A few years ago Amazon changed the publishing game by introducing the Kindle, an electronic reading device that lets you digitally store as many as 40,000 full-length E-books. Competitors in the book world (like Barnes & Noble) and the electronics world (like Sony) immediately followed Amazon’s lead. Right now there are roughly 30 E-book readers taking a bite out of Kindle, and all scrambling to keep up with it.
In the face of this competition, Amazon has engaged a number of universities, including Princeton, to see whether E-readers have any place in the classroom. Last fall the Office of Information Technology at Princeton conducted a pilot program that had three main goals — reduce the amount of printing and photocopying; find out whether E-readers could equal or improve on paper textbooks; and provide suggestions for future devices.
#b#Janet Temos#/b#, director of the Educational Technologies Center at Princeton University, was involved with the project, and what she helped figure out is that yes, E-readers do save printing, but no, they do not necessarily save paper. Students usually use textbooks and handouts as makeshift notebooks — comments in the margins, highlighted passages, et cetera. With their textbooks on an E-reader, Temos says, students ended up simply taking more notes in notebooks. “We were really just offsetting the printing,” she says.
Still, Temos is a devotee of E-readers (she has two Kindles, so she doesn’t need to worry about when to charge the batteries) and says their place in the non-academic world should be quite solid.
Temos will present “Electronic Book Readers,” a free workshop on the ABCs of E-readers, at the Computer Learning Center in Ewing on Tuesday, August 3, at 1:30 p.m. at 999 Lower Ferry Road. Visit www.ewingsnet.com or call 609-882-5086.
Temos earned her bachelor’s in architecture from Lehigh University in 1991 and a master’s in art history from Williams College in Massachusetts a year later. She then started on her doctorate in architectural history at Princeton, which she finished in 2001. She worked on multimedia projects for the school’s academic services division, and that led to her being named director of the school’s Educational Technologies Center, which seeks to incorporate technology into teaching environments.
#b#E-love#/b#. Like any bookworm, Temos had assumed that paper was the ultimate technology for books. When Kindle came along, she was unimpressed, until — like most E-reader fans — she tried it herself. Besides its storage capacity, she says, E-readers are far easier on the eyes than computer screens (which are harshly backlit) and paper pages (which need a lot of light shining on them). They also make it easy to change the size of the font. And her favorite feature of all, E-readers do not do anything else.
The major advantage E-readers had for students in the Princeton study, Temos says, was that with no color, no advertising pop-ups, and no ability to connect to the Internet, the devices did not distract students. There is no temptation to drift off and check E-mail or Facebook. Just you and the text.
#b#E-Business#/b#. But do E-readers have much to contribute to the business world? Recent evidence suggests yes, with a however. According to Inc. magazine, E-readers are becoming a more common outlet for self-publishers, especially where business tomes are concerned. A step up from blogging, E-readers allow business marketers to write mini-E-books and sell them through sites like Amazon.
Before the dollar signs ring up in your eyes, though, understand that while there is a need for content, business E-book publishers are facing the same problem they face with blogs — how to monetize content. Until you build your name as an expert, no one will pay to read what you have to say, so patience is the watch word.
Beyond that, Inc. makes the case for information storage. A lawyer, for example, could have volumes of documents at his fingertips, weighing only a few ounces, and available from anywhere.
#b#iLove#/b#. For all their advantages, E-readers are held up by their own simplicity. And in an age when we are used to having the entire web on our cell phones, the soft gray virtual page of a Kindle seems a little boring.
“Everybody believes the iPad to be the deal-changer,” Temos says. And Apple’s much-hyped, supersized iPhone has already intrigued colleges enough to develop courses using it. Rutgers, in fact, is in the throes of its newly launched “Mini-MBA” in digital marketing, which uses the iPad as the source of text and the notebook (see U.S. 1, July 14).
But the much-hyped iPad is also the much-maligned iPad. Sure it offers the chance to download and store E-books, but the iPad has disappointed many of its owners. Weird wi-fi connections (including a since-fixed propensity to knock out existing wireless connections on other computers in an iPad’s vicinity), low battery life, overheating, and an awkward typing setup top the complaints lists, according to numerous tech and consumer magazine, as well as Apple itself.
People might want more whiz-bang than a simple page-colored screen, Temos says, but she is unsure whether we’re there yet, where E-readers are concerned. E-readers are built to do only one thing, and because of that, battery life is extremely long (several days in constant use for the Kindle, in fact), E-readers are comfortable to hold, and they do not have enough moving parts to cause much trouble.
So Temos will stay hooked on her Kindles, though she acknowledges that its position as the E-book medium of choice might change as technology advances. “The device is less important than the information,” she says.