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Showing posts from April, 2011

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. 

EBooks and the future of textbooks

I was just presenting on electronic books, specifically open source textbooks, and the question was raised, "Why would anyone write a book that others are not going to pay for?" This is a valid question, but it is important to remember that people write books for many reasons. Open source textbooks are under discussion in my state as part of state legislation: “That course instructors and academic departments are encouraged to participate in the development, adaptation, and review of open-access textbooks and, in particular, open textbooks for high-demand general education courses” (FL Statute § 1004.085, 2010 4e).

While this legislation doesn't answer the question about these open source e-textbooks it does get the idea going. I told the asker that there are other reasons why someone may write such a text. For example for their promotion and tenure, using the ebook as part of their own publications. Or another option would be to have a whole department write a book, thi…

Downloading ebooks at the library

I love this idea, it is the real integration of mobile technology, allowing it not only to be remote, but also in-person. Patrons bring in their ebook reader and apparently the library has a computer with appropriate dongles that will allow the device to be connected and then the patrons can download ebooks from the library directly into their ebook reading device - avoiding the requirement for the patrons to have internet at home.Hopefully ebook industry will also recognize this form of access and make the direct connections the same across devices.  Public libraries have become one of the community hot spots, they have expanded their service to the community to go beyond just the loaning of books (which I know they were always much more) to having tech services for internet access and downloadable media. While for some this may seem like a step backwards, because patrons have to come in, it is actually a step forward as it is recognizing the device as a legitimate in-person library …

eBooks and Libraries

I have usually found that most librarians do support books in any format (once they get used to the idea), be it print, audio, or e-text. Some of the interesting things being done with libraries lately that I have found as exciting changes have been the libraries that have removed the reference section and replaced it with databases and ebook reference material. One big thing that could happen with a switch to ebooks for college libraries is that the libraries may also start including more novels and such for recreational reading and not just research reading. I think that such a change would be reflective of the change that all libraries seem to be going though. Ebooks seem to have been a catalyst for all kinds of change. Ebooks are having an impact change in educational textbooks, they have become one of the big user for high readers, and we can see changes occurring for libraries. Perhaps the future library (public, PK12, or college) will be more of a mix like bookstores became. Th…