Monday, February 15, 2016

Could Editions at Play change textbooks?

The concept of a school textbook has been challenged and has been changing for many years now as technology offers new, creative options.

Recently Google launched an experiment called “Editions at Play” which allows authors to create “Books which cannot be printed” as Google puts it. That is, these are digital books that contain non-print features such as interactivity, multimedia, street view maps, and more.

I can’t help but wonder if this new platform could be a valuable alternative for school textbooks, providing interactive, dynamic, media-rich content for student learning. Let’s take a deeper look…

To begin with you will need to visit the Editions at Play website at:
There you will find two books currently available for purchase, along with information on other books coming soon. I purchased the two current books and took them for a spin. Following is some basic information about them.

Entrances & Exits by Reif Larsen
This books tells a story by having you navigate in Google Street View to find the next part of the narrative. When you click on the portal in Street View you get to read the next section of the story, and then return to the map to continue. Some portals are quick and easy to find, while others require you walk around a little in Street View. This provides an interesting immersive feel in the story.

The Truth About Cats & Dogs by Sam Riviere and Joe Dunthorne
This book tells a story from the perspective of two different authors with sections of poems, diary entries, messages, and more from each. As you read through the story you can switch between their two accounts at any time. There is not one correct way to read the story, as it is left up to the reader to jump back and forth between the authors however they like.

Upcoming books include “STRATA”, a collection of science fiction from eight writers, and “All This Rotting” where the story text literally changes as it is read to illustrate someone’s failing mind.

For more details on Editions at Play, Google has provided an excellent slideshow covering the experiment from beginning to end:

So the question remains, would this be a good option for school textbooks? Currently we are seeing many digital reinterpretations of what a textbook should (and could) be including:
  • Digital version
    Sometimes a digital textbooks is just a simple electronic carbon copy of a print textbook. I often see this when textbook companies provide a digital version of their print textbooks for students to access online.
  • Enhanced version
    Other times digital textbooks enhance the print materials with embedded multimedia, hyperlinks, interactive activities, and more. A good example would be books from CK-12 (at ) or books created through iBooks Author.
  • Non-book version
    Finally we also see textbooks that are not a single entity, but instead are a collection of resources compiled together on a website, wiki, or learning management system (LMS). A great example, and one that is entirely created by students themselves, is the middle school social studies wiki at
So far Editions at Play is just an experiment, and none of the current or planned titles indicate an educational focus, but it seems like it could be a good option to transform traditional textbooks with interactive, multimedia, and live elements.

It would be wonderful if Google provided an authoring tool similar to iBooks Author to allow educators and students to easily create and publish their own digital books. In the meantime, what tools are you using to create content to replace textbooks? Please share your ideas, resources, links, and examples in the comment below.


  1. I JUST presented at OETC on creating online textbooks and would have loved to explore this! Thanks for the info. :-)

  2. Wow! This would be amazing with textbooks. I am so excited for our students' future!