Friday, August 21, 2009

Whistling a New Tune on ebooks

When my school first took the plunge into a 1:1 laptop program, the thought of going to ebooks scared the bejabbers out of me. Of course at that time, most publishers (and still many) simply offered pdf versions of the books-- lacking agility and even readability. Often the cost of these electronic versions matched their paper siblings.

I am whistling a different tune these days, offering my AP American Government students the option of purchasing an ebook version of our new text, American Politics Today by Bianco & Canon. The publisher, W.W. Norton charges half price for a year's license to this online text. Its reader merely requires an up to date browser and Adobe Flash Player plug in. It has an atractive and highly readable screen presentation. I enjoy magnifying the text on my computer screen and incurring far less eye strain than the paper counterpart. There are printing restrictions and the inconvenience of needing an online connection. But advantages include "highlighting" and note taking on the pages. I love it, and look forward to getting my students' reactions, which you can be sure I will share in a later post.

I recently read with interest that McGraw-Hill and Cengage are now experimenting with offering rental text books for the coming semester. Perhaps this has been spurred by the Recession, but it seems like a stop-gap measure. It's clear to me that most students will soon be downloading textbooks on Kindles, Sony Readers, iPod Touches and the like. If someone like me, initially so biased toward ebooks, can be converted so easily, I'm predicting that the textbook switch to ebooks-- at least at the college level-- could occur as quickly as consumers went from VHS to DVD.

P.S. Click to sample an ebook chapter of my new text.
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Screen Capture of American Politics Today (W.W. Norton ebook reader).

2 comments:

Kylie said...

When I first checked out the ebook from the sample, I was tempted to to go paperless. But after reflecting on those nights spent curled up with a text, bloodshot eyes, and a mug of coffee, I realized that a laptop just doesn't belong. Just the presence of computers can be stressful. They bring up reminder of lost files, malfunctioning wi-fi, etc. Paper offers security while cramming for a test. Who wants to be worrying about internet connection while studying?

Larry Baker said...

Very convincing. I think much depends on personal habits. For an old duffer like myself, it's a pleasure to magnify the type on the ebook. But I'm spoiled by having a complimentary hard copy as back up if the grid goes down or whatever.

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