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Saturday, July 19, 2008

New e-book reader, designed for education market

We have all heard it, current e-books are good for trade books and .pdfs, but not so much for other forms of content we might find in the academic market -- such as textbooks, course notes, etc. Plus, we want the ability to both read the content and highlight or place notes. Enter a new prototype e-reader developed by the University of Maryland and the University of California, Berkeley. A short news release on the new e-reader is available, as is a longer academic paper that includes images and some results of the research involved to date. Once a more palatable and usable device enters the market -- which increasingly seems like only a matter of time, what with several new e-book devices in development or due on the market this year alone -- how long will it be before students, who are very mobile-device inclined, see that as the preferred mechanism to get their course materials? Two years? Four years? We are alreadying seeing upticks at different campuses.

My two cents -- we all (students, faculty, publishers, libraries, IT departments, and stores) have much to learn yet about digital course materials and e-books in higher education-- creation, use, distribution, sale, sharing, learning impact, and other dimensions. More discussion is needed with all of the stakeholders at the table so that we might better share and leverage our learning experiences and information for mutual benefit. We have begun facilitating some of these conversations on different campuses following up on the initial Forum with ACRL and EDUCAUSE last year. The results and discussions so far have been productive and yeilded some interesting results. I am on my way to another over the next few days. The time to have such discussions on campus are now, before multiple models proliferate and increase campus costs or confusion for all stakeholders. Which models work best in what situations on campus? What new policy questions need to be addressed? How might we respond to different scenarios of change? The list goes on...

1 comment:

Blake said...

You make a number of good points here Mark. I happen to believe that the most important stakeholder (s) would be the textbook publishers. Once one or all them strike a deal with one of the newer e-reader manufacturers to collaborate on designing an e-reader that is attractive to students and at the best price-point, they win. Technological hurdles aside, I believe that the biggest issue here is the need for a good business model for the publishers that maximizes their profits. I believe that the publishers have been slow to see the benefits of adopting e-readers and pushing hard. I'm sure that when one factors in loss prevention that publishers suffer via the used book market, the publishers could design a profitable business model for e-readers. Market to faculty faculty faculty.....