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E-book readers

Kobo, Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Project Gutenberg – what is the story?  E-books and e-readers. 

Personally, I’ve been reading books electronically since I had a Sony Clie, one of the last gasps of the PDA, before smartphones started becoming almost affordable.  It was great to be able to have so many books in my pocket and made my luggage much lighter.  Now, I have to confess, I have fallen in love with Kindle on the iPad, especially since I purchased a matte finish screen protector.  It wasn’t too bad, in the dark winter, to curl up with my shiny iPad, but now it’s even better.  Plus, as I said before, my luggage is much much lighter. 

Another advantage is the speed with which you can acquire books.  Three days before an assignment was due for my paper at Vic Uni, I realised I could really use several books.  These were available on Amazon, and in the past, I would have ordered them (earlier) and hoped that some of them would get to me before I finished the paper, much less my assignment.  This time, I found them online and available in a Kindle edition.  The advantages: cost and speed.  The Kindle editions were cheaper, particularly after adding in postage, and the Kindle books, all four of them, took about one minute to download. Fantastic!  I had time to read the relevant sections and include them in my assignment.  Not only that, I could access them on any of the i-devices we have AND Kindle would remember how far I had read.

Now we come to the tricky bit – referencing.  E-books are so new to academia that APA hasn’t quite caught up.  I Googled some ideas and made a decision to reference them as you would books, but to indicate that I used the [Kindle edition].  The second problem is quoting from the texts.  Kindle editions have no pages numbers as they are not pdfs or other direct copies of texts.  They have ‘locations’ based on how much text is displayed on the page.  This can vary if, as I do, you access the text on an iPad as well as an iPod/iPhone.  You can look up the location using Amazon’s Look Inside function, but this can be pretty tedious.  I haven’t got any decent solutions for this, and would welcome any suggestions!

Using Kindle, you can bookmark, highlight and make notes, just as you would in a print copy.  The software remembers your annotations and you can search glance through them to go back to ideas.  Not only that, but in certain texts, the sections that other people have highlighted will also show up, indicated by a dashed underline.  Many other e-book readers have similar functions, which means that in the future you could have a class discussion based around the reasons students have chosen particular passages, rather than simply swapping which passages have been highlighted.  E-book readers could move a class discussion more quickly from ‘what?’ to ‘why?’ enabling a deeper discussion of a text or idea.

What do you think? What other uses could there be for e-books in schools?  What advantages and disadvantages might there be?

Do you use an e-book reader?  What has been your experience?  Please share it in the comments.

Finally, if you are interested in e-books and e-book readers, join the NZERT wiki, the taskforce leading the discussion in this area in New Zealand.

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October 20, 2010 Posted by | e-books | | 2 Comments