Platform-Agnostic Interactive eBook: The Next Big Thing is Here!

This blog post covers insights into the emerging trend of platform-agnostic interactive eBook. We will discuss the following questions in this blog post:

  • Why to make eBooks “interactive”? What are the benefits of the interactive version?
  • What types of eBook are most effective in the interactive avatar?
  • Any difference in the development process of interactive eBook from the conventional version?
  • How much interactive eBook would cost, compared to its conventional version?
  • Finally, why it’s the next big thing?

eBooks are one of the most widely used formats for consuming digital content. And in its current form it’s very easy to produce as well – at the simplest, just make a PDF and that’s it! eBook readers were used to these flat page turners, until iPad came along. Today, devices like iPad and the whole world of tablets have opened up a great opportunity for eBook readers to “experience” the content, by virtue of innovative interactive means, and not just “read” it. Interactive eBook is a new paradigm.

eBooks are all around us, for all types of content – be it trade publications, or educational content. Out of these two, educational eBooks are best suited for interactive version. Imagine reading about various forms of triangles and actually “constructing” them as you read. Or, instead of just reading about the human anatomy, you are able to keep labeling various parts of a human body and test your learning. There are unlimited possibilities to bring alive the eBook with the help of learning interactions and multi-media elements.

Want to experience interactive eBook first hand? Write to to see some great examples. Alternately, you could listen to Bijoy showcasing interactive eBooks @ the Learning Technologies 2013 conference [London, 29-30 Jan 2013, Stand # 15] or meet Bijoy @ the Tools of Change 2013 conference [New York, 12-14 Feb 2013, Booth # 104].

Development process of the interactive educational eBook is not different from the conventional process of developing interactive educational content. Starting point remains with subject matter and the learning goals. Next is instructional design process, to create storyboards and to identify the interactive and multi-media elements to be in the eBook, and finally authoring the eBook, packaging and publishing. For interactive eBook developers, good news is that no new learning curve is needed. But yes, as far as authoring and packaging of the eBook is concerned, the development platform / language / tool would depend upon whether the eBook would require supporting multiple devices & platforms, or a particular or proprietary device / platform. HTML5 is by far the most preferred option, since it allows the output to become accessible on multiple devices & platforms. But, other tools such as iBook author could also be suitable if the eBook to be made specifically for the iOS platform. Are you curious to know if your current development process can support producing interactive eBook? Write to for guidance.

Alright! So far we have discussed the educational benefits of interactive eBooks and that developers won’t necessarily need to learn anything new to produce interactive eBooks. But, now the real business viability question: would it cut a deep hole in the pocket, both for the developers as well as for the customers? Well, it would cost more than producing a flat PDF for sure, but how much more, that would entirely depend upon the level of interactivity and multi-media elements. Have a question about how much your eBooks may cost to turn them interactive? Write to for help.

So, should you or should you not invest in interactive eBook? Let’s remember only this: there are already millions of children and adult in the world [and the number is growing rapidly, everyday!] who are now used to the highly enriched, engaging and interactive experience of consuming digital content. Flat page turner won’t cut it for them anymore. So, be prepared to give them what they want before they reject what you have to offer!

Is mobile learning expensive?

The cost of mobile learning depends obviously on the cost of its development.

There are essentially two ways to develop mobile learning courseware – you can either author it in HTML5 or develop it using the native apps of each device OS. Let’s consider each of these…

Development using Native apps

  1. This would be a great choice because it means that there is hardly any restriction on what you can do in terms of course engagement – interactivities, videos, audio, practice exercises, games…the works!
  2. However, a course developed using say the iOS native apps, will not play on a BlackBerry or an Android. So, the same course will have to be developed separately for each OS/device you need it to run on – one version using the iOS native apps, another using BlackBerry’s, a third using Android’s and so on. That could be expensive!
  3. You could of course choose to develop for just one operating system and keep the cost under control.  But in most cases, you won’t know which mobile devices your employees are using. So, your course is at risk of not reaching the learners at all.
  4. Also, with the number of tablets and phones out there in the market, it would be very difficult to decide which specific operating system to develop the mlearning course for.

So, the development of a mobile learning course using native apps would give you complete freedom in design but it may be restrictive in its reach.

Development using HTML 5

  1. HTML5 is completely device or rather browser and operating system-independent. It is supported by all the browsers and operating systems running on the more popular mobile devices today – Apple’s iOS, BlackBerry OS and Google’s Android.
  2. However, it is still not entirely supported by IE9, but reports say IE 10 will make that leap.
  3. So, a course developed using HTML5 will play on just about any browser which means a one-time development for multiple devices. And if you are not sure about the devices your learners use, this would be more cost-effective than using native apps.
  4. HTML5 obviously won’t allow you as much freedom in design as native apps would. But you can get most simple interactivities, animations, videos, audio and some basic games done using HTML5.

In summary, a course developed in HTML5 may not support complex design, but it could be just as effective and reach a wider target audience.

And so, in both development methods – HTML5 or native apps- there are several factors that will determine the final cost and you can weigh these to select the method you want to go with.

So now that you know that you can create effective mobile learning courses cost effectively, don’t let cost stop you from moving to mobile learning!