More about e-books and readers of them

My interest in e-books and their role in e-learning has stayed high, both for unexpected reasons and because of further news.

Interviewed in The Guardian, John Makinson, Penguin’s chief executive, told us that what matters is that people read, not how they choose to do it. Penguin is part of Pearson, a company dominated by educational publishing. Makinson thinks ‘the very definition of a book is up for grabs’. Penguin has just published a version of Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth for the iPad (in the US) with embedded scenes from the TV adaptation, plus excerpts from the soundtrack and Follett’s video diary that he kept when making the TV.

The same day, The Guardian  reported that Amazon UK had brought out a new version of the Kindle e-book reader, to hold as many as 3,500 books. Amazon UK now also has an e-book store with 400,000 titles for the Kindle.

Learning technologists cannot simply ignore this kind of news, even if their academic colleagues in faculties and departments are slow to respond to it! BDRA’s DUCKLING project showed that an early model e-book reader probably had too many disadvantages to be popular among academics and students, but, like all new technology, readers will improve – and already have.

I was surprised last week by a technophobe I know well. Her very excited response was to an e-book on the iPad. Her excitement was not just because the screen was clear, the font could be enlarged, the pages were easy to turn, or the iPad could hold thousands of books. It was because she has become allergic to book dust and cannot read paper books for long because of that. She saw the iPad as opening up boundless new opportunities for dustless reading.

Doubtless somebody somewhere is considering doing research on how e-book readers can compensate for learners’ disabilities of one kind or another. That could be a new field for BDRA.

David Hawkridge

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