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Posts Tagged ‘e-book

I did not think that some people are still talking about the future of the e-book. I guess this is not surprising given how the concept and practice of e-books is still largely limited to what a book does.

Publishers and developers need to take note of this observation from the article:

“A book is the opposite of a web page,” which typically has a scattered design that relies on links to other sites, Jaffe said. With a book, “an author has thought deeply about a topic, curated everything you want to know about it, and packaged into a single publication.”

E-books that most people read on Kindles and library apps are often glorified PDFs. They are not like the Web or social media. They are certainly not like the level 2, 2.5, and 3 e-books that I suggested in 2011.

Perhaps the future of the e-book is also about getting the timing right. People were not ready for less book-like e-books then. They are less resistant now.

Pushing change to readers is one thing, changing from within is another. Publishers are slow to change their mindsets and practices.

Revisiting my thoughts on e-textbooks, I realise that the concerns are the same today. Publishers may have moved on to control access to resources via institutional or proprietary LMS [example], but the same principles are in play: Limit for profit.

So let’s not call a book an an e-book unless we can relook it through a social creator’s lens first and a publisher’s lens last.

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The WSJ wants you to know that “at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading with a book or e-book helps” your brain and reduces stress. But they would prefer that you read a book. Quietly. Or snuggle up with a newspaper perhaps?

I would argue that I have the same gains (and then some more) by dedicating at least 30 minutes of reading my Twitter stream or RSS feeds.

Here are the gains blow by blow.

Deepens empathy and provides pleasure
I am not sure how any book or e-resource actually deepens real empathy, but I find reading off my screens pleasurable. I take even greater pleasure in that I can hyper read to learn something more deeply or to explore more widely.

Heightens concentration
Being able to stay on task on a screen that produces an occasional pop-up and reading while balancing in careening public transport takes a lot of concentration. Dealing with a quick reply and then having the discipline to return to task is also a form of concentration.

Enhances comprehension, particularly of complex material and Enriches vocabulary
The fact that I can fact check and look for definitions online more easily than I can with a book definitely improves my comprehension and vocabulary.

Improves listening skills
I do not know how reading a book quietly to yourself does this. But I do know that my computing devices can read to me if my hands or eyes need to be elsewhere.

Reduces stress
It is certainly relaxing to be able to be able to read for a one 30-minute stretch. I do not mind if I get ten 3-minute moments of reading too.

So does the medium matter as long as I achieve the same gains?

More importantly, does the medium matter if I learn to read in a way that is more relevant?

I stumbled upon this Guardian article, Enhanced ebooks are bad for children finds American study.

The same news service offered another article, For young readers, the book’s the thing whatever technology may bring.

I would wager that if the measures in the study were less traditional, the conclusions might have been different.

I would also argue that reading does not start and end with paper-based books. There are posters, notices, menus, comics, magazines, subtitles, and more. Are these good or bad for children too?

Instead, I would leverage on the value that e-books bring to the learning equation. Elements like:

  • getting definitions immediately
  • visiting hyperlinks to related content or concepts
  • being able to fact-check online, e.g., explore a concept in a wiki
  • sharing highlights and/or notes
  • discussing content or concepts with other readers, experts, or even the author

In other words, well designed e-books can help readers direct their own learning in ways that a traditional book cannot.



Recently, Edudemic featured an infographic by OnlineTeachingDegree (link removed on 24 Mar 2013 at publisher’s request) of the numbers game between e-books on iPads and traditional textbooks. I could bring up Richard Byrne’s critique of infographics, but I shall not even though it applies in this case.

It should come as no surprise that textbooks cost less than iPads. But that is if one only focuses on the financial cost of the media tools.

The graphic conveniently fails to point out that iPads are not just reading devices. The iPads cost more because they are more. They are also disruptive in ways that challenge both teaching and learning.

The graphic does not illustrate the cost of NOT using such a technology in powerful ways. It cannot and it dares not. To do so would be to encourage some critical discourse and favour change. Perish the thought!


Source (link removed on 24 Mar 2013 at publisher’s request)

If you need to see how fickle the publishers of infographics can be, you need only look at the one offered by OnlineUniversities which focuses on how e-books are giving textbooks “a run for their money”!

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I followed with great interest Apple’s education-related announcements on iBook textbooks for the iPad, the free iBooks Author (video above) and the new version of iTunes U.

To catch up on the news, I recommend:

I also read some reactions at Edudemic’s tweet collection and RRW’s Why Apple, Why Does it Have to Be Like This? The Cold Cynicism of the iBook EULA.

The author of the RRW article had an issue with the iBook end user license agreement:

It’s hard to wrap my brain around the cold cynicism of Apple’s releasing a new tool to democratize the publishing of eBooks today, only to include in the tool’s terms and conditions a prohibition against selling those books anywhere but through Apple’s own bookstore.

But look again. That same article highlighted that “if your Work is provided for free (at no charge), you may distribute the Work by any available means”.

So the complaint is not entirely valid. Apple has a right to make money out of its publishing platform. But we as creators also retain the right to publish freely on any platform.

As a creator of content you have a choice, which is better than having none at all. You also have a choice of making some of the content free and charging for the rest (like “lite” and full versions of apps).

But ultimately, the opportunity to publish more professional looking documents for free is the value-add to the game that is already changing. I do not think that Apple’s move is a game changer.

We have already created content on other platforms before iBooks 2. Now we can do it in a slick way that has a publishing, distribution and selling platform, iPad readers for consuming, and a ready market.

Schools can curate, create and distribute their own textbooks. Learners can be authors or co-authors. Teachers can rethink the way they teach. This is freeing in more ways than one: Freeing yourself from traditional publishing costs and also from outdated ways of educating learners.

That said, the “new” iBook ecosystem does not go as far as I had hoped. It is a level 1 e-book in my books. The dominant creatures in the ecosystem are flash cards, multiple choice questions and highlighters. Those features are dinosaurs compared to the emerging mammals like shared annotations and social interaction with authors, experts, teachers and peers.

Then again, this may just be the start of Apple’s e-book evolution.

Two articles have led me to this still formative conclusion. The first is this Wired article and the second is by RRW.

The Wired article outlined why e-textbooks sales are still relatively stagnant: Sharing restrictions, e-textbook piracy, platform fragmentation and unclear e-textbook adoption policies. I’d add that secondhand textbooks might also be cheaper than e-textbooks.

Just over a year ago, I read about how e-book sales in Amazon outstripped hardcovers. This year the e-book sales overtook paperbacks. I’m guessing that the sales were more for e-books than for e-textbooks.

The RRW article described how readers might able to ask authors questions directly in the Kindle. This was something I described as level 2 in my spectrum of e-book types. This is also something that might contribute to greater adoption of e-books.

There are schools in the US that have purchased iPads and the primary purpose of these devices is to serve as e-book viewers. I do not see those students wanting to interact with, say, an author of a Math e-textbook to clarify a process. But I do see them interacting with someone like J K Rowling on her next book.

So what might e-textbook creators and publishers do to stay relevant? Provide social tools in e-books for learners to share notes, discuss problems, contact their peers and teachers, etc. Incorporating multimedia interactivity in e-textbooks is one thing; integrating social interactivity is another.

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I like what the narrator for Inkling had to say about textbooks: Texbooks don’t have to have text, they don’t have to be books!

I think that the best bit appears at the end where one reader can ask another a question through the e-book interface. That is what I’d consider a level 2 e-book!

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If you asked me what an e-book or digital book should look like, I’d say something like this.

I think that the only thing missing is a set of communication tools that would allow readers to bookmark, highlight, query, critique and exchange thoughts with other readers or the author(s).

I am part of a small group of teacher educators at my workplace who are thinking about the iPad and its possible impact on education. We mix and match our thoughts in a wiki that someone started.

Right now, we are using the comments area more than the collaborative writing areas. It was here that one member of our loosely bound community recommended the free Toy Story e-book app.

The Toy Story e-book is nifty. I know because that is one of the first few apps my son and I explored on the iPad. It is a book that you read, get read to you, colour, play embedded games on, etc.

But it barely scratches the surface of what e-books might do. For the real value of an e-book to emerge, we will need to think outside of what a book does and not merely combine existing media into the e-book.

Imagine using augmented reality (AR) with an e-book. Not the embedded kind which would require another computing device, but the actively explored and expanded kind where the content of the real world interacts with the content of the book or vice versa.

Imagine bringing social networking into the reading, writing and discussion of content (I’ve mentioned this briefly before). For a similar perspective, see the first and fourth points in the RRW article, 5 Ways That eBooks Are Better Than Paper Books.

These possibilities are already here. They just haven’t been taken advantage of. When we do, these possibilities will not only add value to an e-book, they will also transform the nature of reading. We will not only be consuming, we will also be creating, collaborating and critiquing too!

On a side note, my 6-year-old son grew tired of the Toy Story app in an hour or two. But we have been reading the free and non-animated Pooh in iBook format for more than a fortnight. He has also been playing GodFinger ever since I downloaded it.

Why? Even though the Pooh book does not come with the same bells and whistles and is more difficult to read, it allows my son to find out the meanings of new words and we get to discuss what we read at bedtime. There is a social element of GodFinger that requires him to safely interact with owners of other planets. (How he found people to collaborate with in such a short period is beyond me!)

My son doesn’t like to read or play alone. I don’t think many in his generation do. If the learning tools now and in the future don’t address this social need, they won’t be used for long no matter how much they sparkle.

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The Apple iPad is officially out in the open and there are about as many follow up blog posts about it as there were before it was released. Previously, the blogs focused on rumours and hype; now the blogs focus on the actual product and the inevitable disappointments.

Is the iPad a terrible product? If you took in all the hype surrounding it, the iPad might seem underpadded. Here is one blogger’s “underwhelmed” response. But I prefer to focus on the possibilities, specifically as they apply in education.

Slate PCs (tablets with no physical keyboards) are not new and neither is multitouch, but I still think that the iPad can push education into new, fertile ground. First let us consider what we require our learners to do: They must read (or listen to or watch something) and they must write (or otherwise create in some medium).

Text entry on a screen-based keyboard might not appeal to those more accustomed to a physical keyboard. But consider what happens when we put such technologies in the hands of kids, particularly those without previous biases. They take to them like ducks to water. But if they really need a physical keyboard, there is one they can attach to the iPad.

Furthermore, kids are more adaptable than we think they are. Consider how SMS text was commonly input only via a numeric keypad. It was the most impractical way of creating messages, but young texters thought nothing of it. With the iPad, learners have a platform not only for text entry but for finger-based creation and editing of drawings, animations and perhaps movies.

One of the most exciting aspects of the iPad is the e-bookstore. First imagine not having to queue for textbooks at a bookstore and lugging them home. Then imagine carrying all the books you need in a device that can last the whole school day. A learner has access to all these books as well as Google, Wikipedia, YouTube and the wealth of resources on the rest of the Web. But I’d add that e-books need to evolve before they can push educational boundaries.

An e-book cannot simply replicate a textbook or a novel. After all, people who buy books like the touch and even the smell of books; they want to proudly display their books on shelves. An e-book must do more. At the bare minimum, an e-textbook must not only present the user with relevant photos, diagrams, animations and videos, it must allow the user to highlight chunks of text and and to take notes in spaces not bound by physical margins.

An e-book should be a living book, that is, always current and interactive. An e-book must take advantage of the medium and Internet connection so that updates to the book are done automatically. Furthermore, an e-book must allow the user to connect with other users, topic experts or even the author(s) of the chapter. This way readers can comment, clarify or discuss concepts. For example, a reader might mention he does not understand an illustration and someone else can offer help. An author can get feedback on his writing or get new book ideas from his readers.

The major barrier to iPad adoption in schools might be its price as the cheapest version costs about as much as a netbook. But then Apple products have always commanded a premium and people buy them anyway. Apple products have been favoured by educational institutions in the past and I hope that the affordances of the iPad allow Apple to return to an environment that sorely needs to innovate.


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