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."