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eBooks: Beyond PDF of the Textbook

This blog post started as an exploration of eReaders and institutional roll-out issues.  As you can see, it evolved into larger questions about eTextbooks and eReaders.  Any feedback is appreciated.

EBooks are included in the most recent Horizon Report.  The rise of importance of this issue can be attributed to an increase in electronic readers and increased availability of titles in a digital format. Certainly the increase in textbook costs and awareness of “green” education are driving this as well. 

Several universities presented at both EDUCAUSE Annual Conference and the ELI discussed findings on pilot projects with eReaders.  The findings were mixed:  Penn State reported that students weren’t thrilled with the eReaders because they didn’t like the feel (and yes) smell of the digital reader.  They preferred holding the actual books.  One presentation at ELI suggested that students preferred the eReaders to paper books because it minimized the number of books they had to carry to class and they liked the anytime access to their assigned readings.   This conversation takes an interesting turn as we examine the iPad as a digital reader and computer all in one.  The continued discussion should address at a minimum the following issues:

What does a truly interactive, customizable textbook look like (i.e. how do we take advantage of the technology that is becoming available—or in the case of laptops already available)?

a.    Content should be highly interactive including: reusable learning objects, web-based sources, communities of learning that can comment on the contents—customizable by class, department, university or even wider audiences.

b.    Content should be customizable—including ease of adding or subtracting materials, order of materials, access to outside sourcesHow do we incentivize the eBook creation process?

How does the university support the development and adoption of eBooks?

a.    A mechanism for sales of eBooks and royalties

b.    eBook publications considered in the tenure and promotion process

How does the university support the development and adoption of eBooks?

a.    Instructional design support for highly interactive learning objects

b.    The adoption of a single hardware vs. multiple eReaders, loaner equipment for loss/damaged eReaders, support of the technology, etc.


a.    An assurance process of copyright

b.    Compensation for creating eBooks and learning objects

The Orange Grove ( has a good model of a repository of reusable learning objects and adaptable eBooks. 

 What are the issues facing your institutions? How are you addressing them from a systematic point of view?  Are you undertaking additional eBook pilot projects to test these issues?  What institutional support is being provided (or should be provided in an ideal world)?


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