Notebooks preferred to Readers for eTextbooks, highlights of the EDUCAUSE webinar on eTextbooks at NWMSU

I sat in on the EDUCAUSE webinar today on the eTextbook pilot project at NW Missouri State University.  Some background:

NWMS University has been purchasing textbooks for their students for the last 100 years!  They also provide notebook PC’s to students for a rather small fee.  Testing the eTextbook plan with the SONY Reader was the logical next step.  The pilot was last Fall.  The campus library is a separate function on campus, they were not involved in this project.  The presenters will be speaking at the EDUCAUSE conference in Denver this fall.

Here are some thoughts/comments/ideas I picked up from the speakers, Dr. Jon T. Rickman (rickman@nwmissouri.edu) and Dr. Roger Von Holzen (rvh@nwmissouri.edu) :

If eTextbooks are going to make it, then interactive content is a MUST, a simple PDF just won’t do it.  eReaders just don’t have the functionality to support the eTextbook. We have to figure out a cost system to make it more affordable, the cost per read for eTextbook is higher than print.  eTextbook rental is gaining momentum

  • Textbooks were downloaded to student’s notebook computer, then transferred to the Reader
  • Formatting of content for the Reader can require several weeks to complete, they learned the hard way.
  • Aren’t enough reader (SONY, Kindle, whatever) compatible textbooks out there
  • PDF was very restrictive – navigation, etc.
  • Students like the small handheld device, like not carrying around the heavy textbooks, but needed ability to keyword search and annotate.
  • Enthusiasm waned because of the lack of functions (search, annotate) – readers weren’t attention keepers.
  • Readers work best for pleasure reading – sequentially, page to page, mostly text (not heavy graphics)
  • Black and white is restrictive for graphics
  • Want epub formatted books
  • Want enhanced interactive textbooks, want video and flash animation.
  • Want it to be integrated into online course management systems, syllabi, materials, etc.
  • E Ink technology was good
  • Can be a heavy impact on campus printing, wasn’t at NWMS, but UT-Austin reported such
  • Good battery life, low power consumption
  • By Nov/Dec, realized the Reader wasn’t going to work for them, they are now focusing on the notebook computer
  • Tablet PC with eReader option would be ideal for NWMS
  • eTextbooks can’t be resold on the used book market, publishers have control and can stop the readers after one read.  It’s up to the publishers to decide what they will allow.