After my post on Apple’s new iAuthor software and targeting textbooks, I got an email from another company that specializes in e-books for education and business, BookBoon. I was intrigued, as much by their not-so-subtle boasting of having more downloads than Apple’s service as by the concept of free e-books, so I checked them out. The company has been publishing e-books exclusively since 2005, with a goal to offer free textbooks, travel guides and business publications, all written by professors and industry professionals.
How BookBoon Works
It’s a pretty cool service. You can download free PDFs of books (each with an ad on one of the intro pages) on a whole range of subjects, in multiple languages. I downloaded a book on Java programming, and the quality is at least as good as many of the textbooks I had to buy in college for a hundred dollars or more. You can even download whole archive files of multiple textbooks in a single package. There’s no cumbersome DRM, like with other e-publishing formats, which is a huge plus.This is an ideal site for homeschoolers or someone who just wants to tackle a subject without shelling out for a book. All in all, I’d rate BookBoon as pretty sweet.
Ahead of Apple
BookBoon announced that they saw over 500% growth in just 9 months of 2011. They plan to capture 10% of the e-textbook market share this year. And the company boasted 520,000 downloads (compared to Apple’s 350,000) in the three days after the iAuthor release. That’s pretty impressive for a company without the marketing clout of the largest tech company in the world.Granted, BookBoon’s PDFs don’t feature the animations and interactivity that Apple’s iBooks textbooks offer, but they get the meat and potatoes of the issue, which is cheap/free knowledge for students and schools that are already stretched thin by the ever-increasing cost of education.
The Future of E-Textbooks?I’ll be interested to see how Apple’s service develops, especially since they already have a pipeline to millions of devices. BookBoon may have more downloads now, but the Apple marketing machine could ramp up seriously in the coming year. Of course, with the growth BookBoon is showing, they could be a serious contender for some time, especially if universities and high schools are more open to the compatibility of free PDFs.
As is, I’ll definitely go to BookBoon when I need a programming or math book. Has anyone used iBooks textbooks yet? Anyone used BookBoon? How would you compare them?