Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Experience With eBooks: Yea or Nay?

To some extent, I've been ignoring eBooks other than from a personal level. Professionally, I'm more worried about electronic access to periodical literature than anything else. If not for the fact that my two roles on campus collided recently, I might still feel that way. You see, Adjunct Professor Jessica decided to try an experiment this semester: I assigned an eBook to my freshmen writing class. To be honest, I wasn't too keen on the idea, but it was the only way to get affordable access to the material in question. So there you are.

Before I share the results, let me give you a little background. The class is a First-Year Seminar (think of a typical Freshmen Writing class, give it steroids and add lots more reading, and you'll be close) built around the focus of cartoons as a reflection of society. The topic lends itself easily to videos and nonfiction reading, but not so easily to fiction. It's not that fiction is required, but I like to vary the kinds of reading I assign. I did a lot of research, but I kept coming back to the fact that the only book that would work for the topic, that was also easily available, was Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf - a book that's only available as an eBook. (Yes, this is the book on which Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was based. VERY different story, though.)

Now that you have the context, flash forward to last week when we discussed the book in class. Most of my students enjoyed the content, but the format got mixed reviews. Since I'd known this would be a gamble, I decided asked what they thought of using an eBook. I heard some positive and some negative, so I decided to ask more directly. "Okay, who liked working with an eBook?" A little less than half of my students raised their hands in response to that question. I followed with, "And who owns an eReader?" The exact same group raised their hands. I wasn't surprised by the results, seeing as I'd read the book on my laptop and found it an irksome experience.

I know people were making a big thing about a recent Pearson Foundation study that reported a majority of high school and college students "believe that tablets will effectively replace textbooks within the next five years." Based on my personal experience, we've still got a long way to go before it's a truly viable option - at least where I work. Even if all the other problems are solved, eReaders are still out of the reach, price-wise, of our poorer students.

What about you? What do you think about the recent study? And what about your own experiences with eBooks - do you like them or not, and why?


  1. Of course, I love both! I think it is nice to have the availability of reading multiple titles and genres, all in one ereader. Of course, that doesn't mean that my bookshelves are any less full. :)

    I think that adoption is happening, but that the constant media about it is a bit overhyped. Are we going to see more people using them - yes, but not necessarily ending print. Everyone is going to have a preference.

    1. I don't have an eReader, so even though I'd originally read this book as a paperback, for class I read it as pdf I bought from SmashWords. A. W. K. W. A. R. D.

      I know I'll eventually get a tablet or an eReader, but I've decided I won't be teaching this particular work again any time soon.

  2. There has been a few studies that back-up your experience. Everyone assumes that the youth love anything tech, but it isn't necessarily true.

    1. Exactly. It's not that they are more adept, it's actually that they are usually more willing to play around with tech to learn it.

  3. I remember trying to use a textbook via NetLibrary (an OCLC product at the time, if I remember right) for my serials class back in 2004. That was a horrific nightmare that turned me off from using ebooks. It looks like NetLibrary is an EBSCO product now but I have not approached the NetLibrary platform in 7 years.

    I've got a small Pandigital black and white ereader. Most of the content on it are DRM-free ebooks from Baen Books as well as some conversions via Calibre of Linux Documentation Project monographs. With the printer broken the ereader has also been how I can work with typed speaking scripts for LISTen and is a bit awkward compared to having physical paper mostly due to the slow speed of page changes.

    I don't have enough physical space to have more physical books. Considering the amount of Linux-related documentation I wind up printing at FedEx Office and CopyMax, print materials are easier for me to use. I wish I had more room for them, though.