Electronic Books

Time-to-Adoption: One Year or Less
As the technology underlying electronic readers has improved and as more titles have become available, electronic books are quickly reaching the point where their advantages over the printed book are compelling to almost any observer. The convenience of carrying an entire library in a purse, pocket, or book bag appeals to readers who find time for a few pages in between appointments or while commuting. Already firmly established in the public sector, electronic books are gaining a foothold in schools as well, where they serve as a cost-effective and portable alternative to heavy textbooks and supplemental reading selections. The availability of portable electronic reading devices like the recently announced Apple iPad, the Amazon Kindle, the Nook, the Sony Reader, and book-reader applications designed for iPhone and other mobiles has made it easy to carry a wide selection of reading material in a small package, with that material updated wirelessly as new content becomes available.

Relevance for Teaching, Learning, or Creative Inquiry

  • An obvious draw for students is the advantage of having a single handheld reading device that can easily accommodate the entirety of readings involved in one’s study, as well as all the essential reference texts.
  • Electronic books provide teachers and students with access to books for little to no cost; online resources can be purchased at the district level that grant students free access to thousands of books. In addition to often being less expensive, electronic books are more durable and easier to store than their paper counterparts.
  • Electronic book readers can allow students to record, archive, and share commentary and notes about what they are reading, facilitating the work of study groups and research teams.

Electronic Books in Practice

  • LibriVox is an online archive of public-domain audiobooks, all recorded by volunteers, including children’s content: http://librivox.org
  • Blio is an electronic book publisher that creates full color, feature-rich books, ideal for textbook content: http://www.blioreader.com/
  • The International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL) makes children's literature available online free of charge. Two free iPhone apps let kids read and create books: http://en.childrenslibrary.org/

For Further Reading

Devices to Take Textbooks Beyond Text
(Anne Eisenberg, The New York Times, 5 December 2009.) New e-book readers, in addition to displaying standard text, offer liquid-crystal displays to better show graphics and other items found in color in textbooks.

Google: We Will Bring Books Back to Life
(David Drummond, Guardian UK, February 5, 2010.) This article offers perspectives on Google’s efforts to digitize millions of books and the value this would have for research, exploration and access to content that would previously have been very difficult for most people.

The Tipping Point: Textbook Politics Meets the Digital Revolution
(Brian Thevenot, The Texas Tribune, November 6, 2009.) This article cites some of the challenges faced, and promises in store, as state and school agencies begin to consider the adoption of electronic books and readers on a large scale.