Published: 31st October 2017
The Hogwarts Touch: Oswaal Books to launch textbooks with augmented reality next academic year
The CEO of Oswaal Books, Prashant Jain talks about the changing landscape of textbook publishing and the use of augmented reality to make learning more fun
Kids, imagine flipping through your Biology textbook and scanning through detailed diagrams like that of the human heart. And we don’t just mean with your eyes, but literally scan the picture of the heart on your phone and look at the complete 3D image of the heart, right in front of you. It might be hard to believe, but it’s true and Oswaal Books will be one of the first (in India?) to make this augmented reality, a reality.
Oswaal Books, established 32 years ago in Agra, has always been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to making textbooks enjoyable for students. We caught up with the CEO, Prashant Jain, to talk about how the face of publication has evolved over the last few years, how it continues to stay relevant and of course, their venture into augmented reality. Excerpts:
Tell us how Oswaal has brought about changes in its publications over the last few years.
Until very recently, we only published CBSE books. Last year, we started publishing State syllabus books too for states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka after realising that we have a great market here. Our authors and subject matter experts are spread across the country. Most of our authors are women who are former teachers or those who have finished their thesis and are at home. Over the last 7 to 8 years, we have seen a 40 percent growth (in sales?) and we come up with new ways to make the textbooks interesting for students. For example, after each chapter, we have a worksheet for students to complete, thus eliminating the need for teachers to assign homework.
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Can you tell us about the approach you’ve taken for your question banks?
We want students to have the best exam preparation and not just squeeze in all the chapters during exam time. Previously, students would buy books that have the question papers of the last ten years in an attempt to solve them all. But what we have done is divide these questions based on the chapters, so that a student can attempt the questions only after they finish the chapter. Also, over the last ten years, the syllabus has evolved, yet most questions banks still carry the same questions. But we have updated our books to stay current.
"General book publishing has taken a hit over the last few years, but the internet has not caused any impact on textbook publishing. I don’t think there will be a threat for at least another ten years." - Prashanth Jain
Why did you decide to expand to the Southern states?
We have a really good market here. Also, parents in the South seem to be more educated and they play a bigger role in their children's education, so they are particular about the books that they buy. Unlike a few other publications, we don't tie up with school to distribute our books. We just let the material do the talking.
With information being available online these days, do you think that the world of textbook publishing needs to feel threatened?
General book publishing has taken a hit over the last few years, but the internet has not caused any impact on textbook publishing. I don’t think there will be a threat for at least another ten years. Of course, e-learning is gaining steady ground, but it will take another 4 to 5 years to fully develop. But I think these books are still far away from being replaced. However, we as a company are also making use of the available technology to revolutionise learning like tying up with start-ups that are working on areas like augmented reality.
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Will augmented reality become a part of the school education system soon?
Most students never get to perform any experiments in school, either due to lack of equipment or because there are too many students. But here, students will be able to perform the experiments on the phone, designed as a game. Books are, of course, the base. Students will be able to learn as well as be able to use technology for better learning. We intend on getting these books out on the shelves by March, ready for the next academic year.
With exams like NEET becoming mandatory, coaching classes are quickly becoming industries worth thousands of crores. What is your take on this? Are teachers failing or the books?
We know that many students from the State Board syllabus are suffering because of this decision. The CBSE syllabus is exactly the same as the NEET syllabus. Since we are printing both CBSE and State syllabus, we have an idea about the content and where the State syllabus might be losing out. If a State Board student is given a CBSE book, it may seem too overwhelming for them. So, we are maintaining the State syllabus, but we are providing additional CBSE information too. Our book will bridge the gap between the two. With regard to coaching classes, these days, students don't really put in too much effort to learn in school either because they completely rely on these centres or their teachers are ineffective. Books can never replace teachers, but if a teacher is good and she uses books like ours, I don't think there will be a need for extra classes.