I'll be a college freshman in just a few short days, and a couple of weeks ago, my parents asked if I wanted to try using a Kindle or other eBook reader for my textbooks. I said no, immediately. Why? Because almost all current "eBook" versions of textbooks are just text dumps onto a flat screen. If anything, that's worse than a paper textbook.
Enter Inkling, an iPad eBook app.
Inkling finally brings us books that feel digital, not just text dumps...and it does it with the gorgeous aesthetic that iPad apps are known for. Inkling books come with links, seamless scrolling, tappable key words, and full-text search. Like on a website, icons can be tapped for expanded explanations. Your notes are saved in "streams," which can be shared with other users—so for example, you can view your study-buddy's notes, or those of your professor. Highlights and notes show up both within the text, and in a separate view.
Figures and diagrams? They're here, in fully-rotatable, high-resolution incarnations that respond to iPad gestures like pinch and twist. Videos can also be embedded within textbooks. The entire UI is clearly designed to provide maximum functionality, while simultaneously "disappearing."
Sound perfect? Oh, yeah. But here's the problem: Inkling only has a handful of books available. Marketing (Kerin), Biology (Raven), The Micro Economy Today (Schiller), Experience Psychology (King), and The Elements of Style are the only titles as of writing. And it's hardly a surprise, either; Inkling's features require a thorough restructuring of the text, and it's not backed by any major textbook publishers.
Alas, due to its minuscule catalog, it looks like Inkling isn't a viable means for me to acquire my textbooks for this year. Inkling is a remarkable, gorgeous app...let's just hope it finds some publishers to support it.