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February 4, 2010, 04:00 PM ET

ScrollMotion to Develop iPad E-Books for Major Publishers

Software developer ScrollMotion announced this week that it will make textbooks compatible with the new Apple iPad for four major publishers: McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Pearson, and Kaplan Publishing. The e-books, in addition to providing the original content of textbooks, will allow users to highlight text in multiple colors, take audio and printed notes, search content in different ways, take quizzes, and watch videos.

ScrollMotion has worked with other publishers to adapt more than 7,000 titles for the iPod and iTouch, but the new deal with the textbook publishers "represent tens of thousands of textbooks," said Josh Koppel, chief creative officer and a co-founder of ScrollMotion. Although his company is "platform neutral," he said, the electronic textbooks it is developing are now compatible only with Apple devices.

Rik Kranenburg, McGraw-Hill's president for higher education, professional, and international publishing, said that 95 percent of McGraw-Hill's higher education textbooks are already available electronically and that all textbooks will be available for the new device "very rapidly." The company's professional publishing group has worked with ScrollMotion previously, he said, and it has other companies, in addition to ScrollMotion, working on adapting its textbooks for the iPad.

Maureen McMahon, president of Kaplan Publishing, also said that while ScrollMotion is "an important partner," it isn't the company's only one. Kaplan chose to work with ScrollMotion because it offered features for the e-books that the company was looking for and was willing to add other features Kaplan wanted.

Albert N. Greco, a professor at Fordham University's Graduate School of Business who studies academic publishing, said that given the complexity of transforming textbooks to iPad format, it made sense for the publishers to seek help from outside companies rather than do it themselves. When textbooks were made available on the Kindle DX, there were major problems with the pagination, he noted. Indexes and line breaks can also be nettlesome to transform, he said.

"We're not just talking about doing a black-and-white copy of Moby Dick; think about that cell-biology textbook," he said.

ScrollMotion has previously converted children's books, novels, and magazines to electronic format, but, Mr. Koppel said, "textbooks are probably the most complex challenge we've taken on to date."

With the fall semester the biggest term of the year for textbook sales, the iPad's debut last week seems to have come at a good time.

"The companies have lead time," Mr. Greco said. "That gives them plenty of time to do the conversions, which are not inexpensive, by the way."


1. twthep - February 04, 2010 at 06:33 pm

Now here is a piece of disquieting news. "...conversions, which are not inexpensive, by the way." In other words, expect the e-books to be pricey since this costs will be passed onto the students. In addition, the books will be locked to Apple's hardware and software! I sincerely wish you fail in this endeavor you sleaze bags.

2. trojan - February 04, 2010 at 06:51 pm

You are correct that they will be "locked to Apple's hardware," but only in the sense that the printed textbooks are locked to the paper and binding of the original "book" format.

Let's be civil, and refrain from calling them "sleaze bags" just for this. It's not as if the printed textbooks have been given away for free in the past.

3. twthep - February 04, 2010 at 07:06 pm

That is total nonsense. "...printed textbooks are locked to the paper...": just buy the book and you own it. You can read it wherever you like, you can scan it and read it on your laptop. You can copy pages from it to take it with you. Just wait to see what happens when electronic textbooks are a locked to proprietary hardware and software. Make a copy? Read it on whatever device you own? Let your friend read it? Borrow a textbook from your friend? Forget it. That's what these people are trying to take away from us. Who else is not getting this?

4. 11211250 - February 05, 2010 at 06:52 am

This might actually work to save publishing companies - they actually need to make money to keep in business. Magazines and newspapers are also facing a lot of troubles. There has to be a way that these companies can keep functioning in an electronic world, or we'll be stuck with just the polarizing amateur blogs online that bear little resemblance to the accuracy, civility, and comprehensiveness of newspapers. All I can say is that I wish I had electronic textbooks I could carry on a pad rather than the stacks of heavy textbooks I had to lug around campus back in the prehistoric era. Maybe now I wouldn't be suffering so much from arthritis. I'm buying an iPad as soon as they are out. Jobs and his creative engineers and designers always seem to come up with the right way to do things others have tried and failed to accomplish. I now read all my books on the iPhone. That way I have them all the time. It'll be nicer to have a bigger screen to read them on. Keep on inventing guys!

5. joehoyle - February 05, 2010 at 08:18 am

This is not just about taking paper books and putting them online. This is about writing books specifically to be online books. If you want to see one, go to


This is a free online book published by Flatworldknowledge and authored by C. J. Skender and me (Joe Hoyle - University of Richmond).

Notice the videos and embedded multiple-choice questions (for feedback) as well as all the links that can easily be added. Writing an online book opens up a world of possibilities that are not available in a pure paper form. JH

6. colem - February 05, 2010 at 11:03 am

The Blio reader looks promising. It, unlike the software mentioned in the article, will be hardware agnostic. Even better, it will be free. See http://blioreader.com/

7. jwjulius - February 08, 2010 at 11:33 am

Does ScrollMotion's software allow for interaction between eBook users, such as sharing notes?

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