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The Impact (or not) of eBooks

Deadline: 13 May 2010

This cloud will record a panel discussion taking place on 19th May as part of IET's Technology...

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Keren Mills
13 April 2010

This cloud will record a panel discussion taking place on 19th May as part of IET's Technology Coffee Mornings (open to OU staff only).

EBooks have been available for some time now, but the increased availability of portable eBook readers is bringing them to the public attention once more. As the tools available for distributing, finding and reading eBooks improve, they may become a more effective study tool than they currently are. A panel of 6 people from various departments around the OU giving a rounded point of view on the subject of eBooks and their impact. Liz Mallett will be chairing the panel. Each speaker will comment for around 5-10 minutes with possible questions either during or after the presentations.

Participants are welcome to submit their questions to this Cloud in advance of the panel discussion.

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Gráinne Conole
10:29am 13 April 2010

Sounds like a really interesting format for the session. WIll look forward to seeing the summary here if I cant attent the actual session. I am intrigued to see what niche the ipad will have alongside the iphone, imac and of course ereaders.

Will Pollard
8:53am 12 May 2010

I have added a link to a discussion at IPEX on the iPad and print.  More news next week in the cloud on IPEX. Mostly they will claim that short run digital printing can compete. The show will feature colour inkjet for books so it remains to be seen what publishers will make of this. The kit is not cheap but there could be something in any library that did one off books. If the digital book is accepted, something like this may be considered.

Will Pollard
10:39am 12 May 2010

http://http// has got one too many http://

but a very good link when you get there

Keren Mills
10:42am 12 May 2010

Thanks for pointing that out. I've corrected it now.

Gráinne Conole
11:48am 12 May 2010

Just had my first glimpse of the ipad - pretty beautiful looking thing but still wondering about the relationship between that, my iphone and my macbookpro....


Juliette Culver
12:31pm 19 May 2010 (Edited 12:32pm 19 May 2010)

Very interesting session this morning!

I was wondering in the research that has been done whether anybody has looked at disciplinary differences? The way a mathematics students uses book would be very different from the way a history student does, for example. By the way I recommend reading the book The Myth of the Paperless Office by Abigail Sellen for anybody interested in this topic.

In terms of complexity of OU texts, I thought I should also mention that as well as diagrams and tables, margin notes are very common, as are sections where you need to turn to the back of a book to see the solution to exercies. I volunteer at the OU's Audio Recording Centre, and it makes you very conscious of how different our texts are from fiction and how difficult it would be to read the texts completely linearly!

Mary Taylor
1:47pm 19 May 2010

A shortened (honestly) version of the saga of the H810 set book referred to this morning, for those who didn't know what we were talking about, plus an update for those who did.

H810 is the MA in Online and Distance Education module about accessibility of eLearning for disabled students, which makes extensive use of a book published by Taylor and Francis. As the MAODE is all online, we were pleased that there was an eBook version that students could buy, and the library purchased an online version that any student could read for free. This library version satisfied our accessibility requirements for disabled students, something that we were naturally sensitive about, but students were only allowed the usual library access and so could only download or print 5%. Unfortunately some students quickly exceeded this and locked other students out of the system until it could be manually reset. Although the provider of the book responded well and unlocked it as quickly as they could, this caused some students great problems.

Some students found print copies on Amazon, and we bought licences for an eBook version which we supplied to students on request. This version allowed unrestricted printing, however it fell a long way short of accessibility requirements and was not a long term solution.

For the second presentation, Giles and colleagues were able to negotiate with T&F for permission to include the book on the course website. It was transferred to Structured Content and integrated into the course, which satisfied our need for an accessible version that students could also print out. We paid T&F a fee based on the number of students on the course. We also supplied students with a link to the T&F online shop where they could buy the print version at a discount. This was a win/win for T&F as they would potentially be getting income twice, this was offset against the risk of unlocked copies getting into the wild.

We had no comments on this from students during the second presentation, but just this week, I saw feedback from a student who commented "However, online reading, research and contributions to blogs, forums and wikis was very demanding [...] I was therefore very pleased to have the option of purchasing the course reader rather than have to read this online too". So we got it right for that student and T&F did get paid twice for that copy!


Gráinne Conole
1:51pm 19 May 2010

Yes good point Juliette - I think there are bound to be differences across the subjects. Also I wonder what impact there is when these are used in conjunction with a number of other types of media? I am aware that when I did my spanish I had the books, audio, video, DVD, dictionary etc and had to juggle between them all.

Juliette Culver
2:19pm 19 May 2010

The issue of switching between text and dictionaries seamlessly came up at this morning's session as did embedding video etc.

Personally from my experience studying, I have both been frustrated by lack of nice access to electronic versions of content for train journeys yet also been frustrated by not having hard copies of the same content to read at home forcing me to print out large amounts of material myself.


Michelle A. Hoyle
1:39pm 1 July 2010


I was an associate lecturer on the first presentation of H810.  I'm normally an advocate of e-books.  I've also worked in web design and user interface design areas since 1993, so I'm not a stranger to online interfaces or e-reading interfaces.  I've been reading books and papers on laptops, PDAs, and other devices since I got my first Palm III in 1999. However, my experience of the library's online copy of the H810 book was that it was extremely frustrating to use.  I paid for a print copy of the book and was later provided with a DRM-locked PDF version.


The provided library version had very poor usability and that's not just because of the chance of getting locked out of it by people printing too much or denied access because the book was being used by too many people simultaneously.    I seem to remember writing up a post for the course team about the usability problems.  I'll see if I can retrieve that so I can elaborate on the usability issues.  

I do remember that one of them was related to the citations.  Citations weren't hyperlinked.  You'd be reading along in a chapter (going forward a page and back a page worked OK) and you'd find a citation that you wanted to follow up.  In order to look it up, you'd need to have  remembered the page number of somewhere in the references at the end to jump to (no bookmarks, I think) and then remember the page so that you could jump back to where you were.  There was a "back" button, but it didn't work in this particular workflow.

It turned out that there was some kind of index to the book that would have helped in jumping around chapters, but that section didn't render on my computer/browser properly (I think it was 3 pixels wide or something like that), so I didn't notice it there until someone showed me a screenshot.

I'm glad they came up with a better solution in subsequent presentations, even if I wasn't there to appreciate it.

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