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Have you tried to read a book electronically? The number of options to read books electronically continues to grow... and are become mainstream. Here are my current thoughts on this subject as I continue to research this exciting topic.

Books 24x7

If you have a computer, you can read a book electronically. But this also means that you'll be sitting at your computer... desktop or laptop. You'll need to be online to access the books, but some books are downloadable, meaning that you can read them when you're offline.

Once you are a subscriber to Books 24x7... you can search for keywords across hundreds of titles, bookmark books, keep track of what chapter you are on, etc. Even if you prefer to read a printed book, engines like Books 24x7 can help you filter through an enormous amount of content to find the best book for your needs.

All IBM Employees have a subscription to the electronic books found on Books 24x7. You can get to this site via employee home pages. I've found that many schools are going this route as well, so if you are in school, see if they offer you a subscription to Books 24x7. All IBM Press books are on this site as are books from many publishers.

Safari Books Online

Safari Books Online is another electronic book engine, and is essentially the same as Books 24x7. Again, all IBM Press books are here as are Pearson Education and O'Reilly titles. If you are looking for a personal subscription, the prices for Safari are pretty reasonable... and if you're lucky you can find a free trial to Safari Books Online.

Electronic Book Readers

These readers are relatively new and this is where I need to do more research. These are handheld devices that were designed specifically for reading books. That means that they are roughly the same size and weight as a book and the text is easier to read than reading text on a computer. And best of all, they are portable.

The best known ones at this time are Amazon Kindle and Sony eBook Reader. Unfortunately I haven't had hands on time with either of these devices, but I've been talking to people who use them and have been reading what I can.

Amazon Kindle

A friend of mine has an Amazon Kindle and finds herself trying to turn the pages with her finger as she would with a book. That must mean that the Kindle is so convincing that you feel like you're actually reading a book! The books I work on are technical books and I've been told that the Kindle is not the best tool to use for reading books with diagrams and technical text.

Amazon has just released Kindle 2... which was intended to fix many of the problems found in the first edition of the device. Unfortunately some of the early reviews are not very favourable for the new unit. DRM problems apparently.

Some more discussion about the topic from some of my friends:

Sony Reader Digital Book

The Sony folks have a new Reader and generally considered to offer a better reading experience. But their buying content experience is pretty bad.

Plastic Logic

PlasticLogic wins most intriguing reader but won't come to market till 2010 - there's a YouTube on it that is making the rounds.

Iphone with Book App

Iphone getting lots of attention - of course, but all the ebook talk is for very flat content.

Apple Tablet

The next major development will be the Apple Tablet in Q3. It will come pre-packaged with educational functionality/apps and you know they will do a good job.

Here is one article that compares the Kindle to Plastic Logics:
http://www.engadget.com/2008/09/11/plastic-logics-e-reader-vs-amazo...

Please join in this discussion! I'd like to know if you've tried any of these readers and if you see value in them. Point me to any other articles that you come across that you think are relevant.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

susan

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A friend forwarded this article to me:

Jan. 14
Toward an All E-Textbook Campus

Not a very insightful article, but the comments were. One reader summed up all the objections made in the comment section and replied to them. That is insightful! See the response below:

Objections, industry seem misguided

I think e-textbooks are a wonderful idea for campuses as long as they are coupled with e-book readers like Amazon’s Kindle 2 and I think the main objections by students and professors above are misguided. I reply to the following objections as an undergraduate student who hopes to see a strong future for e-textbooks. My responses are trying to show that the objections are not necessary, not that they can’t exist in certain uses of e-books (a distinction that will be made clear below). I will follow up my responses with some e-book pros that make them better than normal textbooks and some hopes for the future.

I use the Kindle 2 as an example that I am most familiar with, but I’m sure most competitive E-book devices would fit my descriptions.

Objections:

“It was a pain, I had to lug around my laptop...My hard drive eventually died and I lost the book"—A device like the Kindle weighs less than a paperback book and can hold every textbook you need — much easier to carry around than a textbook...The kindle backs up all purchases online so any hardware failure won’t affect purchase.

“for those of us majoring in STEM fields... there is no substitute for a real paper textbook which can be kept after the end of the course and used as a reference for later study...there’s just no substitute for solid texts in calculus..."—This is a fallacious argument. E-books which are purchased can be kept for reference after the end of a course. Therefore making the either/or between paper/software and permanent use/rental just isn’t true. The rental model is only one way of use e-books. As an engineering student myself, I would think an e-book reader would be much more handy to have in the field where I can pull out a small, light device that has every formula, graph, proof, etc that I need instead of going to a library of heavy textbooks to find that information.

quasarpulse, above, had a long paragraph that came to three basic objections, I’ll debunk these piece by piece:

1) e-books inherently cause eye-strain for long reading periods.

—With E-Ink technology (which most e-readers have), e-readers work like high resolution etch-a-sketches in that they read just like words on a page. There is no eye-strain involved any more than normal reading. While some have a backlight, it is optional and would not be used in situations where a normal book could be read.

2) E-book readers are “extremely difficult” to use when needing to flip back and forth between pages (problem set/answers/formulas/chapter description/etc).

—I know that Kindle has a feature called “Dog-earing” pages, in which you can easily flip between multiple pages, just like a normal book (except you don’t have to flop 350 pages back and forth every 10 seconds).

3) Computer screens require a student to look up and refocus every time they want to read the book—Again, this is completely solved by e-book readers with E-Ink technology.

Now onto pgb’s objections:

1). (from the story) If your computer breaks, you’re forced to frantically ask other people for help.

—Again, if all your purchases are backed up, you can redownload the material to your laptop or friendly library computer. While it’s true that e-book readers cannot be found readily everywhere (and therefore if yours breaks you can’t immediately read your book without eye-strain, etc), e-book readers are pretty durable and since they are so one-purpose machines, they shouldn’t have problems with crashing.

2) E-textbooks (and other downloaded media) have DRM-like software.

—In a future where every student has an e-book reader, there would hopefully be a way to share books with friends — like how movie rentals work with iTunes — where the book can be moved but it will only be in one place at a time. Arguing that there shouldn’t be protections on e-books is just silly — you can’t burn your textbook for your friend and then keep the original for yourself.

Now on to Professor Golllin’s objections:

1) Useful out-of-print books can’t be found online. Data formats, like 8-tracks die and therefore e-books have short life-spans.

—These types of objections just stem from a misunderstanding of computers and technology. First off, with e-textbooks there will never be a reason for any book to go “out-of-print,” as it won’t cost the publisher any additional money to keep the electronic version of the book online. In fact, Google has been scanning out-of-print books for the past few years to create digital copies and will eventually be selling them. With respect to the analogy between data formats and physical media, that analogy doesn’t work. Software on computers will always be upgradeable. If you buy an e-book from a popular seller (like Amazon or Google) you will never have to deal with the equivalent of owning an 8-track without an 8-track player — future e-book readers will be backward compatible or they will have ways to redownload old copies (the wonders of the Internet).

—E-book pros—

* 1500+ books fit in a 10 ounce frame. In the future this would include audio books, multi-media presentations, etc. * Searchable text * Underling/highlighting/notes that can be removed * Adjustable text-size* Cheaper

—Further thoughts—

The two most important agents in the change to digital textbooks will be the book industry and e-book makers.

The book industry needs to understand the digital economy and make substantial discounts for books, such as the $9.99 scheme that Kindle has for “normal” books. While an old-school approach might freak at this price, iTunes has shown that this model will inevitably make much more money for the producers of the content, than high-priced items — it might also help foster life-long learning in adults by getting them to purchase textbooks instead of the latest John Grisham novel.

E-book makers should work with students to make form factors that make sense for textbooks. This means larger, color screens, durable products, ability to share books (like iTunes rental — single copy that gets moved around), included stylus (or working with other medium — it would be interesting to see a screen that could take input from a mechanical pencil — without lead — and not get scratched up), etc.

Finally, when people object to the future of e-textbooks it is important to make the decision between the *idea* of e-textbooks and the *current implementations*. If your only objection is the implementation — like the screen size on current devices — instead of fighting the move to digital, you should reframe your arguments to be productive. For example, change “e-textbooks shouldn’t be the future because the screens are too small” to “e-book readers would be much more useful for textbooks if their screens were bigger.”

I look forward to hearty debate in the years to come on how to make digital textbooks work for students. Meet you in the future!
The Amazon Kindle 2 was released this week! See the reviews:

First review - on Channel Web.
e-Book options:

I found this presentation that discusses the many e-book options that are available or coming in the future.

Kindle And Beyond: 15 E-Reading Devices, Apps
As a consultant, you live and die by what you know. I don't have a brain for syntax and minutiae so I was an early adopter for online ebook sites. I had books24x7 for 4 years, but finally gave it up due to the hefty $450+ seat price tag. Safari was next. The price for "everything" is also too much and I find the swap out features on the lower price offerings to be stumbling blocks to my totally adopting that service as my "brain".

I tried the Sony ereader. Hated it for even casual content. I only kept it one week before I sent it back.

I got the Kindle1, but only used it for casual reading. I LOVED the Kindle, but didn't consider it for tech info.
Of course, when the Kindle 2 came out..I had to have one. I’m going to play with it for a while and then will post on my experiences. But, given that it is really designed for casual reading, I doubt that it will be my final solution for tech material.

I have an iphone and can never see me (with any app) using it to search for syntax or concepts in a pdf. It's too small, and so far, mine has broken 3 times.

Short story….everything I’ve considered has flaws. Still waiting on the “perfect” content solution.

BTW, I find I am a MUCH more productive reader using Kindle. I read faster and seem to retain more (just my perception).
Rebecca,

I love your analysis of these tools! Your insight is very valuable to me! I've been talking to people at Plastic Logic as they are working on a business tool that may fit all of our needs more closely. Apple is also working on a "tablet" that may be more suitable as well... we'll see! Can't wait to hear how your tests go.

susan
Another article: Are e-books green?
Frequently Asked Questions about Plastic Logic

What is the Plastic Logic Publisher Program?
The Plastic Logic Publisher Program provides the foundation for publishers who are interested in making their content available for the Plastic Logic Reader. The program has two main components

- Content creation, format and protection information
Plastic Logic will provide information on creating content, document formats supported, common layout conventions, style guides, and the use of Digital Rights Management (DRM). The information is intended to make sure publishers, enterprises, and organizations can create content for viewing on the Plastic Logic Reader.

- Content sales and distribution through the Plastic Logic econtent store
Plastic Logic announced plans to launch a content store concurrently with the Plastic Logic Reader. The Company will work with a wide range of content aggregators, publishers and content creators large and small to offer a wide range of business and leisure content including newspapers, magazines, trade journals, blogs and ebooks at launch.

What does a publisher get if they join the Plastic Logic Publisher Program?
Plastic Logic offers publishers the opportunity to increase reach and readership in a program that is complementary to their print and online editions.

Participants in the program will have access to Information on creating, formatting and protecting content for the Plastic Logic Reader. Information on supported document formats, the use of DRM, as well as information on common layout conventions for different document types.

Publishers who are interested in the program should fill out the web form. Click here to access the form: http://bit.ly/9bUiG

What document formats will the Plastic Logic Reader support?
Plastic Logic plans to support all the popular business document formats, including Microsoft Office documents (DOC(X), XLS(X), PPT(X)), PDF, TEXT, RTF, HTML, Image formats like JPEG, PNG, BMP, ebook formats like EPUB and eReader.

Will the Plastic Logic Reader support DRM? If so, what types of DRM?
Plastic Logic has announced licensing of Adobe technology to provide PDF, EPUB and Adobe DRM/eBook support on the device. In addition, eReader has DRM support built in. Plastic Logic intends to support other DRM solutions that publishers’ want.

When will information be available on standard layout conventions, including style guides and user interactions?
Information will be available to Publisher Program participants later this year. Initial information should be available in Q2 with more detail to follow in the second half of 2009.

What type of software do I need to publish for the Plastic Logic Reader?

No special software is required in order to publish content for the Plastic Logic Reader. We support a wide variety of industry leading document types and open document formats.

What about self-publishers?
Plastic Logic’s Publisher Program will enable self-publishing. Details on self-publishing will be available in the second half of 2009.

When will you support foreign languages on the Plastic Logic Reader?

The Plastic Logic Reader will be able to open and view documents in any language as long as the document format natively supports that language. So a PDF document in French would be easily viewable on the device.

We have not announced when localized versions of the Plastic Logic Reader will be available. Localized version would have all of the device menus and documentation translated into local languages and using local conventions.

Will the eReader support Flash, Flash Lite or Silverlight?

We have not announced support for these platforms. Flash, Flash Lite and Silverlight are considered multimedia platforms for animation, interactivity and video. They are not commonly used for documents and reading environments.

Will the eReader support real time news and information (e.g. blogs)?
Yes, we intend to support blogs in addition to common business documents, newspapers, magazines and books.

Will Plastic Logic have an online store selling content?
Yes, Plastic Logic will launch a content store concurrently with the Plastic Logic Reader. Plastic Logic is partnering with Fictionwise, who is the leading independent econtent retailer on the web.

What types of content will you sell in the Plastic Logic Content Store?
The Plastic Logic Content Store will offer a wide range of business and leisure content including newspapers, magazines, trade journals, blogs and ebooks, research reports, etc..

If I am already working with Ingram Digital, LibreDigital, or Zinio will my content be available to the Plastic Logic Content Store?
If your content is already distributed by any of the aggregators then you can choose to make it available for inclusion in the Plastic Logic Content Store.

Plastic Logic has announced direct relationships with some newspaper publishers. What’s the nature of these relationships? Will more direct relationships be forthcoming?
Publishers have many options when it comes to working with Plastic Logic. Some large publishers are looking for strategic relationships to work together with us to develop specific programs/content. At present, we have announced strategic relationships with the Financial Times and USA Today.

How do I get my content into the Plastic Logic Content Store? Publisher Program participants will receive pertinent information on participating in the Plastic Logic Content Store in the second half of 2009. Publishers who are interested in participating in the program should fill out the web form: http://bit.ly/9bUiG

Will small publishers, authors and other content providers be able to sell content in the Plastic Logic Content Store?
Yes, we intend to enable publishers, authors and content providers, large and small, with the tools and the opportunity to sell content for the Plastic Logic Reader. More detailed information will be provided in the second half of 2009.

Will I be able to obtain/sell content for the Plastic Logic Reader without going through the Plastic Logic store?
Yes. Any content formatted in supported document formats such as PDF, Microsoft Office document formats or EPUB can be downloaded to and viewed on the Plastic Logic Reader.

How will content be downloaded from the Plastic Logic Content Store to the Plastic Logic Reader?
Content will be available wired and wirelessly. Our wired solution will be USB. Details about our wireless solution will be announced later this year, but expect us to support the popular solutions.
Kindle 3 - will have a larger screen... currently rumour: http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Midmarket/Amazons-Kindle-Getting-a-Larger-...
iPhone ereader app

Overwhelmed by the sheer number of apps available for your iPhone and iPod Touch? No need to worry. Ryan Faas has put together a list of the 20 must-have apps for any (and all) iPod or iPhone users.
Stanza and Kindle

Stanza is the most popular and well designed eBook reader for the iPhone and iPod Touch. It allows access to a wealth of public domain and freely accessible books, as well as more than 50,000 recent and popular titles (including many bestsellers), which can be downloaded and read directly on the device. Stanza's interface is easy to use and, more importantly, easy to read.

The one drawback is that Stanza has a somewhat limited selection. Amazon's Kindle app (based on the company's Kindle eBook reader device) doesn't have anywhere near the polished interface of Stanza, but it does allow you to purchase and read any of the near quarter-million Kindle titles available from Amazon (which include a large number of current bestsellers). This makes the Kindle also worth considering as an eBook reader, though Amazon's general insistence (though technically not a requirement) that books be downloaded on your Mac or PC and transferred to your iPhone or iPod Touch is disappointing. Still, if you're looking to read current books (and willing to pay for them in electronic format), Kindle is your main option.
Midmarket: Eight Page-Turning E-readers from Amazon.com, Sony, iRex...

While Amazon.com's Kindle 2 and large-format Kindle DX are dominating e-reader media coverage, casual users of mobile e-reader devices and business-focused users alike have a few other options. iRex Technologies offers two large-screen models, one boasting a 10.1-inch diagonal display, and Plastic Logic plans to debut an ultrathin, 8.5-inch reader aimed at business professionals.
Barnes&Noble are partnering with Plastic Logic: http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/barnes-noble-nabs-plastic-lo...

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