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Old 06-11-2009, 04:32 PM   #5
NatCh
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Posts: 11,605
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Republic of Texas Embassy at Jackson, TN
Device: Nook STGR
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1. Judge e-books by their covers. No, not their jacket art, but the device and software used to display them. Those wrappings are key to satisfaction when it comes to electronic textbooks, since the choice of reading device determines whether students can highlight material or easily flip the pages (things they take for granted with printed copies). E-books come in many shapes and sizes — some electronic books work on laptops or desktop computers, others are formatted for Kindles or other machines designed just for e-books.

The university started out last fall by handing out Sony's Reader devices loaded with textbooks published by McGraw-Hill to about 240 students. The project used the original model of the Sony Reader, which students found difficult to operate. "It was hard to even find where you were supposed to be in those things," said Thomas M. Spencer, an associate professor of history. Worse, the e-book wasn't numbered the same way as the printed edition, so it was hard for everyone to get on the same page.

So in the spring, the university switched to a format that can be read on a laptop or desktop PC, using software called VitalSource. Even so, a large number of the students longed for the good old printed book. Nearly 40 percent of the participants surveyed in March agreed that "I study less because the e-textbook makes studying more difficult."

Not everyone was that negative. About 17 percent said they studied more because it was easier. Paul Klute, who coordinates the university's e-textbook experiments, predicts that satisfaction will improve as the books do.
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