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Displays Books Education Portables Hardware

Devices To Take Textbooks Beyond Text 115

An anonymous reader writes with a New York Times piece about the tumultuous transition to electronic devices, instead of printed materials, for text. "Newspapers and novels are moving briskly from paper to pixels, but textbooks have yet to find the perfect electronic home. They are readable on laptops and smartphones, but the displays can be eye-taxing. Even dedicated e-readers with their crisp printlike displays can’t handle textbook staples like color illustrations or the videos and Web-linked supplements publishers increasingly supply. Now there is a new approach that may adapt well to textbook pages: two-screen e-book readers with a traditional e-paper display on one screen and a liquid-crystal display on the other to render graphics like science animations in color."
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Devices To Take Textbooks Beyond Text

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  • by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @04:44PM (#30345696) Journal
    There will be a need to offer complete downloads when a word changes, so that professors may be reimbursed for a new book each term. Either that or the books will arrive as DRM locked on disposable tablets. Or will erase themselves after the term is over. Can't have people re-using books, now...
  • by RudeIota ( 1131331 ) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @05:04PM (#30345822) Homepage
    I think this is one of those ideas that *sound* better than it actually is. In short, adding graphics and video to electronic book readers are the first couple of steps into losing what a 'book reader' should be.

    Many argue that eReaders "just aren't the same" as a real, 3 dimensional book. I agree... both literally and figuratively, I suppose. However, educational text books are perfect for eReaders. They are often enormous, have to be frequently carried around in conjunction with others book and I'm pretty sure most people don't care about how a text book 'feels'. So moving eReaders to book = good idea.

    However, with an LCD screen, this changes things a bit. First, I feel this is losing the focus of what an 'eReader' is. It hasn't lost it yet -- but it is getting there. It blurs the line between an eReader and a Tablet... which could be a little blurry with a laptop already.

    Another drawback over eReaders as we know them is we're going to see a pretty intensive increase in power usage. This is now going to be a device that needs to be charged hourly, depending on the battery size and how much multimedia they plan on packing into this thing. Books don't have videos and while it is neat, again, it is losing focus of being an electronic book and falling into the realm of tablet.

    Take it a couple of more steps with web browsing, a keyboard etc... It's not longer an eReader. Personally, I'd rather have a 'dual screen' laptop that I could types notes on and read at the same time, since I'm going to spend a lot of my time looking in the general direction of an LCD already.
  • Given the glaring errors I've seen in just about every school related text book I've ever owned, I'd prefer them work on accuracy before electronic.

  • XO (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @05:13PM (#30345882) Homepage Journal
    Here in Uruguay all school childrens have an XO, that have a decent screen for reading text, even under sunlight. If well don't have a dual screen like those, cost less than half of the ones in the article, and can do far more than just reading books. And doing more than just displaying books means that education don't need to be something as passive as reading/memorizing a textbook, and a lot of its activities are oriented to getting student to participate. And we are talking about a device that is around since several years by now.
  • by line-bundle ( 235965 ) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @05:14PM (#30345888) Homepage Journal

    In my experience as a professor I found that there are two types of students. Those who get the material without much supporting information, and those who will never get it no matter how many different techniques you use. Bloating textbooks has just made it harder for those interested in the subject to wade through the crap.

    Adding more to already bloated textbooks won't help. I should start a movement for smaller books.

  • Well (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ShooterNeo ( 555040 ) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @05:15PM (#30345904)

    Note : the e-paper screen on this device is 9.7" diagonal, which is the same size as the display on the kindle DX. Most likely it's the same part number.

    This device is approaching the functionality of a truly useful electronic book. That's enough screen area to make an electronic textbook practical and close to being equivalent to the paper version. The true value of course is that you should be able to fit dozens or hundreds of books onto the machine. Plus : searchability, updates, electronic highlighting, etc.

    Downside : publishers will try to destroy the used book market. They'll use DRM and various access controls to try to force every user to buy a separate copy.

    Upside : open textbooks directly published by professors, available free or for under $15, will be more practical.

    Obviously, the problem this device has is that at $490 it's far too expensive ($200-$300 would probably be a more practical price point). Android is still basically a beta product, and we don't know if the guts of this device are up to snuff. It needs to have a long battery life, a CPU that is beefy enough to not add long delays yet use very little power, and things like an SD card reader.

  • by ShooterNeo ( 555040 ) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @05:29PM (#30345990)

    Yes, but the idea of a tablet is that it should be much lighter and smaller than a full computer. You'd be able to cart it around like a clipboard and use it in all sorts of industries. Ideally, the tablet would be about the size and weight of the screen on your laptop. It would be running a very low power usage CPU, and would have a power efficient display. Due to the slow CPU, it wouldn't be useful for a lot of things you can do with a laptop, but would be designed for working with lots of 2d documents.

  • by webdog314 ( 960286 ) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @06:03PM (#30346298)
    My daughter recently brought home a Jr. High level biology textbook that was bigger than the ones I had in college as a microbiology major. It had a hard cover with an 8 in. hologram and foil-stamped embossing. Having worked in a high school library, I can understand the hard cover. Kids are hard on textbooks. However, when I was in school our teachers actually told us to take care of the damn things and that we would be held responsible for excessive damages. They gave us covers and encouraged us to use them. Still, I weep that the school was suckered into paying for all those fancy printing extras, especially given that the content hasn't changed all that much since I was learning it, at least at that level. Grade school textbooks are nothing more than the publishing industry's last gasp chance to suck every penny out of a system they have been raping with impunity for decades. Forget ebooks, I want to see more of the free government funded and approved public domain textbooks that you can get online. You need another copy of your science textbook, here, I'll burn you a CD. No laptop or ereader? No problem, I'll just print one out for you for the cost of the paper. Harcourt Brace et al can kiss my fanny!
  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @06:20PM (#30346446)

    There is no excuse for not totally changing our school system.

    Could have just given a link to wikipedia []

    Assuming you're not just making this all up, I would guess you really enjoyed "the little schemer" LISP/Scheme textbook series?

    I'm related by marriage to two school teachers. This is a great plan for teaching math, like you mentioned, such as trigonometric identities. Not so good for creative writing. The other problem is, according to my relatives, and most things I've read online, "teachers" only really "teach" a small portion of the time, the majority is devoted to social worker, surrogate parent, role model, baby sitter/prison guard/overseerer, drill sergent, psychologist, councilor, nurse, etc.

    Also the theory of mind is pretty weak for learning so the programmed courses will be pretty weak. Some folks learn things best in a different order, or by a somewhat different method. Also some folks just skip certain areas, take the hit to the grade and move on. Given that, I don't think your plan will work for everyone in all situations.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 06, 2009 @06:22PM (#30346484)

    Agreed. But they will be willing to charge their textbook reader once per day (at night) especially if the reader (+ content): 1) costs less then the physical textbooks, 2) has school intranet access + internet access), 3) does a better job of explaining the subject material than the physical textbook and 4) organizes your notes into a study guide on the fly.

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