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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”!

Video source

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.

Video source

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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