Electronic Books

Time-to-Adoption: Less Than One Year
As the technology underlying electronic readers has improved and more titles have become available, electronic books are quickly reaching the point where their advantages over the printed book are compelling to almost any observer. Now that they are firmly established in the public sector, electronic books are beginning to demonstrate capabilities that challenge the very definition of reading. Publishers are exploring richly visual interfaces that include audiovisual, interactive, and social elements that enhance the textual content of books and magazines. Social tools extend the reader’s experience into the larger world, connecting readers with one another and enabling deeper, collaborative explorations of the text. The gestural interfaces of new electronic readers allow reading to become a tactile experience as well as an intellectual one. The content of electronic books and the social activities they enable, rather than the device used to access them, are the keys to their popularity; nearly everyone carries some device that can function as an electronic reader, and more people are engaging with electronic books than ever before. Electronic books have the potential to transform the way we interact with reading material of all kinds, from popular titles to scholarly works.

Relevance for Teaching, Learning & Creative Expression

  • Electronic book readers can allow students to record, archive, and share commentary and notes about what they are reading, facilitating the work of study groups and research teams.
  • Electronic books offer possibilities for self-directed, interactive experiences; serendipitous exploration; collaborative work; multi-modal, immersive activities; and other deeply engaging approaches to learning.
  • Subscription-based services allow students to receive electronic textbooks and ancillary materials on the devices they already own, like smart phones, laptops, and iPads.

Electronic Books in Practice

  • Flipboard is a ‘social magazine’ for the iPad that flows web content into magazine-style pages: http://www.flipboard.com
  • Inkling textbooks offer a new, highly interactive textbook experience, including social networking, rich graphics, video, animation and robust annotation and sharing tools: http://www.inkling.com
  • The Pedlar Lady of Gushing Cross is an interactive, immersive retelling of a classic story with animation, audio and rich graphics designed for the iPad: http://www.moving-tales.com

For Further Reading

2009 Librarian eBook Survey
(Michael Newman, HighWire-Stanford University, 26 March 2010.) This comprehensive report and analysis looks at how electronic books are being used in libraries in 13 countries.

Handheld E-Book Readers and Scholarship: Report and Reader Survey
(Nina Gielen, American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Humanities E-Book, 18 August 2010.) This report describes an experiment and reader survey conducted by the ACLS Humanities E-Book in 2009-10 to assess the effectiveness of electronic scholarly monographs.

Yes, People Still Read, but Now It’s Social
(Steven Johnson, NYTimes.com, 18 June 2010.) Writer Steven Johnson argues that electronic books will transform reading into a more social experience.