Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ebooks on the Brain

Flickr CC Photo by kariek
I got myself worked up into a bit of a lather about ebooks last week.  I won't bother you with the details about what exactly triggered it, but I can say in general that I discovered the paucity of ebooks has been a continuing disappointment to the parents at our school.  I think all of us were hopeful that once all of our students purchased laptops they would save money on books and not have to lug their heavy bags around.

Of course, initially, this was pretty much out of our hands.  Digital texts simply were unavailable and those which were offered few advantages.

But due to what I call the "Kindling of America" the landscape has changed.  The notion of a digital text seems less strange and  more and more digital texts are available (Shoot, Project Gutenberg and Google Books now offers thousands of classics for free).  The ground is surely shifting.  In fact I just learned of a projection that 26% of textbook sales will be digital by the year 2015.

Misconceptions about digital books persist based on their rocky start.  I also know first-hand that teenagers in my own classes have shown a reluctance to switch to ebooks even when give a less expensive option, like my AP Government and Politics text.

So, as I said at the top, circumstances have led me to start charging full bore into promoting ebook adoption at our school.  But a couple of colleagues stopped me in my tracks, pointing out to me the difficulties in offering online ebook options to parents.  We have a third party virtual bookstore and it doesn't offer digital editions.  So what do I expect parents to do?  Visit several publishers web sites, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. to round up a school year's worth of books.  The very inconvenience of acquiring the digital editions would undermine any efforts to adopt them.

Imagine my delight then when I discovered at least one vendor which has fashioned "agreements with major publishers to continually add new" ebooks.  I've made contact with them to see how their operations could fit with ours.  Even if they don't, it's a great sign that a technology which has become so popular with consumers may also come out of the closet into our students' hands. 


Lynn Waldsmith said...

Ebooks are an interesting concept. But what excites me more is the possibility of someday creating my own ebook for a class. One where I could insert my own podcasts or video clips, links to appropriate websites, etc. We're doing this a little bit with digital anthologies, etc. But an ebook that isn't specifically designed by the teacher, or at least with some significant teacher input, isn't necessarily much better than a traditional book.

Detroit Sports Dork said...

I think your point is very well taken, though in some subject areas, electronic textbooks are now packed with superior resources.

I am hopeful that epub will become a more user-friendly option for teachers who wish to publishe their own "books".

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