What do we want? Information.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Imagine, if you will, the backpack of a freshman physics major - 75lbs of paper, water bottle, workout clothes, umbrella and a carefully prepared humus wrap with sprouts. Further consider that the Intro to Physics, Calculus I, Intro to Pascal Programming and the Anthology of American Literature, Part I ring up a total of approximately $630.00. Our freshman not only has an empty wallet but I see a chiropractor visit in his future.
This leads me, in short, to the wonderful world of the light and tidy e-book.
To take advantage of these works, subscription based services tied to portable devices, like the Kindle or SONY's e-reader, are linked to catalogs of digitized* works -an entire college career on one device, potentially with additional multimedia capabilities. Many textbook publishers offer so-called multimedia extras or companion websites. The e-book and a computer or eReader are the perfect companion to this model. There is also a version of the Kindle app for the iPhone.
A quick search at Amazon.com for textbooks returned over 32,000 results. e-books are certainly not new but adoption has been dilatory. This reticence is based on the slow creation of a business model that will ally publishers' fear. The concern is that e-books could follow the path that music file-sharing did in it's early years - Naptser, Kazaa, bit torrents, etc. Another source of delay has been technology. Until the arrival of the Kindle, the practicality of the e-book was in question. Books are portable. A third tier has been the adoption by the "University" who for centuries have tipped their hats to their libraries. I would argue that e-books will not mean "the end" of libraries. Instead, the expertise and consultation will shift to an electronic model.
Libraries own a finite quantity of books and therefore have, normally, one book to loan. This probably will not and can not change because a book is, in effect, a licensed quantity. So too shall it remain with the e-book. A library may become a digital instead of physical repository for e-books. Many college libraries loan or provide access to e-books, including Ithaca College. The point of this blog, however, is the examination of e-book textbooks.
While there are thousands of e-books for sale, very few instructional texts that faculty are requiring are available. The reasons are many - the resale market, faculty recommendations, the sales model, the pricing structure, distribution rights, piracy and others.
I think it's worth the time, however, to look for these electronic resources and to advocate for the exploration of their use in colleges and universities. Sometimes you have to ask for it, before they will build it. And consider this, the tree you save maybe the one in your backyard.
*digitization- the scanning of books into a format that can be read by computers and eReaders.
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