Over the past two years or so, electronic textbooks and tablet computers without a physical keyboard have been a trendy and prominent topic in the technological world. Sometimes called smartbooks, e-book Readers, orebooks, they are compact devices that are defined as a middle point between netbooks and smartphones.
They offer more capabilities than smartphones but are smaller than netbooks, making it easy to carry them anywhere. These innovations challenge the traditional textbook supply chain which is dependent on the school bookshop as the key book intermediary.
Today, we have moved past notebooks to what Steve Jobs of blessed memory calls the post PC era. Steve used the term to describe a trend in the consumer electronics industry, where the use of a personal computer (PC) as the primary form of technology is declining in favor of such devices along with a greater shift towards the use of cloud-based mobile and cross-platform Web application as an alternative to applications that can only be used on a PC.
With the surge in popularity for post-PC devices, we’ve since a shift from the use of PCs to tablets and other related devices that come under the general rubric of e-Book readers.
The devices may either be dedicated or have multifunctional purpose.
Dedicated devices are made to perform a single or related tasks while multifunctional devices are made to perform multiple applications. Amazon Kindle, Sony, Kobo, or nook are examples of dedicated devices while the iPad and Samsung Galaxy are good examples of multifunctional devices. The choice between a dedicated and multifunctional depends on the individual user and what features and applications one cherishes.
Each has its pluses and minuses, and sold at varying prices, has various connectivity options, touchscreen or arrow navigation, screen clarity, different device quality and external interfaces. For example, some will allow you to borrow ebooks from a local library (assuming the book is available at the library) while others have no such functionality.
For example, Apple’s ipad is a digital media tool and a full notebook.
Using the touch screen one can use the Internet for research applications, listen to music, movies and games. There are plenty of great apps for quick news and weather reports, many of which can be customized to one’s taste. A standard iPod connector allows you to attach an external keyboard, route video to your HD TV or projector, and upload photos from external sources.
Also, one can access all of the books on Amazon, just like a Kindle, but the display is much bigger. Information can be viewed in portrait or landscape.
And, Kobo released its first Bk Report in December 2014, which is intended to measure the value of the current worldwide market for ebooks.
It estimates the current market at over $14.5 billion, with an expectation of continuing growth in the industry to $22 billion by 2017. Michael Tamblyn, Kobo’s president and chief content officer, notes, “The advances that we’re seeing year-over-year are incredible, with more publishers, users and new technology changing the face of the industry at an unprecedented pace.”
In the classroom of today, students are using these devices to take notes and other purposes.
E-book readers offer several advantages over traditional textbooks. They are cheaper, lightweight, accessible and available around the clock, book stay in perfect condition and can be purchased remotely.
Additionally, e-books and tablet computers come in multimedia formats, with embedded audio and sometimes video features, and can be updated quickly. Furthermore, e-books minimizes demand on institutional facility. There is no need to put up a conventional building to house physical books.
And, no need to acquire book counters and other resources to shelf books.
e-books and tablets have the capacity to store a lot of information since digital information need very limited storage space, compared to physical books.
Also, there is no travel time involved in gaining access to the digital resources since they are available anytime. One needs access to the Internet and a payment medium such as a debit or credit card
Inspite of the numerous advantages, e-books have some limitations.
One needs an internet connection to be able to purchase online books to the devices. This may present challenges in emerging societies where internet connection has not been the best. Also, one needs to constantly update the e-reader device.
Cost is another consideration. For example, Amazon Kindle 2 (and recently the Kindle Fire) and Barnes and Noble Nook sell for around US$250.
On the balance sheet however, when one thinks of the physical space and maintenance that is required for a growing physical library, the growing personnel expense, and the growing budget for physical materials, it is more cost effective and less expensive, to invest in electronic textbooks and e-readers.
Even though e-readers is not expected to replace paper technology completely one can say with a fair degree of certainty that the library of the future will be electronic and, devices such as the theAmazon Kindle, the Sony Reader, the Apple’s ipad, the Barnes and Noble Nook, Kobo’s Kobo, and the. Samsung Galaxy tab will revolutionalise the way we interact with books.
Dr. Osei K. Darkwa