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Showing posts from 2011

Saving money with digital textbooks

I understand that for many the addition of a new technology seems counter-intuitive as a cost savings device. But think about ebooks like hybrid cars, compact florescent lights. The hybrid car gets so much better gas mileage and that new energy efficient light will save electricity that you can end up saving money over time, not that you should run out and get a hybrid car or new bulbs, but if you were about to replace your car or lights it would be a good thing to look at. That is kind of how you have to start thinking about electronic books and devices. Yes, a good ebook device that will allow students to interact with the text, such as by highlighting, margin notes, bookmarks, and interactive dictionaries will cost close to $100, and if you are thinking about adding that as an extra it is a cost increase and once you multiple it by some number of students it can be a big cost. But, and this is a big but, what many people don't realize is how often textbooks are replaced. The st…

Art Project Part III - Art Reading and Ebooks

I'm surprised at how many paintings that I'm finding of people with books. It just shows how much books are a part of our culture. In these two pictures the time frame is from1514 to 1850, over three hundred years, from when books were rare to when people started having their own large collections. While I love the ease of access and accessibly that ebooks provide to me, I do still love to browse a good bookstore and see what I can find. I sometimes wonder if we are at that time when milk delivery changed from being horse drawn to motor trucks. I remember one movie where the delivery person couldn't just give up his horse, so he had it walk with the truck, in the back instead of pulling. Are readers the new milk truck, which begs the question - Where are the milk trucks now?
Carl Spitzweg (1850) -
The Bookworm (with a Kindle Touch)
Quentin Metsys (1514) -
The Moneylender and His Wife (with an iRiverHD)

Auto Summarization

In dealing with textbooks and students with disabilities, one of the most common things that we would do is to get the textbook in a digital format, as an ebook. By doing this we were able to use a number of tools based on the need of the student. I've had students who could not lift their physical printed textbook, but would be able to access though a laptop installed in their electronic wheelchair, for students with vision issues we could boost the font size or use a text-to-speech tool to have the book read aloud to them. One tool that I used with a number of my students who had issues was the Auto Summarize tool in Word. The tool works well with textbook, but wouldn't work for other texts, such as novels.  I used this to reduce the amount of text that they had to read, the "cognitive load" of the text, but would still enable be able to get the information. Word did a great job, and depending on the student I would reduce the text to about 66% for facts and suppor…

Classroom Ebook Gift Cards

Tis the season, and perhaps you have been thinking about either getting that teacher a present, or perhaps you are considering that the end of the year is rapidly approaching and you wanted to make a classroom contribution (taxes you know). Have you considered donating books to a classroom though ebook donations. If a school or classroom is already using an ebook device, like the Kindle, Nook, or Sony (and others), it is possible to either purchase specific books for others or purchase an ebook gift card that can be used to purchase additional books for the classroom device.

So, if you are thinking about getting something for that teacher, classroom, or school library, and you are not sure just what book that they may need or want, and there is an e-reading device that they are using - consider giving that teacher, classroom or school an electronic book or ebook gift cards.

Amazon Kindle Cards

Nook Gift Cards

Sony eBook Store Gift Card

Art Project - adding ebooks to art

Konstantin Somov -  Lady in Blue (1900) with a Kobo Touch

Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin - The Young Schoolmistress (1740) with a Kindle Fire

Digital Bookmobile

Well, I'm excited, the Digital Bookmobile is coming to town. While traveling libraries, or bookmobiles have become pretty rare, I'm glad to say that Overdrive has created their own Digital Bookmobile and it is traveling across the country and next week it is coming to my town. The Digital Bookmobile started in Texas on Nov 1 and is currently traveling though the south east US.  While I do wish that it had the printing capabilities for public domain ebooks that the Internet Archive and Million Book project did, I'm glad to see my local library working to promote more digital readers. So if it coming to your town, get your digital reader or MP3 player and stop by the Overdrive Digital Bookmobile when it comes to your area.

See where the Digital Bookmobile is at

Halloween Horror

Happy Halloween, and if today didn’t provide enough horror about some more in an ebook format?  While everyone may have to read works by Poe and Lovecraft (and indeed nothing wrong with them), lets also consider adding some other authors who students may have heard of but not considered part of the horror genre. From my own youth I’m suggesting Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Howard is famous for his Conan character (who did have a movie this year) and of course Burroughs most famous character is Tarzan, although John Carter of Mars will soon be out as a movie too. For these two authors I’m suggesting that we might let students read works such as Howard’s short story Pigeons from Hell, a kind of southern (post Civil War) horror story, and Burroughs’ the Monster Men, a more fun and adventurous kind of book about re-animation of the dead.
Pigeons from Hell

MP3 Audio:


ePub and other…

But it is it different?

Whenever I do a talk about ebooks I pretty much always hear people saying that they don't feel that ebooks are the same, that you get something different from the look and feel of a paper printed book (and other things like the smell of a book). I agree with a lot of those things too, and I'm also sure that the feel and smell of the horse was different from the car, but both got people from place to place, but for the most part only one is really in use as standard transportation today. The difference between reading from a text is printed on paper and reading from etext on the ereader has now been solved, there is no difference. Researchers in Germany have found that there was no difference when scanning peoples brains as they read from paper than has a red from the and the reader. The the study analyzed differences in reading from different kinds of books digital ink tablet PC and printed paper. The reading behavior of the readers was analyzed through eye movement (eye track…

Three Musketeers ebook

I was just reading an announcement that came out that if you buy tickets to see the new Three Musketeers movie though Fandango, you will receive a free eBook of the original novel from WOWIO.  While I'm glad to see ebook support going with WOWIO, support for classics reading, and I'm sure that the book (with it's movie tie-in cover) will do well, I kind of wish that the movie's web site ( had just given away the public domain book them selves. It would have been a nice bonus from their site to have links to the kindle/nook/ePub/etc versions of the book and perhaps even the audiobook version.

So while I am sure that I will be going to the movie, I don't usually buy my tickets through online, and I thought that there may be quite a few others like me, I've put together quickly a few sites that provide the famous Dumas novel for free reading and listening to online or for download:

Audiobook Version:
Books Should be Free (Librivox recor…

Alice Underground

The British Library has recently released Lewis Carroll's book title Alice's Adventures Under Ground (later re-titled Alice in Wonderland). While you can purchase the iPad version, the Library has a free online application that displays the book and provides an number of great tools as you read the book using the museum's "Turning the Pages" system. The book itself is composed of detailed scans of the original text hand written by Lewis Carroll with his own drawings. Using the library's tools, not only can you read the text you can also explore the images with the Magnifier tool, read the text as print, and even listen as someone with a great voice reads it aloud to you.

I found that just reading Carroll's handwriting to be it's own experience, as here is the whole book in a booklet form with page numbers on each page and areas where he had added his own drawings. While I'm sure that there are drafts of each section, just looking at what he did in…

Art Project - adding ebooks to art

I'm beginning a new project to update some classic art that involves books to incorporate ebooks. Here are the first two that I have gotten done so far:

Jean-Hanore Fragonard's A Young Girl Reading (a Sony Ebook)

John Singer Sargent - Simplon Pass Reading (a Nook Color), 1911

Amazon, your future library?

In the changing online world we may be seeing a renewal of the subscription library service. Yes, the libraries that most people are familiar with are public libraries, and people do think that they are free, but they are actually supported though regional taxes, and I know that my library has been having trouble with budget cuts, so they have never actually been free. For a long time subscription libraries were common, actually the first library in the US, when in 1731 Benjamin Franklin established a subscription library called the Library Company that started by sharing collections of individuals - a library that still exists today. While I am always saddened when I hear about library closings or cutbacks, I'm glad to hear that others are stepping up to improve book access. While Amazon my be doing this though a direct cost to the users, there are also the recent creation of online book sharing organization that will allow people to lend books out of their personal collection. S…

A Sad Note - the death of who was perhaps the first online librarian - Michael Hart

Michael Hart, the founder of Project Gutenberg and who started with ebooks by typing up the US Declaration of Independence into a computer and sharing it back in 1971, has died this week. From that first document we today have Project Gutenburgs around the world in multiple countries. Today his project, Project Gutenberg, has over 36,000 ebooks available in 60 languages. The number at PG isn't the real impact though, by his leadership in creating the free public domain online library we now actually have over five million ebooks available online.

Early this year Michael wrote: “One thing about eBooks that most people haven’t thought much is that eBooks are the very first thing that we’re all able to have as much as we want other than air.”  So as you see people with Kindles, Nooks, or other e-readers you are seeing the impact today of what that first ebook created back in 1971.

So as we say goodbye to Michael Hart, we should also say thank you, you will be missed.

Books with Sound

If a system can, will it? I suppose that sooner or later that answer will be yes. I'm sure that some will gnash teeth or rend clothes because some ebooks are coming with sound effects, but again this isn't really new. A book company is releasing classic books and adding music and sound effects to add to the background as the reader reads. Is this new, not really, after all if you ever look in the children's books section and find those books with the sound strip down the side (usually pretty icon buttons on top), then when a child reads that book and they see the icon they press the button and hear the sound effects. I once repurosed one of those side sound bars from a Robin Hood story and created a book for someone who had just had heart surgery (they work great with adults who have just been under anesthesia). As for the sound tracks, including it with the book is new, but otherwise many of us have been soundtracking books for a long time. When I was young I picked Chopi…

Serialize that Book

If someone prefers a certain medium over another, should not we as teacher then try to incorporate that medium as a learning or teaching tools/style to engage the student? Once we have them engaged, then we can expand the concept or relate it to another medium form. Back when I taught science, I used all kinds of science materials, labs, activities, field trips, anything to get them interested in the subject, so that they would want to learn. I also used books and films to teach, as many students were reading and they all went to the movies or watched TV (even the ones who were not reading). By using the film as an anchor for learning and then expanding it to more than just watching a film, but to also having discussions, finding out about the accuracy of the film and then doing labs based on what they saw, I was better able to engage my students in learning science, and show them that it didn't just have to be something that occurred in science class.

Now with this study, some ma…

The loss of a format

I just got a new work computer and was installing all the software that I use when I went to add MS Reader to the machine and found this:

Microsoft is discontinuing Microsoft Reader effective August 30, 2012, which includes download access of the Microsoft Reader application from the Microsoft Reader website. However, customers may continue to use and access the Microsoft Reader application and any .lit materials on their PCs or devices after the discontinuation on August 30, 2012. New content for purchase from retailers in the .lit format will be discontinued on November 8, 2011. 

Before there was ePub there was LIT, and I can remember reading a number of ebooks on my Casio handheld. This program was a leader in the interaction features of the ebook, things that I see just starting in some of the modern ereaders. It did highlighting (in multiple colors), linked notes, book marks, interactive dictionary (multiple languages), and you could even draw within the book. While I am glad…

Ebooks for a Village School

Ok, this isn't news but it is experience. I am currently working a project in the Dominican Republic that includes ebook reading. The project that we are working on is a multi-organization project between CEL & SIFE at UNF to build and deliver a working shipping container multi-computer classroom to a remote village elementary school in Pananao. In an earlier visit as part of a needs analysis to find out what the school needed that the computer lab could support, I found that books were one of the areas that the technology could help with. For example the Kindergarten classroom only had about 10 books for the children. In discussions with students and teachers it was found that reading materials beyond textbooks are a need. As the school is elementary I have been researching elementary reading ebooks (emergent readers, picture books, and chapter books) in Spanish (although if any one has more please send me the links to the sites). So far we have the room on site and a satelli…

Bring your own device...

If we could decide on a base format, such as EPUB, then we could instead of buying textbooks, just set a textbook DRM to one year, and then lend digital textbooks to students using their own devices. The idea of students using their own devices could open up lots of opportunities and savings for school systems. Yes, I'm sure that some student's wouldn't have their own device, but there the school could lease or check out ones to the students who don't have their own. As a non-tax or deductible item parents could purchase ebook devices for their students - perhaps at a discount, and then use them in schools. Schools wouldn't have to purchase an ebook device for every student, just those who were unable to get their own. I'm pretty sure also that as the devices become more available and customization occurs (skins and such) that more students would want to get their own, instead of the school issued one. I believe that cell phones could be a proof of concept tool…

Digital Learning Now Act

This month (actually starting on July 1) Florida's Digital Learning Now Act went into place. This act requires schol districts to establish virtual instruction options, authorizes blended learning courses, adds new requirements for Florida Virtual School, requires fill & part-time school district virtuaion instruction, and requires an online learning course for high school graduation. But what does this have to do with ebooks you might ask? As an online teacher, I feel it has a lot to do. Using ebooks for my online classes has made things a lot easier for myself and my students. I don't have issues of them ordering and how long it takes for it to arrive (my worst case was for a student who ended up out of country when the course started and if he had had to wait for the printed version, it would have taken over a month for it to get there - the course would have been half over by then). If the general instruction of a class is delivered electronically then it also makes se…

"Now is the time" ... "go from print to digital"

Karen Cator, the director of educational technology for the DOE talked today about changing from print to digital. She discussed (at ISTE) four ways that the DOE is helping make that shift:
1. Transparency (schools with access)
2. Digital Literacy (
3. Bring your own device advice
4. Clearing house for professional networks

While she was talking tech across the board, I do see aspects related to digital books here, especially in the "bring your own device advice" section. This week Pew Internet released data that 12% of adults have an e-reader device, and that 8% own a tablet (only a 3% overlap). Add that to existing data on smart phones (31%) and we begin to the possibility of using ebooks with your own device in schools. I've always thought that the model would be to have some basic ebook device that could be provided, but if the student wanted they could go outside the school and get their own device. When I started using a calculator in schools th…

Tablets & impact

While some may look at tablets taking away from dedicated ebook readers, I don't really see it that way. Tablets are chosen for their ease of use and acceptability. I know that I often use mine when watching a show, to look up some interesting facts (like when watching The Glades to see what pregnancy lollipops were), checking email during  advertising, or finding out what song was playing during a sequence. But for the most part I use my tablet for short term reading. When I really want to spend some time reading, by ebook device does a better job, it weighs less, lasts longer, and fits in my hand better. At the same time, I'm thinking that for many a tablet would be a gateway device to an ebook reader, once you start finding things to read that you like, you will want more.

Tablets chip away at laptops, e-readers
Survey data from Parks Associates indicate that 10.5 million American households now contain at least one tablet PC -- the equivalent of 13% of all broadband-connecte…

eTextbooks needed

This kind of research doesn't surprise me. Instead it is just a reinforcement of things that I have found, students today are ready for the switch to digital textbooks. To me the hold is because of two factors. First is the paradigm shift necessary in faculty to change from paper based text to digital. This is also been shown in other research that found that students were much more aware of digital options for textbooks than faculty (other research also showed that faculty were unaware of the current pricing of the texts that they used).  Faculty need to start going beyond the book company rep that shows up with sample texts and start looking for themselves if they are also to start incorporating open source texts too. The second issue is systematic, until faculty start experiencing digital textbooks, they won't be using them with their students, and a desktop computer isn't the ideal for such use. We need faculty to start using devices like tablets and ebook readers, so …

Doodle(ing) in Google eBooks

On June 9th Google Books Software Engineers blogged about a new feature for Google Books - Doodle. Doodle will allow uses (using supported browsers - like Chrome), to begin doodling in the book using the book's Doodle Mode - which gives you access to a virtual color changing crayon. The nice thing here is that this kind of annotation is another interactive feature that allows users to interact with their book, the downside is that it isn't saved - so if you want to keep your notation or artwork you have to do a screen shot. What this does though is open a whole new set of books for digital interaction; puzzle books, connect the dots, mazes, etc. although only for web reading now, we should expect that after a while that all ebook readers should have this level of intractability.

Loading... Doodle in the Google eBooks Web ReaderAs the young (and young at heart) know, books aren't simply meant to be read - sometimes they're meant to be marked up, colored in and scribbled…

FL to go eBook by 2015

Florida is one of the first states stepping forward to shift their educational texts to a digital format. Governor Rick Scott signed SB 2120 on May 23, 2011 which starts the move to have Florida schools adopt digital textbooks by the 2015-2016 school year. Right now the public schools are to be working on pilot programs to identify the devices, books, services, etc that will work best.  Of course a big question will be how can schools afford this? But if you start to consider the open source options now available, using digital textbooks can actually be a cost savings. Consider the case of just math and science texts, the average textbook can cost close to $100, but the CK12 (, makes a number of open source textbooks in all areas of high school math and science, meaning that with just two subjects, a Kindle as an interactive text purchased in bulk at an estimated $100, would actually be a savings of $100 per student. Then too there are other costs with textbooks that may …

The eBook and the Dictionary

I was just reading today how Google Books (in the Flowing text view), now has an option that lets you look up the word in the dictionary or have the word translated. I think that such tools are very important and actually increase the chances that a student would look up a word that they are unfamiliar with. Back when I taught middle school, we used to keep a collection of dictionaries on the side of the class, and realistically they were never used by my student, even in our textbooks, unless they were doing a vocabulary exercise there wasn't a lot of turning to the back of the book. I'm often surprised by how much students read without knowing all the words. This was shown to me when I had an undergraduate class work to create an audiobook version of Tarzan. Students were constantly noting words that they either didn't know or know how to pronounce as they read the text aloud. An issue with looking words up in a dictionary or glossary is the disruption that occurs to hav…

Snow Day eBook

While not actually an ebook issue, this concept is one that does support the ebook application. Where I live we don't have snow days, but we do have storm days, such as hurricane/tropical storm days, that can cause schools to be shut down before (if it ever) gets here. Most students would only take home a book for a class if that book  was needed to do some homework or other assignment. Considering the an average weight for a textbook to be about 3.5 pounds and a student having six classes a day that would amount to  21 pounds just for the textbooks that the student would have to carry home in anticipation of a possible storm closure. That doesn't take into account other materials, such as their own notebooks, calculators, etc. If schools switched to digital textbooks then a single device, such as Amazon's Kindle (0.5 lbs), would be able to contain all the associated textbooks along with other readings, and a student would be able to carry it on a regular basis - which wou…

Survey Analysis: Consumer Digital Reading Preferences Reveal the Exaggerated Death of Paper

A study (titled above) found that acceptance of digital text is growing, such as with iPad users. For people with such devices, the times spent reading digital texts now equals about the time spent on paper-based text. These devices are now seen as being easer to use and most find them just as readable as printed text.

I'm often surprised at how many people see text as some kind of dichotomous event. While in the long run we may perhaps see a major tapering off, I don't understand this Death of Paper concept. When automobiles became common, it didn't mean that there were no more horses used overnight, but instead that there was a gradual shift from horse power to internal combustion. And still today there are horses used in pubic transportation (I live near the nations oldest city and they have a large carriage trade).

If you can remember the first computer monitors and the issues that they had, the green color, the dots, and the flickering, and then look at how much they …

Chromebook has books

Google just recently announced the Chromebook for schools. This web device would be available to schools at a rate of $20/per student device. This would possible open in an affordable and adaptable system real one-to-one computing for students. The devices that are available via the Chromebook for Education program will have 3G and wireless capabilities, meaning that it will be able to tie into existing wifi school network, and when that isn't available use the 3G cell network system, which is important for students may not have access to the Internet at home. But beyond the classroom and home this device would open up education for a lot of other places. Students could use the device while on field trips, doing labs, at the beach, in the bus, pretty much anywhere. And of course one of the apps would be Google Books, so this would also open up a portable library too. Chrome though does need to develop a better interactive reading program, something more like Kindle, so that studen…

eBooks and Print Disabilities

While much of the discussion about ebooks has been new devices, like the iPad 2 or the Kindle 3, and how ebooks are outselling print books, and I'm still seeing writings about how a digital book just doesn't have the "feel" of a book. But if you are a person with a print disability, you most likely don't care about those things, you just want to be able to read effectively. When I work with students who have disabilities in my classes, usually one of the first things that we try to do is get what ever texts that we are using for that class in digital format. Once we have it in a digital format then we can manipulate the display, such as by increasing the font size or changing the contrast, or even going so far as to use text-to-speech tools - all of these can be a big help to the students with low vision. I have even used ebooks with some of my students who had physical disabilities such as CP, where manipulating an ebook reading device was easier and less taxing…


Yes I love books and think that they are wonderful things, but others may like to read  things like newpapers and magazines. I'm usually for anything that encourages reading. If you are trying to use some of these online magazine sites with an ebook device, it would be possible to use an application like "read it later" to convert the web pages to document files.

Here are a few educational journal sites from publishers and organizations provide free online content, including articles and media about current events, some of which are generated by students themselves.  Time for KidsWeekly ReaderNational Geographic Kids, and Science News for Kids

Shakespeare and the ebook

Today I was doing a presentation on Mapping Shakespeare for the Florida Virtual School. The whole design of their virtual conference for students was very interesting, but it got me to thinking about the books that the students were reading. On my own campus I have seen students walking around with books such as the collected works of Shakespeare. When I have been able to talk to them, I ask if they were using extra material in the text, like summaries or expert commentaries. So far every time the answer has been "no". In investigating the cost of such a book, I have often found it approaching the $100 mark. While I understand many students who have to get that book, looking for a version they can sell back, unless they plan to be Shakespeare scholars, but I don't understand why they ever buy it.

I know that instructors are often unaware of digital options for text, and that students are usually more aware. But with the current cost of books in college averaging about $1…

Google Maps

An exciting time today, as I was riding my bike to work, I saw the Google Maps Car driving by. You may be wondering what the Google Maps car has to do with ebooks, but often books have maps and Google Books has lots of books with Google Maps developed from extracting the locations from the text. This kind of mapping got me so excited that myself and Jerome Burg wrote a book on using digital mapping with books. But the car reminded me that these maps are out there just waiting for you to start using them. For example if you go to Google Books, and you are reading Vern's Around the World in 80 Days, look in the About this Book section, and then scroll down to see if the book has a Places mentioned in this book... component.

In one class I copied the map from Google Books and then we put it on the wall, so that as we read the book, we tracked where we were in the story on the wall map. One warning though, for some reason the books with maps in Google Books seems to randomly change fr…

Kindle goes to the Library

In a press release today has announced that it is working with Overdrive to create Kindle Library Lending. This will allow people with Kindles (or the Kindle program) to checkout books from over 11,000 local libraries in the US. This new addition fill in one of the gaps that many of us have noticed concerning ebook readers, that just about all of the other major devices were already public library compatible. One of the extra nice things about this though will be that the annotations will be available the next time you check out the book or buy your own copy. I'm very glad to see library content being made available. I think that the recent growth of Kindle purchases and of private lending clubs demonstrated that there is a market of people who want lending to be an ongoing part of their reading experience. Yes I love that any book that I buy though Amazon's Kindle service will always be available to me, but too I know that there are some books that I will read and …

The Times they are A'Changing

As technology normally makes things go faster, which it then creates problems as with many things technology is out pacing the time that it takes for a lot people to adapt. Recent press releases about ebook sales show that they increased over 200% in the last year, making ebook sales higher than print sales for the first time (with print down 34%). This kind of change isn't new, but for may they just were not expecting it to happen this fast for print. Music publishers were surprised at the MP3 revolution, TV was surprised at the video recorder/tape revolution, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that stove/oven makers were surprised by the microwave.  Although, here fast is a relative term. The first mention of devices like ebooks that I can find occurred with Robert A. Heinlein's Space Cadet from the 1950's, and I've been attending the conference on electronic books for over ten years, but when it actually happens it catches many by surprise. I'm always remin…

eBooks and Advertising

Well I'm not surprised to find it here, but amazon will be releasing another version of the Kindle that will be ad-supported. The good thing about this is that the device will be at a lower price of $114. The ads will be displayed as the home screen as screensaver, not embedded in the books. In many ways this isn't really new, paperbacks have a long history of advertising pages, ranging from other books in the genre, other books by the author, to just general commercial ads. I do wish that they could have reduced that price by another $15, I think it would have had a bigger impact on getting more of the population getting their own ebook device if they can get it to break that $100 wall.