)
Inkling is actively pursuing the medical school market. They presented
at Weill Cornell because all of our first and second year students
have each been given an iPad 2. Since the presentation, Weill Cornell
has signed a deal so that all the students will be getting access to
both Bates and to Moore's Clinically Oriented Anatomy automatically.
Of course, students will likely purchase other texts on their own.
It's not listed anyway on their web pages, but Inkling apparently has
or is working on a license model for libraries. This model involves
the library purchasing iPads, downloading the purchased texts to each,
and loaning out the iPads, so they circulate like books. Ugh. But I
think this is the way the market will be going. Just as journals going
electronic allowed publishers a much tighter control on the use of
their licensed material, mobile devices allow publishers to sell
textbooks directly to the end-user. What publisher wouldn't want to
sell 100 copies of a textbook to a medical school class as opposed to
2 copies for the library to place on reserve? Not only that, but the e-
textbooks then can't be resold to anybody else.
After the meeting, I asked the president if they exhibit. He had never
heard of AAMC or MLA, but appeared very interested, and wrote down the
names, so we may be seeing them at a meeting in the future.
Associate Director, Resources & Education
Weill Cornell Medical Library
1300 York Avenue
New York, NY 10065-4805
mefunk at med.cornell.edu
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