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E Readers and My Own Interest

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With the recent holiday and gift giving season there has been a bit of a buzz again this year about ebook readers. I had some personal interest regarding this as I seem to have a million and one PDFs that I want to read, but never seem to be able to sit down and read them on my computer.

Part of it is simply that I get distracted, the other piece is that I want to be able to write all over the document, or save a place and it never works with the ease of sliding a pencil between the pages, or dog earing a page.

So my own interest recently shifted as a teacher approached me to do a little research for them regarding what is out there. Now I knew about the Sony E Reader, the Kindle, software available for the iPod Touch, and now Barnes and Nobel's Nook, but I didn't realize that there were as many additional readers out there as well.

So what are the things that people are thinking about in regards to this? Here are some thing that I want to be able to do with My Ebook Reader, and a few I know some schools would want.

  • Open access to Public Domain Books
  • Check books out of the Public Library
  • Open access to PDF files
  • Text to Speech
  • Readability (access for the visually impaired)

Now as I started to look at these different options, via just my web research the biggest question that I have so far is what about the management of content within the school? It seems that all of the readers allow for downloading of content via 3G or Wifi so it isn't like you can't get the content, but rather how would a school cut a purchase order for the content? Then what happens if a teacher wants a book that isn't on the eReader, even though the school district owns the book? I am sure that there are a million other questions from this stand point.

So why am I writing about this? Twofold, one to start to think about what are the implications of going to electronic copies of for content in our schools. Whether it is our library collection or our textbooks what does this look like and what are the different things that we should be thinking about. The other piece is to raise questions about what happens to our culture in regards to electronic media and who truly owns the content you purchase.  

Another person that I was reading/listening to at one point earlier this month was talking about why eBooks aren't ideal in every way. He was talking about the fact that as a child he remembers going to peoples houses and seeing their books, then someone mentioning Oh you might like this book on ... This started to get me thinking about the few Summers that my family went to a cabin up in Maine for a week in the Summer. The living room of this place was covered with bookshelves. There must have been close to three hundred different publications lining the walls of this small space. I remember grabbing books at random to read over the week we were there nothing in particular, and nothing that sticks out in my head, but I was able to choose from a selection of books others at one time had enjoyed. So how would this look if all of the content that was there was electronic? Would there be a server rack in the basement that when I sat down in the living room and picked up my eReader out of my bag I'd be able to peruse the content?

Again similar to the concept of Music on LPs or CDs versus MP3s how will the digital content we create make it beyond our generation? This is something that I wonder about, since we may loose a little of our culture if all things digital won't be here for our reference in the future.

eReaders

I've been thinking about eReaders as well.  As a lover of books, the actual holding the book in my hands, feeling the pages, enjoying the cover and other illustrations if applicable, I've been hesitant to dive in and purchase an eReader.  I know there are so many advantages, but curing up with a good book doesn't sound the same when you say curling up with my eReader.

Another concern I have is how quickly technology changes.  Already there are more eReaders out there than last year.  How do I decide?  Which will fit best now and later?

I love my books, but I really want the flexibility that many eReaders offer.  I'm just a little resistant to change at this time--maybe give me a few more months or years to get used to the idea.  Or the perfect eReader (for me) is created and I find I can't live without it.

Obscuring View

I think you raise a really important point here.  If the majority of content were to go digital (and I don't think it will *crossing fingers*) books like the ones you found the living room of the cabin in Maine would be obscured from view.  This might take away from the natural exploration of books.  I guess (warning: futuristic thinking) if all library and living room shelves were replaced by flat screen monitors which display a cover flow of books you might get an effect close to what you experienced, but I doubt it. 

I understand, from a portability standpoint, the appeal of a standalone ebook reader, however, I'm not sure an isolated device suits me.  Like you, I desire to mark up text with my annotations.  I like the annotation feature available in bookmarking sites like Diigo and use it as often as I can.  I recently checked out a book (from the public library) on Play for an upcoming conference session and I'm frustrated because I can't mark it up.  I'm likely going to go out and purchase the very same book so that I can do so. 

Now for the confusing part. I do wish I had this particular book in electronic format.  I'd like to highlight, copy text, and make notations on what I'm reading, questions generated and ideas for the presentation at the upcoming conference. 

Of course the subject of ebook readers arose at the NYS Model Schools meetings last week.  In one small discussion with a colleague from CA BOCES he mentioned that he had tried to persuade a district leader from purchasing a $200+ ebook reader and to think about the purchase of netbooks.  The rationale for doing so was that the majority of ebook formats can be read on a laptop. More importantly a laptop/netbook allows for a multitude of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflective things students can and should experience throughout their education.

Of course, that implies that books aren't so obscured and they don't get distracted. :)

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