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Monday, December 7, 2009

Hybrid e-readers for textbooks

Over the weekend, The New York Times featured an article about the introduction of hybrid e-readers. Hybrid e-readers like the Entourage eDGe have two screens: a black and white E Ink screen for reading and a color LCD screen for viewing images, videos, and the internet. Textbooks are better suited for hybrid e-readers because color graphics and illustrations that are imperative for certain disciplines do not display on dedicated e-readers. On the eDGe device, the two screens are linked so that a user can select an image from the E Ink screen and view it in color on the LCD screen. Users can also view any animations or videos supplied by the publisher.

The eDGe e-reader will be released in February 2010 and it is currently being piloted at Catholic University of America in Washington DC. Other hybrid devices designed for education will likely follow. For now, many students may continue to read e-textbooks on their laptop but as new technologies are introduced this could change. In the NYT article, Allen Weiner, a research vice president with Gartner, commented that dual-screen devices are likely to find a place in the market as long as they have fairly large screens. He also noted that hybrids provide an advantage over reading e-textbooks on most laptops because students can underline the text directly on screen.

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