1. Jan 23, 2012

### Greg Bernhardt

I'm surprised this hasn't been discussed yet. Apple not too long ago announced their intent to enter the world of textbooks. This capability was likely at the forefront of the decision to develop the iPad.

The upside is that the textbooks can be easily updated, dynamic and mobile. The downside is that you must have an iPad obviously. That will deter many until the iPad is cheaper or schools start loaning them out.

What are your thoughts? To me, the possibilities are pretty fascinating!

The digital textbooks look slick!
http://www.apple.com/education/ibooks-textbooks/

2. Jan 23, 2012

### turbo

I like paper books because you can make notes in the margins, highlight text, etc. Of course, I'm a dinosaur, but I do love paper.

3. Jan 23, 2012

### Greg Bernhardt

I understand! I still can't get into e-book readers. However, I bet new versions of the iPad will have the ability to write on the screen. If a new generation grows up using these, they won't have that nostalgic feeling of paper.

4. Jan 23, 2012

### turbo

You might be right about that (no nostalgia for paper amongst the young-uns). Unfortunately, there is the expense of buying, maintaining and updating digital media, which could price some less-affluent students out of the market. As a parallel, when I was accepted to engineering school, portable electronic calculators cost about 1/2 a semester's tuition, so the school banned those for use in class, exams, etc, and insisted that we use slide rules instead.

5. Jan 23, 2012

### GregJ

I think that other devices (tablets) will be able to read the new textbooks so you may not be "locked in" to apple. Of course this will not be official but it will happen.

The whole idea is great, and there are many features I find very useful. Although I am happy with my textbooks as they are... I don't need a new change of underwear when I drop my textbook or spill drinks on it.

6. Jan 23, 2012

### turbo

That might be tricky. Textbooks are low-volume, high-profit commodities, and they are copyrighted. Apple and the publishers will understandably be ticked to find students unlocking e-texts to be used on non-Apple tablets.

7. Jan 23, 2012

I think that some quick math will show that over the course of a 4 year degree, the cost of 1 iPad is quickly offset by the low cost of eTexts. I will look around for the link, but my school sent us a Wiley link that looked to have engineering eBooks at a fairly good price. I have an iPad 2 and with a $4 app and a$7 stylus, I already write on my screen. It's just a matter of building annotation features into the reader apps themselves.

I can't say that I love writing on the iPad, though. It's perfect for 'bullet style,' high level notes, but I have yet to find an app that lets me write small enough, comfortably enough to take 'real' notes. (I am also a lefty which introduces a whole new set of issues.)

EDIT: I forgot the biggest benefit of eBooks (which is why I started posting): the WEIGHT! If I could go back and do it all again....6 years of commuting to school to save money. An entire undergrad and grad degree's worth of books on my back on subways, trains, walking. Oh my! if all of that could have been in a single tablet :!!)

8. Jan 23, 2012

### turbo

I can see a way to make the note-taking work. Create a feature in the iPad that lets the student tap the relevant text with the stylus, then open a window that not only allows note-taking, but also keeps the note "anchored" to the relevant portion of the text. I'm not a programmer or developer (at least since the DOS days), but these little devices have a lot of horsepower and should be able to handle an app like that. The trick is that the e-texts must be set up to allow such bookmarking.

9. Jan 23, 2012

I have seen apps that allow you to take notes while audio recording a lecture as well. The notes you take take are anchored to the time at which they were taken so you can re-listen to the lecture while reading the note that is relevant to that part of the lecture. So, I am sure the annotation/bookmark features would not be a problem.

10. Jan 23, 2012

### Staff: Mentor

I often thought it would be better to have two ipads hooked together one to display the book page and one for taking notes. You'd tap on the book entry and then write on the notepage. Later when you go back to review a marker would be there to click on.

Alternatively you could record a memo where you clicked and have it play back.

You might be able to do this with one ipad but with reduced screen space for the book or notepage.

Lastly, you could fold up the ipad duo like closing a book ie they would be hinged together and talk via bluetooth.

11. Jan 23, 2012

### Andy Resnick

One of my students this semester has the textbook on her Kindle- I'm agnostic about this issue. If it works, great.

12. Jan 23, 2012

### Staff: Mentor

some of the medical books for ipad have builtin test/recall capability. You'll see a labeled diagram and then you press a button and they all disappear and you have to name it and then click to see if you got it right. kind of like flashcards.

13. Jan 23, 2012

### daric soldar

A professor at my university has a small laptop PC that runs Windows 7 and has a touchscreen feature...I think it's an HP. He uses a Windows application called OneNote (never really used it or heard of it before) that allows him to type and catalog notes he's taken for all of his lectures while simultaneously allowing him to write on the screen with a stylus any equations or figures he may need. Pretty slick. I've thought about getting a computer like that when I graduate....but never an iPad. It just seems so useless to me outside of recreation. I'd hate to write MATLAB code on that 'virtual keyboard' on the iPad....*shudder*

The iPad also seems to be a bigger distraction than it does a help. A kid who always sat in front of me in my sophomore Thermodynamics course did nothing but play Angry Birds on his iPad in class...needless to say, he's a little behind the rest of our classmates. He's been going to college full-time for at least 6 or 7 years already, switching majors (all in engineering or science, but never committing to any of them), and struggling to get financial aid because he's reaching the allowable course credit cap to receive grants/loans. (I'm not saying I'm better than him...just hoping that little insight may help when considering an iPad purchase. Or maybe it has nothing to do with his academic record...maybe he was always indecisive from the beginning).

14. Jan 23, 2012

### BloodyFrozen

I just would like to say that nothing beats a textbook. I personally like having a physical page in front of me. However, I do feel that using an iPad would make carrying textbooks around much easier.

15. Jan 23, 2012

### jbunniii

So far I've been very underwhelmed by the quality of conversions from paper to electronic books, in particular those containing equations. Amazon allows you to view samples of most Kindle books, and this is the basis for most of my observations.

It's very common to see errors introduced into the equation typesetting, such as subscripts or superscripts being raised or lowered, various symbols being mangled, italics being dropped, equations being cut off before the end of the line, etc. In many cases it doesn't appear that a human editor even looked at the resulting product before OK'ing it for publication.

Additionally, the pricing makes little sense to me. Often, the electronic version is almost the same price, or even more expensive, than the physical book. What's the point of spending, say, \$50 for a deeply flawed OCR rendition of a Springer math book, versus paying the same price for the real thing, with free shipping to boot?

Also, I find flipping through an e-book to be a royal pain. The index is often rendered useless, and while the ability to search is pretty cool, I can usually find what I'm looking for much more quickly in a paper book.

16. Jan 23, 2012

### Sankaku

This nails the whole issue on the head.

I have a Kobo, which is handy for being light and portable. However, flipping around textbooks and using index/TOC is a pain.

Apple is angling for lock-in, to be sure. In the end, everyone in the content industry (music, movies, books) just wants to rent you products, not sell them. That way they can make money continuously for access (the scientific journal model) and you lose all your books if you stop paying the cash.

The fact that piracy has become rampant for textbooks has forced them to look at the current broken model. I think the lowered price that Apple is talking about might be a move to address this, but I still have my doubts about the walled garden (whoever it belongs to, Apple, Amazon or Google).

17. Jan 23, 2012

### turbo

One more thing (Columbo said!): Publishers that switch to e-texts can accept fat payments from device-makers, and they can forego the expenses of printing, binding, addressing, and shipping all that pulp and binding in the form of physical books. They will probably jump right over to e-texts, but they're going to get punked by Apple and the other device makers, IMO. The windfalls that the publishers see early on will probably be soaked up by price increases and expensive apps.

18. Jan 23, 2012

### Staff: Mentor

Ebooks do have the advantage that errors could be fixed and the update redistributed to the buyers just as sw updates are done on iPad.

19. Jan 24, 2012

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
In addition to other concerns raised, I have a real pedagogical concern with eTextbooks in their current state, and I've brought it up with publishers of books I use in my courses as a reason I won't even recommend eBooks as an option for students with eReaders. You cannot have two non-adjacent pages open simultaneously, and if a figure spans two pages, you'll either need to view it very small or scroll around without getting the whole picture in context. When it's time to really buckle down and study, not just read through a book once, you should often want or need to flip back and forth comparing non-consecutive pages. That's pretty easy on a paper text, just hold up the intervening pages. This is essential to appreciate concepts that are similar but not identical, refresh your memory on a previous concept, or put together ideas introduced in different chapters.

I'm all for eReaders for pleasure reading, or even in literature course where you're mainly reading a novel in its normal sequence, but in my courses, students frequently need to go back and relate and compare/contrast information in non-consecutive parts of he text.

From a non-pedagogical perspective, and more of a cost perspective, I'd certainly make publishers and eReader manufacturers come up with a single format standard, especially if it's a text for an upper level course in your major that you're likely to want to keep as a reference. The *cough* 20 year-old textbooks on my shelf that I still sometimes reference don't go bad and won't become unreadable if technology changes. I can't say the same for the VHS and cassette tapes and floppy disks from the same time period.

On another cost issue is resale value if you don't want to keep the text, assuming you already have an eReader and don't need to buy that too. Back in the day, your only option for selling books was the terrible buy-back rate at the campus bookstore, or to post fliers around the classrooms or dorms hoping to find a buyer. Now with venues like Amazon for selling used books, it's easier to get a better return on your used books. You won't be able to sell back an electronic book, so they better offer it cheap enough to justify it having no resale value. Clearly, publishers are motivated to go with electronic publishing because of this same reason...they no longer sell one book that gets resold with no profit to them until a new edition is required, but can sell a new text to every student.

Some of the things that accompany eTexts are pretty frivolous too. The marketing for the iPad is showing fancy animations, but most end up being time wasters instead of helpful because students get caught up playing with them and miss the lesson they're supposed to convey. The simpler animations that are effective don't need an eReader. They have either been available in free materials online for years, or are relatively easily recreated in animated powerpoints.

So, while I'm all for adopting new technology when it's beneficial, and love eReaders for pleasure reading, I think there are several improvements needed before they'll be effective for textbooks.

The one big benefit that will make them appealing would be only needing to carry one small eReader instead of lugging around textbooks, but then we'll wonder why college students are more out of shape when they aren't doing their daily weight lifting.

20. Jan 24, 2012

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
Just look at Kindle book prices since it became more popular. They were supposed to be cheaper than paperbacks, because they didn't need any paper, shipping, physical storage for inventory, etc., and now they've climbed to be more expensive than paperbacks. That's my fear on eTextbooks too, that prices will start low to entice people to adopt, then will rapidly climb once people have locked in to a device. Though, with textbooks, the paper versions see the same problems with cost inflation, so it might not make much difference over time.

21. Jan 24, 2012

### turbo

Pretty sad, Moonie, but not unexpected.

22. Jan 24, 2012

### turbo

Maybe we should team up as consultants for the publishing industry, MB, because it appears their own advisers have been caught flat-footed in the trend to eBooks.

23. Jan 25, 2012

### sandy.bridge

I have not read the entire thread. However, what happens if one's e-book fails in the midst of a semester, where one solely depended on it as their textbook?

24. Jan 26, 2012

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
Yet another problem. Someone might lose a book if they forget it when carrying it around to study outside their dorm or apartment, but they don't lose all of their books if that happens. If their eReader dies or gets lost, they lose ALL of their books, plus the cost of the eReader. And, while we did have someone arrested in town for stealing textbooks to resell them, this isn't very common. On the other hand, stealing and reselling eBooks would probably become as common as stealing wallets and cell phones.

25. Jan 26, 2012