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Showing posts from 2012

Ebooks as Textbooks - Part 1 - Reading Aloud

This is the start of a short series on using ebooks and ebook readers as textbooks.

Reading Aloud - using Text-to-Speech with your ebook. 

Ebooks seem to be the new wave for textbooks. Already ebooks and book rentals have had a major impact on book sales at the college level and a number of states have already passed legislation or are working on legislation concerning changing the school textbook to be either more or fully digital. In my own state of Florida we already have legislation that will require schools to begin changing to digital textbooks by the 2015-2016 school year. Of course one of the driving pressures for this change is money, ad the US DOE expects that this kind of change could save approximately $60 per student per year - something that could be a nice summative savings (especially when you consider that my district has about 200,000 students = a savings of $12,000,000 from the yearly budget). And while this is all fine and good in terms of savings, is it a good idea…

Finding Something To Read

I'll admit that as I've switched from print to electronic reading, one of the things that I miss is browsing shelves to find new things to read. I do also admit that this was not always a successful strategy in finding something to read, best sellers could overcrowd the shelves, and then I would usually prowl the SiFi section and might never see something that would be good, but was out of current set of shelves that I was looking in.  But I do miss that nostalgic feeling that I used to get from going into new and used bookstores (I do still peruse used bookstores as I find them). Technology is still there to help though. When I feel like wondering through the stacks to find new books today, I will also turn to book browsing tools that can help me find new books and authors to read either in print or now with my ebooks.

Now I'm a strong believer of letting students read what they like, yes we need to guide them to have a well rounded background  but I think that helping t…

Storm Reading

As someone who has lived either next to or in the Caribbean basin most of my life (and taught science), I'm well acquainted with the effects of storms as they occur and the power loss aftermath. Whenever my power has gone out for an extended period of time I've always loved that my book collection is still right there to entertain or to teach me. This is still one of the great things about my e-ink readers over my LCD readers (like my iPad). The fact that I can read for over a month on a charge will usually take me through any power problems that I'm dealing with and since I can still buy books with my Kindle using the cell tower network, means I'm not limited to books that I've already read.

Even more though than the lack of power issue, I love my eink reader for when I travel. It used to be that I would have to pack a good number of books for a trip, once to read in the car or plane getting there and coming back, and some to read while relaxing at where ever I w…

Library Open even while Closed

Here is something that I think that most might not have remembered or thought of when considering the online options for libraries. But just as schools today are considering online options for what to do when schools are closed due to weather or other issues, so too can community libraries still serve their public through online options even though their doors have to be closed, in this case due to a power outage. On one side, I hate to see any library closed for any reason, but do understand that it will happen from time to time. In Florida, we add days to the school calendar to ensure that we will have enough days to maintain accreditation even if we get a major storm. I don't want this to be considered a substitute for a public library, but instead more like the redundancy built into a good system. This way if one part isn't working another can take up some of the need. Here also is where users having a variety of ebook devices could be useful. My tablet is good for about …

Ebook Readers and their Reading Devices

First and foremost I want to thank the Pew Internet project for collecting and disseminating information about ebooks and reading. I love the data itself, I just always want more. 
Whenever I read articles about reading habits and devices, I always wonder not just about the devices (or no device) that people are reading from, but I also wonder about the people being questioned about how much that they read. I see statements like the "more than 8 in 10 Americans ages 16-29 read a book in the past year and 6 in 10 used their local public library" and it makes me think about other questions. I remember when I was at the Butterfly exhibit in Gainesville, and the docent mentioned that this was the second largest butterfly habitat in the world, well the next words that I said (and at least three others at the same time) was "what is the largest?" So when I see something that mentions that 8 out of 10 people read a book that year, I wonder "at least one book, but ho…

Ebook Sales Infographic

Really interesting inforgraphic created by Aptaracorp and Publishers Weekly

'txtr beagle - a new school ebook?

UPDATE 3/13/2013: just read that the final selling price will be $69 not $15, in large part because they didn't get a cellphone company to underwrite the device - in which case that makes it cost just about the same as a base kindle (which is a more capable device).

Just came across 'txtr's beagle ( today and I think it could be the next exciting thing for schools to consider. Right now it isn't available in the US, but they are working to make it for sale here. What makes it so different, it's the price and the batteries. Their plan is to sell it for about $15US and it runs on AAA rechargeable.

This isn't a truly interactive reader, not touch screen or note taking, just the basic read with three control buttons. But as we start to think about Bring Your Own Device or Tech (BYOD-BYOT), here is something that will work well with smart phones and just the cost of two mass market paperback books and well less than the cost of one hardback…

Art Project Adding Ebooks to Art - Part V

The ongoing adaptation of art which "used" to include book and now will have ebook readers.

Pierre Auguste Renoir's  Breakfast at Berneval reading iBooks with an iPad

Wall painting from.Pompeii - Portrait of Menander  (c. 70 CE) reading from a Kindle Fire 

Hunger Games & Harry Potter

There has been a lot of chatter lately about how announcing that in the US Susanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy has been outselling J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. Amazon's editorial director stated that this could be due to the growth in digital reading that has occurred, and the the Hunger Games series is consistently on the Top 10 list in both print and Kindle formats, and that the book "The Hunger Games is also the most-borrowed book in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library." Although this data only is for Amazon, after all there are over 400 million Potter books compared to 23 million Hunger Games. But it does perhaps start indicating the change in how the public wants their books. Both book in the US are though the Scholastic Publisher, but Hunger Games was first to go digital, and became Amazon's first young adult author to be named to Amazon's Kindle Million club (although now Harry Potter books are available through Pottermore, b…

More ebooks sold than print in adult fiction

I've been reading a lot lately about how ebooks are now outselling printed book in the area of adult fiction. Andy by that I don't mean ADULT adult fiction (although I've seen that those numbers are way up too - look at the digital sales of 50 Shades of Gray), but fiction for adults.  According to an article in the NY Post, ebook now represent 30% of the net revenue for adult fiction. In just one year, there as been an increase of over 200% more ebooks being sold, from 125 million in 2010 to 388 million in 2011, with more books being sold overall and a 12% increase in ebook sales in the Children's/Young Adult section.

I've also seen elsewhere that that increase in YA sales may not necessarily be related to young adults. Good books are good books, and it shouldn't matter if it was written for younger or older readers, now ability matters, but it can be good for the reader to not struggle all the time, so an adult or older student reading a children's or you…

Apples, to Apples, to Oranges?

A recent study by researchers at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center observed families reading printed books, basic e-books, which are essentially print books put into a digital format with minimal features like highlighting text and audio narration, and enhanced e-books, which feature more interactive multimedia options like games, videos and interactive animations.  When kids were asked one plot question for each story, (i.e., “Why did x do y?”), there was no difference between the print book readers and the enhanced e-book readers. The difference found was between the ways parent-child pairs interacted with print, basic and enhanced formats. The enhanced format tended to elicit less content related interaction (e.g. elaborating on the picture) and more non-content related interaction (e.g. "Don't touch that yet") than the print and basic formats, which may have affected how much the children recalled from the story.

The implications of the study for ebook designers a…

Nae, not Shame-Reading, just Private-Reading

A recent survey of about 2000 British persons found some interesting reading patterns. They report that people use ereaders use the ebook to hide what someone is actually reading such as 58% read adolescent/children's books, and 26% Science Fiction and Fantasy.

When looking at physical books on people's shelves, it was found that 71% was non-fiction (which is only 14% on the digital shelf). And that the majority of people (55%) had read less than a third of the books on their shelves and that 10% hadn't' read any.

I'm not sure that "Shame" is the right word though, it just not being public or boasting about something. I pretty sure that those reading science fiction would talk about the books they are reading when they were with other science fiction readers, but they just don't want the confrontation or judgement of others who don't read or respect those books. Which is worse, reading something you like or buying books to make it look like you ar…

Device Rental

I think that something like this makes a great bridge for allowing one-to-one computing and being able to put an ebook device into everyone's hands. This seems like a kind of adaptation on the bring your own device option that seems to being successful. The cost to update school systems may be too much for them to be able to do in the current economy. Large schools systems have often been working or a rotation basis for their schools, but this means that every school that gets technology is getting something different than last year's and it means that you can't implement district wide policy as some schools just are not there yet. And by the time they are the first schools have such old tech that they need to be updated.  Options like implementing a buy/rental program and bring-your-own-device create workable options for schools to start integrating today's ebook technology today, and not sometime in the next few years.

Calif. school to require students to have iPads

Saving Money with E-Textbooks

I think that schools will (at least for the most part) be going digital with their textbooks, if only for the costs.
A big meeting was held about digital textbooks into U.S. classrooms by the FCC and the Department of Education, included everyone from Apple to Intel to McGraw-Hill was in attendance.  Their finding were that doing so could save about $60 per student per year - something that could be a nice summative savings. I equate this to how Pres. J. Carter "found" so much oil, by having us use less such as by increased gas mileage.  I know that 60$ doesn't sound like much, although trying to get a 60$/student increase today would seem impossible, but remember how many students that there are and then start adding the years.

In my district if we could that would mean: 60 $/student 200,000 students in my school district =12,000,000 $saving/year
At a school were the state just told us we had to cut 6 million dollars, a 12 million savings in a year, would be a great thi…

Art Project Part IV

Continuing the ebooks in classic art series. Today I'm adding Matthias Stomer's Annunciazione (1700) with a Sony Reader and Pierre Auguste Renior's Two Girls Reading (1890) a Nook Touch.


Ebooks and Memory

I was just reading a couple of articles about how people seem to be having a harder time remembering content when reading from an ebook device. Some of the anecdotal and other research seems shows it is hard to retain facts and information when reading an e-book – there were issues of remembering elements such as characters from the stories. One scientist put this down as being an issue of screen size - that it is easier to remember from large than small - that this would have a notable impact when reading from a cell phone. Another reason put forth was that the effect may be associated by how ebooks provide fewer spatial landmarks than print.

 I do think that the spatial element could be impactful along with the screen size. I do wonder though about some of the other “studys” – if students are learning the device as well as learning content you have to contend with cognitive load.  For many it will take a good amount of time to become as familiar with etext reading as they are with …

I can't find my kindle, but I've got my notes

Recently I misplaced my Kindle with its keyboard. This had the textbook that I'm using with the class that I'm teaching and I had been highlighting points to use in class, making "margin" notes, etc. and then I couldnt find my device - if this had been a regular book this would have ment me starting over again. Instead, I just opened it up on my iPad and used that with my class instead of my Kindle. Lesson saved!

This experience exemplifies some of the big changes available through digital book access as compaired to printed paper. I now regularly carry an entire book collection with me, and I have access to my notes and other annotations that I make with all my devices -as long as I remember to sync them.

How will school change if you have access to any class' textbook for the rest of your life. Can't remember a fact, there it is, can't remember a rule - just pull it up. Left your book at home, just pull it up on your smart phone.

Now, if they would jus…

Read an Ebook Week - March 4-10

It is that time of year again, ebook week. If you read my work then you are most likely already an ebook reader. So this week take some time to share your experiences and encourage others to remember that digital reading is still reading. Some points that I always like to share include:
*No difference in how your brain sees digital ink as compared to paper print.
*Over 5 million books available online for free.
*Younger kids prefer reading on a device over paper.

Digital Text Playbook

The U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski have released the "Digital Textbook Playbook" on transitioning to digital texts. The Playbook is organized into four sections that are designed to follow the timeline/issues that schools need to address when making a transition from primarily paper print to mostly digital resources:

Making the Transition to Digital LearningSchool districts need dedicated and shared leadership, careful planning, and teacher and community engagement to create a successful digital learning environment.Connectivity at SchoolThe key to delivering sufficient connectivity is estimating current and future demand at the district, school, and classroom level. This will ensure that schools have enough bandwidth to serve their student body, faculty, and staff.Connectivity Beyond the School GatesTo accomplish truly ubiquitous digital learning, students must be able to connect beyond the school walls. This …

Do you have a reader?

In mid-January PEW for the last few years has been running a survey to find out about people having an ereader or a tablet. To me it always looks like geometric growth, in other words, we have moved out of Chris Anderson's long tail concept and are now in the "mainstream," with ebooks and tablets. Over the last three years, each year the number of tablets in use have just about doubled, from 5% in 2010, to 10% in 2011, and now 19% in 2012. And ereaders are pretty much the same (10% in 2011 and 19% in 2012). I also think that when you put readers and tablets together it becomes even more impressive, as of January 2012 it is estimated at 29% of adults have either a tablet or a reader. Then of course there are people like me, who have multiples of each that we work and experiment with (although PEW never calls me). I know to many when they read numbers like 5%, they thought it was no big deal, it's a rarity, but that is hard to continue to say when numbers become someth…

Listening to the Kindle read the Novel and the Textbook

Today's posting is a little different from the others, in that it's not related to a news article, but instead are some of my own personal observations dealing with an ebook aspect. I had a good amount of experience with a wide variety of read aloud systems including text-to-speech tools. For example, I often use text-to-speech tools when reading dissertations, this allows me to have a multimodality form of reading, improving my reading and I found this to be very effective. So with my Kindle I thought I would experiment with having it read to me a variety of different kinds of books and see what happened. For the past few weeks I've been having my Kindle read me a textbook that I'm using with one of my classes. I often listen to this textbook while I'm driving longer distances or riding my bike, and as lately I've been taking a number of trips that have me driving for about two to three hours each way it gave me a way to more effectively beyond just listening t…

The new generation of reading

A couple of months ago, in analyzing purchasing trends, it was found that parents were purchasing more print books to digital. And I'm sure that when at a store, children will want that book that they can see. But I do worry about a parent's (or teacher's) preferred text format  being the one that they will force on children. After all today's children are growing into a different world than when I was young - they have different print options.  For me there was just the size and shape of the book, today there is the etext version, the ipad version, or the paper, and it could be that children might prefer the digital.  A recent report from Sesame Street's Joan Ganz Cooney Center ( found that kids prefer to ebooks over print books.  The "Quick Study" followed 24 families with children (3-6) through the summer and fall of 2011 and found that children reading ebook were retaining and comprehending just as much as when the…

Let's use more than we have, lets use what they have too..

I often hear from people that I teach, that they just don't have the tools at their own schools to implement technology like they want to. I usually then teach about the one to few computer classroom and strategies that will work in that situation and they discuss what they see as that day when they can provide true one-to-one computing for their students. My thoughts though are that we will most likely never need to provide the one-to-one computing for everyone, just the needed access. While we could wait to implement an ebook program where every student is provided the reader and the books, why wait. What about using what they student may already have in their bookbag or at home. Think instead about such a program as the transportation infrastructure. We could set it up so that everyone takes public transportation, we could, but we don't. Instead we usually set it up for a few situations. There are times when we would like a majority of the population to use public transport…