23 August 2010
It looks like another step toward e-textbooks is under way. An app called Inkling just became available that does a great job of translating this genre to the iPad. Inkling does two things wonderfully right: (1) it cuts the spine off the textbook, freeing it from the tyranny of pages even while allowing page number references, and (2) it makes the textbook social, allowing you to not only take notes, but share those notes with friends and colleagues and let them respond.
The books Inkling presents are beautiful, if their sample of Strunk & White is any guide. If anything, they may be a bit too beautiful, since some of the functionality is so “well designed” it virtually disappears, becoming a bit hard to find. Illustrations can be very lively, multimedia can be incorporated, and by sharing notes the marginalia of these books can be shared among a whole study group.
The app is free and a lot of fun to explore, I highly recommend it. I’m not sure what the business model for book content is, or how footnotes would be handled. It would be smart if the format used were open and shared so that open source textbooks and meeting proceedings could supplement the very sparse initial catalog.