Homepage_slider_4Did you purchase an iPad, a Kindle eBook Reader or another mobile device recently? You’re not alone – sales of eBooks on Amazon are now outselling sales traditional paperbacks. Welcome to the $3.2 billion digital reading revolution that is stretching the boundaries of traditional reading through the addition of multimedia, interactivity, and social network connectivity.

Think of your mobile device or eBook Reader as a bookshelf of interactive “pop-up” books wrapped in a hyper-connected, book club-style social network. These networks indicate an emerging trend within organizations, between universities and across communities, namely, Social Reading. This trend extends the knowledge of an eBook or other digital media through contribution and collaboration of its readership.

According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive , 28% of adults in the US are reading eBooks. This means that in excess of 50 million readers in the US alone are choosing an iPad or a Kindle among other devices to read their latest literary purchase. That’s not to mention an increase of 475% in the numbers of eBooks sold in the children/young adult demographic in the past year.The message is clear: readers are flocking in their droves to eBook Readers and tablets devices looking to enhance their reading experience.

The idea is a compelling one – eBooks and other forms of digital print are instantly available at the touch of a button, they’re competitively priced, include animated pictures and video, can quickly change font size to meet accessibility needs, and provide an entire bookshelf, newsstand and book store that fits neatly in your pocket or bag. Compared to paper and ink, eBooks are inexpensive to distribute and allow easy and rapid download of new content.

In January, Apple launched iBooks 2 and a new enhanced iTunesU app; both these tools enable teachers to create educational materials and curriculum and allow students to download digital textbooks and manage assignments – all through their iPad. When Apple launched a similar service last year called Newsstand, an iPhone and iPad app that manages digital magazine subscriptions, sales of these digital periodicals increased 750%.

Newspapers, periodicals, and magazines have gone a step beyond digital print by incorporating social media into the reading experience. Flipboard, Pulse, Instapaper, The Sunday Times, and USA Today all have apps that wrap digital print with features that encourage readers to augment the article posted by sharing with friends, posting questions or opinions to other readers, drawing connections to related digital media, and allowing live connectivity with the author of the article for virtual debate. Think of it as wrapping Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ around what you’re reading. Every piece of digital content immediately transforms into a hyper-connected, virtual Book Club, one that draws on a vast body of crowd-sourced knowledge that augments and enhances the reading experience.

Consider buying second-hand textbooks from a University bookstore – lucky students purchase the used book – the one covered with someone else’s class notes and highlighting. Better still, someone a student knew from the year ahead of them might pass along their used textbook and notes and the notes of the person a year ahead of them and so on.

Apple’s iTunesU announcement may close the door on this transfer of knowledge, but it opens a window for students to collaborate around a single subject or textbook in global virtual study groups. It enables students at different schools using the same digital textbook to share and discuss the same subject matter on a global scale, challenging students to consider alternate points of view and enhancing their educational experience.

The strong growth in sales of eBooks coupled with the release of iBooks 2 from Apple is sure to engage whole new generation of students, teachers, professionals and casual readers alike to learn, share and interact with their reading material in a whole new and exciting way. Be sure to watch this space.