Print or e-books?


GAWKER, a New York City-based online newsmagazine/blog, recently uncovered a 1994 video from American media company Knight-Ridder, predicting that e-readers and tablet PC’s would eventually replace printed media.

“For more than 500 years, ink printed on paper has been the best medium for delivering written information. But, as the world is beginning to be increasingly digital, all that is changing,” it said.

In the video, Roger Fidler -- journalist, newspaper designer and director of new media for Knight-Ridder -- mentioned coining the term “mediamorphosis.” He went on to explain that “all human communications systems are undergoing a transformation from one form to another, that’s all being brought about by emerging technologies and cultural changes.

“All forms of media we know today will transform in 10 to 15 years.”

Seventeen years later, we see Apple’s iPad slowly conquering the market as more and more people are opting for tablet PC’s. We see big electronic brands like Samsung, HP, LG, Asus, Dell, Sony, just to name a few, dipping their hands into this technology. The web site listed a 38 tablets slated to be released this year alone -- the list was only compiled this month.


We are also seeing a move from traditionally printed books to a digital format known as e-books.

An e-book (short for electronic book) may be an existing book that has been digitized or a book that can be downloaded and/or bought over the Internet (even without a printed version), that is readable on computers or other electronic devices.

According to a report from the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales have overtaken paperbacks for the first time in the US.

E-book sales grew a whopping 202% in February compared to the same month last year, with sales totalling $90.3 million.

Earlier this year, Amazon also reported that Kindle books (e-books purchased for Amazon’s e-reader, Kindle) are selling more than paperback books.

“Since the beginning of the year, for every 100 paperback books Amazon has sold, the company has sold 115 Kindle books,” the report said.

“Additionally, during this same time period the company has sold three times as many Kindle books as hardcover books.”

Meanwhile, the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication (CAPP) released a survey that Chinese people between the ages of 18 and 70 read 613 million e-books in 2010.

The growing popularity of e-books raises the question: will traditional books soon be obsolete?

Digital textbooks

Rosalind Landicho, manager for Product Development and Innovation of Diwa Learning Systems Inc. told BusinessWorld that a good number of schools are already shifting from printed textbooks to e-books that are accessed through e-readers and tablet PC’s.

At the Future of the Book Conference held last September in Quezon City, Eric Frank, founder and president of Flat World Knowledge, described a scenario where Filipino public school pupils will no longer carry big backpacks filled with textbooks but instead come to school armed only with notebooks, lunchboxes and e-readers.

“E-readers mean saying goodbye to backpacks and heavy wheelie, trolley bags. Imagine toting an e-reader or tablet that weighs a mere 600 grams as against lugging around at least seven bulky printed textbooks that’s easily equivalent to, at the very least, 2.5 kilos. An e-reader can store thousands of e-books while taking up so little room and weight,” said Ms. Landicho.

Just last week, Amazon announced that it would allow owners of its e-reader to borrow e-books from more than 11,000 American libraries.

A move like this may revolutionize the whole education system -- with students using cheaper and more accessible learning materials in a convenient portable format.

The first

Last June, Vibal Foundation, Inc. and the De La Salle University Academic Publications Office (DLSU-APO) launched the first set of e-books published in the Philippines.

The four e-books -- Sanghiyang sa Mundo ng Internet (Reflections on the World of the Internet) by Rhoderick Nuncio, Filipino Religious Consciousness by Sylvia Palugod, Maharang, Mahamis na Literatura sa Tataramon ng Bikol (Spicy, Sweet Literature in the Bicol Language) by Paz Verdades M. Santos, and Mabathalang Pag-aaral (Religious Studies) by Jose M. de Mesa -- are the first ever Filipino books to be published in a digital e-book format.

“Our electronic publishing efforts are divided into two. One under Vibal Foundation -- our corporate social responsibility arm which was started about six years ago -- and another under Vibal Publishing which we started three years ago,” Vibal’s E-learning Program Officer, Alfred Ursua told BusinessWorld in an interview.

Vee Press (, the digital publishing division of Vibal Foundation produces e-books on multiple electronic formats. It mainly publishes books on Philippine history, art, culture, media and literature. It publishes fiction, non-fiction and academic works in Filipino and English.

On its website’s frequently asked questions section, it distinguishes its e-books as “interactive where possible, in ways that cannot be done in print.

“We enhance our e-books with hyperlinks, introductory essays and annotations,” it said.

Vee Press’ 2010 catalog includes such categories as: Filipiniana Clasica which includes classic works of literature and Filipiniana (Florante at Laura, El Filibusterismo, Noli Me Tangere), folklore collections and metrical romances (Ibong Adarna, Prinsesa Florentina), travelogs and memoirs, biographies, historical fiction, and history; Nobelang Tagalog, “rare and little studied works by the country’s foremost fictionists of the early 20th century onward” featuring works by Pedro Paterno, Jose Rizal, Carlos Ronquillo, to name a few; Academia Filipina, a line of anthologies, academic books and other scholarly works; and Kontemporanea, a mix of fiction, non-fiction and poetry by famous and less-known writers.

This may surprise many but Vee Press also publishes Pinoy Romansa, “samplings of a much-loved but little-appreciated genre of Philippine literature” -- romance pocketbooks.

The catalog also has POC Presents which features selected articles from the Philippine Online Chronicles web magazine, and a selection of children’s books, electronic editions of picture books and activity books known as Chikiting books.

Vee Press books are available through web stores such as the Apple iBookstore and the Amazon Kindle Store. All are readable on Sony E-Readers, Amazon Kindles, Blackberrys, Nook, iPhones, PC’s, iMacs and all tablet computers including the Apple iPad. Prices of the e-books range from $1.99 to $9.99.

In addition, Vibal has launched a line of interactive storybooks applications (apps) this year -- the Chikiting book titles Yummy Fly Pie and The Magical Shirt (Ang Mahiwagang Kamiseta) were released on Jan. 21.

“The Chikiting storybook apps are targeted mostly to Filipino children, (their parents) wherever they maybe,” said Mr. Ursua.

He added that for basic education learners, digital and interactive contents are more effective as a learning tool compared to printed ones.
The apps feature “Let Me Read” and “Read-to-Me” options, and contains customized animation, background music and sound effects, and full interactive activities.

“Since Vibal Publishing is a basic education (K-12) publisher and given the tech-savvy nature of the age group under basic ed, we have started developing interactive, digital content for the basic subject areas. We want to relate to our end-users whom we consider as ‘digital natives,’” said Mr. Ursua.

“We are basically maximizing our Chikiting storybooks and transforming selected titles with universal appeal so we are producing their digital editions and deploying the apps online and on mobile platforms.”

The two titles are free for download on tablets PC’s, desktop computers, iPhones and mobile devices running on Android 2.2.

Mr. Ursua considers a future of e-readers for students coming from Class A schools but expressed apprehension, “while we foresee a prevalence of mobile, tablet devices readiness in basic ed is something we are not very sure of just yet.”

Catering to “digital natives”

Meanwhile, Diwa Asia Publishing Group Inc., issuer of the well-known Bato Balani and Salaguinto children’s science magazines, believes that combining traditional methods of learning with technology through e-learning is the key to helping today’s learners become “future-ready.”

Its companion Diwa Learning Systems Inc. “publishes the digital editions of Salaguinto and Bato Balani science magazines -- we call our classroom magazines Supplemental Education Materials or SEMs,” Ms. Landicho told BusinessWorld.

“We knew that ICT (Information and communications technology) is inescapable. Despite initial difficulties, we took the risk by experimenting with ways on how we can use technology to better deliver our educational contents.”

Diwa is the first and, so far, the only Philippine academic publisher to offer digital editions of classroom magazines. Salaguinto and Bato Balani come out four times a year in print and digital editions.

“We’re proud to say that these digital editions are not duplications of the print edition; so our subscribers effectively get two magazines in one issue,” said Ms. Landicho.

“Digital materials have the edge because these are multimedia so the learning experience is enhanced, especially today that our learners -- the digital natives -- are reared in an electronic world, those whose entire lives have been immersed in the 21st century media culture.”

Diwa also offers a fully integrated online e-learning system called Genyo. Its textbooks come with online digital extensions or content found in It also launched digital versions of its textbooks.

For Genyo, the publishing company has approximately 100 partner schools nationwide -- serving preschool, grade school, and high school.

Ms. Landicho emphasizes that “technology will play a major role in the classroom but it will certainly not replace books or teachers.

Technology will redefine traditional books, the way our students learn, and even the role of teachers, but all of these will survive and thrive.

“What is important is to develop a clear-sighted, open-minded understanding of both old and new technologies and how these can be used to make the learning experience better and more effective.”

According to Vibal Foundation’s Sabrina Oliveros, “For many, the key difference between printed and electronic books is that the latter do not have the aesthetic appeal or sentimental value of the former; the novelty and convenience of e-books can never replace the sensory experience of reading an exquisitely crafted printed book.

“Yet each format is bound to have its own appeal, and the e-book should not necessarily be viewed as a replacement of the printed book, but as its extension. The form might have evolved, but the purpose has not changed. Whether it conveys the writer’s ideas on paper or onscreen, a book remains a book.”

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