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Horizon Report – electronic books

February 3, 2010

[This is part of a series on the annual Horizon Report, which identifies technologies likely to impact teaching, learning, or creative inquiry. Notre Dame is hosting a Horizon Report event on Thursday, February 11.]

Electronic books are texts which one can read on single-purpose device (e.g., Amazon Kindle) or a general-use computer. This technology is expected to make its mark within two or three years.

This a technology that has been gradually developing and gaining momentum over a long time. Over the past six months or so, it has picked up serious steam, and when the Apple iPad hits the market in a couple of months … It’s hard to imagine that reading a book being fashionable, but the Apple might actually make that happen. One of the reasons people welcome the iPad as an ebook reader is its color display, something the Amazon Kindle lacks.

Personally, I have only recently warmed up to the idea of ebooks. A month ago I spent 24 hours in a car the weekend before classes started, with lots of course prep work to do. I fired up my laptop and was able to easily move between an electronic copy of the textbook, notes in Word, and noodling in Flash. It’s very convenient to be able to copy a sentence out of the book to insert in into my notes on a chapter – or zoom in on an illustration and make a copy that I can project in front of the class.

Ebooks take a variety of forms and come in a variety of formats. Today I downloaded an ebook that required Adobe Digital Editions software (not to be confused with Acrobat Reader), an elegantly simple tool that can handle PDF or EPUB files.

I am convinced that students will fall in love with ebooks as soon as they realize they can load forty pounds of textbooks onto a two-pound reader. I only hope that publishers will decide to charge significantly less for them.

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