What are Electronic Books?

As the technology underlying electronic readers has improved and as 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. The convenience of carrying an entire library in a purse, pocket, or book bag appeals to readers who find time for a few pages in between appointments or while commuting. Already firmly established in the public sector, electronic books are gaining a foothold on campuses as well, where they serve as a cost-effective and portable alternative to heavy textbooks and supplemental reading selections. The availability of portable electronic reading devices like the recently announced Apple iPad, the Amazon Kindle, the Nook, the Sony Reader, and book-reader applications designed for iPhone and other mobiles has made it easy to carry a wide selection of reading material in a small package, with that material updated wirelessly as new content becomes available.

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Please "sign" your contributions by marking with the code of 4 tildes (~) in a row so that we can follow up with you if we need additional information or leads to examples- this produces a signature when the page is updated, like this: - alan alan Jan 27, 2010

(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • http://blog.nj.com/njv_neil_baldwin/2010/07/my_voyage_up_the_amazon_--_and.html - neil.baldwin neil.baldwin Sep 24, 2010
  • This still remains a significant area of growth. Technologies such as http://www.kno.com/the-kno.html are starting to come on stream, and the ability of the user to annotate and share their notes, comments are fantastic opportunities for potential use in T&L. The ability to attach voice/notes and share with colleagues, friends will be an interesting area to watch over the coming years.- miles.fordyce miles.fordyce Sep 28, 2010 - helga helga Sep 30, 2010
  • Cost savings could be a big win. - bryan bryan Sep 29, 2010 An unbundling of the textbook publishing model; as someone said (I think it was Bob Reynolds at Xplana.com) it can be what iTunes did to the album, taking it from a monolithic package into individual songds; publishers are going to need to find the right market forumula for selling chapters, and allowing mashups of content for both teachers to create content (plus the extra features of Flatworld Knowledge) and students to choose their materials. - alan alan Oct 18, 2010
  • Advances in this area promise to create greater flexibility in the relationship between content providers (textbook vendors, for instance), content consumers (in our case students and faculty, but also staff), and content producers (all of the above). How this plays out will help to define copyright as well as the content consumption model of colleges and universities for decades to come. - tom.haymes tom.haymes Sep 30, 2010 This content consuming/producing concept is relevant to me. Primary function ereaders seem to be primarily about consumption, whereas ebooks on a laptop leads to better production options. I wrote about this a little while back: http://laurenpressley.com/library/2010/01/content-creators-and-consumers-and-the-ipad/ - laurenpressley laurenpressley Oct 5, 2010
  • Amazon's surge in sales this year clearly shows that e-books are well established. Text books are beginning to follow however this has been slowed by the lack of standard formats and variable compatibility with e-reader devices. - billshewbridge billshewbridge Oct 2, 2010
  • This is one case where - one can only hope - education will transform the medium itself. Currently, e-books feature (rather crude) search and annotation capabilities, with very limited sharing possibilities for the latter; however, the potential for integration of deep app-like aspects into e-books is huge. Think, for instance, of an e-book reader that allowed its users to employ a range of visualization tools for content analysis, advanced bibliographic tools for determining cross-connections among texts, and integration into social media for sharing, discussion, and publication. One significant problem: DRM currently prevents many of these options from being developed, since they require essentially free access to the contents of the book. - rubenrp rubenrp Oct 3, 2010 A couple of related resources: The Institute for the Future of the Book: http://www.futureofthebook.org/; Three concepts from IDEO on the future of the book: http://vimeo.com/15142335 - rubenrp rubenrp Oct 7, 2010 Thanks, Ruben. Really good stuff. Inkling is another vision but with working prototypes on the iPad. http://www.inkling.com/ Two quick points: 1) One key challenge is scale. Any college bookstore deals in hundreds if not thousands of titles, limiting the potential of any one model or platform to provide a campus solution. 2) A more troubling challenge will be defining ebooks (the texts not the devices) by a particular platform. Imagine combining the age of Gutenberg with the platform competitions of Mac vs PC. Should an author be only available (as many books currently are) on one e-reader app or app store? What implications will this have for the curation of knowledge in the future? Will ideas be shelved because they were recorded on Betamax? - dicksonk dicksonk Oct 15, 2010 Kyle has some insight; ACU is working with Inkling on new content: George Salzman showed me an example of that and some other apps, and while it is augmenting the bookm the model of the textbook has not been severely broken wide open - alan alan Oct 18, 2010 I agree Ruben. Annotation, note taking and sharing of notes across e-reader platforms will be key for students and educators in order to really embrace this. Pen and paper still have an edge here but I think solutions will be forthcoming. Inkling seems to have the right idea with this. - KeeneH KeeneH Oct 16, 2010
  • Providing electronic resources can help save educators time. - JamieMadden JamieMadden Oct 5, 2010
  • Providing a full package of supplementary resources that can go along with the eTextbook is critical to faculty adoption. With traditional publishing models and books, instructors have become accustomed to bring provided with PPTs, supplemental readings, test banks, and many other resources to support instruction. eTextbooks, especially open textbooks needs to consider this as something that will aid adoption. - drvdiaz drvdiaz Oct 17, 2010
  • With regards to journalism and digital media, we have to examine the world we are preparing our students for as contributors and leaders. While the ideas of e-books are straight-forward enough, the power of the emerging toolsets that are going to become dominant factors for publication and communication will demand information be conveyed with more dimensions and participation opportunities. So, we will need to deepen our view of the world around us to capture truth using more of the senses and find innovative ways of communicating that meet the capabilities of the publication formats. - Dougdar Dougdar Oct 5, 2010
  • Book Designer Craig Mod has two thoughtful blog posts about how e-books should be designed and how e-readers should work. See http://craigmod.com/journal/ebooks/ and http://craigmod.com/journal/ipad_and_books/ - KeeneH KeeneH Oct 16, 2010
  • While eBooks are not yet where they need to be--in terms of pricing models, the technology itself, accessibility, readers, and several other issues--they are coming along slowly. New models are emerging and entering students are becoming more comfortable with using them. - drvdiaz drvdiaz Oct 17, 2010 The big place eTextbooks can expand is in the social connectivity; sharing notes, discussions, taking the book experience from an individual to a collaborative one - alan alan Oct 18, 2010
  • E-books can provide an instant library – a library where we can weave and search through the texts of thousands of books from dozens of disciplines and in seconds. We can locate phrases, words, concepts and ideas. Books can now ‘know’ what other books contain. With algorithms we can penetrate connections and associations; waves and ripples are made – but this isn’t reading – it’s searching. I can search with speed and precision, in quantity and on demand, and the results are impressive. In 3.34 seconds I searched 20,000 e-books for ‘Manguel’ in a well-known aggregated e-book library, and returned 65 results across disciplines as diverse as folklore, political science, mathematics, heresy, education and the HBO series The Sopranos. This is incredibly powerful – but then, reader, the drudgery begins. I enter each book individually after launching the plug in (which only works on certain platforms and in certain browsers). The first is pleasant enough, I find the context and any other occurrences of Alberto Manguel, I can highlight and bookmark, add notes, but then I have to close this book and open another book and go through the process again; without some effort and patience I cannot cross-reference or compare texts or extracts. The search has promised so much but the rendition is a bore.
    Borges wrote of the fantastical infinite library, containing the sum of all texts ever written. In The Library of Babel (2000) he writes of ‘a someone’ who was born in, spent his life in and knows he will die in the library – I can empathise with this poor citizen as I trawl around an e-library. Still, all the content we could want or ever need will eventually be available in there – and we must be imaginative about how we leverage and squirt this hidden content into the places and online spaces where people learn. - DaveP DaveP Oct 18, 2010

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Possibly needs comment around the next extension of ebook.. which is the ability to annotate and share your markups with others. - miles.fordyce miles.fordyce Sep 28, 2010 -- This is a good point. It goes beyond reproducing current models of collaboration; electronic books combined with social tools could lead to new ways of working together. - ninmah ninmah Oct 12, 2010 Perhaps we need some legal cases to (re)establish the principle of first sale.- bryan bryan Oct 14, 2010
  • Distinction between physical e-reader (iPad, Kindle, Kno) and digital books themselves: very important. Each drives the other, but it's quite possible to only use the software. - bryan bryan Sep 29, 2010 I agree but the form factor of the readers is very important to the further development of this medium. I am far more willing to read electronically on an iPad or Kindle than I was on my laptop. I don't know exactly why but I've always resisted reading on a computer screen for any length of time. However, I find that I can and will read entire books on the smaller, handheld screens. - tom.haymes tom.haymes Oct 11, 2010 -definitely, Tom; I'm referring to the curious way "ebook"'s two senses get conflated (see Jamie's comment below). I think the hardware version is more popular.- bryan bryan Oct 14, 2010
  • flexible screens/thin film displays plus electronics books/e-readers sound like the ideal to me - helga helga Sep 30, 2010
  • This topic needs to be closely associated with "Alternative Licensing" as we are still trying to wrap our heads around the potential of this platform. The flexibility and ubiquity of the eBook platform open new doors for content creation as much as they open doors to content consumption. We need to take into account the possibilities of putting locally-created or OER materials into the online bookstores being operated by Apple, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and others. These bookstores create venues for nationally-distributing locally-created content. At HCC we are working on a pilot this fall to put our literary magazine (The Northwest College Review) into the Apple iBook store. - tom.haymes tom.haymes Sep 30, 2010 Agreed: closely related to alternative licensing. - laurenpressley laurenpressley Oct 5, 2010
  • There are interesting developments making reading more of a social activity rather than a solitary act between a reader and author. For example, Blio or Stanza on the iPhone allowing you to tweet specific passages. - laurenpressley laurenpressley Oct 5, 2010 We can use better little tools for aggregating or bringing those communications together - alan alan Oct 18, 2010
  • I agree that we need to distinguish between the ebook formats and the readers. - JamieMadden JamieMadden Oct 5, 2010 We have great discussion here but its really focused on the technology of the eBook, which is of course a fast moving space. I think we need to include the other side of the discussion, the whole publishing, content, rights, sales models, etc- what is the new definition of a book? "When you get past the pulp and glue, a book is a delivery system for an author’s vision." and the same ought to go for the kind with an e in front. (Spehen Levy on Kindles in a tabletized world http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/09/pr_levy_kindle/) - alan alan Oct 18, 2010
  • Most ebooks are leased to the owner, and the licensing of that lease does not allow for resale, other ebooks are rented to the student for the period of the semester so may disappear when the time of instruction ends - alanwolf alanwolf Oct 8, 2010.
  • The big, juicy gap between campus expectation and publisher reality: "86.5 percent, compared with 73.6 percent last year—said they believed e-book content would play an important part in classroom instruction over the next five years. But only 4.5 percent of classes use e-books or electronic textbooks.". (Chronic)
  • Dedicated devices won't deliver unless they are very cheap. Books will become interactive, colour, sound and touch - electronic DK books highly visual media. Devices like the ipad will win out. - DaveP DaveP Oct 18, 2010
  • Content creation- there's little reason why we cannot become publishers of eBooks as well; the platforms and standards are still emerging, and frankly, is a messy place ; c.f. interesting new tools like Antologize http://antologize.org for using WordPress as a content mixing platform to output ePub, PDF, etc - alan alan Oct 18, 2010

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • Convergence of social and professional experiences, realtime collaboration and sharing of handwritten notes.- miles.fordyce miles.fordyce Sep 28, 2010 I would second this. See this NYTimes Article by the excellent writer Steven Johnson. He looks at how reading may become more integrated with social networks. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/business/20unbox.html - KeeneH KeeneH Oct 16, 2010
  • Deeper engagement with texts, if the formats allow remixing. - bryan bryan Sep 29, 2010
  • students will never again be able to claim a volume was not available in the library - the downside of this may be the challenge to organise oneself digitally as a student (materials/knowledge and annotation management) - helga helga Sep 30, 2010 Unless the rights models can change; some of the models actually check an eBook out of a library to one user at a time, not good - alan alan Oct 18, 2010
  • Students' ability to create, remix, and consume in non-traditional ways will create immense challenges to the very traditional learning environment most colleges and universities (not to mention K12) present. Human processes will be immensely challenged by sound-bite reading and adaptive reuse of content (outside of the linear context of style guides and citations). For instance, how do you cite a book on a Kindle when, if you resize the text, the "page number" will vary considerably? This, in itself, is a challenge to how we teach our students how to write in a "scholarly" way. - tom.haymes tom.haymes Sep 30, 2010
  • Is there a role for a personal library in the cloud? Whatever device I am using desktop, laptop, slate, phone, I would have access to my library assembled to meet my needs for reference on the topics of interest to me. - bryan bryan Oct 14, 2010 Absolutely, we have only fragments of that now, and it is segmented by provider - alan alan Oct 18, 2010
  • More personal connection with portable content.- bryan bryan Oct 14, 2010
  • Increased adaptation to silos, if present trends hold. :( - bryan bryan Oct 14, 2010
  • Community around the textbook--but, a local, class-based community perhaps? - drvdiaz drvdiaz Oct 17, 2010
  • Rental options, collections of texts and annotations, use of third party innovations in apps like Instapaper or phto to PDF - formats and standards will need to be overcome - DaveP DaveP Oct 18, 2010

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • The University of Queensland Medical school is currently investigating the use of iPads for their medical texts - JamieMadden JamieMadden Oct 5, 2010
  • New academic publishing models like Hacking the Academy http://hackingtheacademy.org/ - alan alan Oct 18, 2010
  • The Book of MPub a Masters of Publishing class at Simon Fraser University that had students research and write a series of articles on the future of publishing, using eBooks, PDFs, and even traditional paper to produce their results http://tkbr.ccsp.sfu.ca/bookofmpub/ - alan alan Oct 18, 2010

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