Saturday, November 14, 2009

E-books in the classroom

I have mentioned E-books and their readers (by 'reader', I mean the electronic device, like Amazon's Kindle.  Hmm, I wonder how many ---er words now refer to electronics, rather than people.  Computer, Rice steamer, Typewriter....) at least once on this blog, and have been considering getting one for years.

Although my Korean language studies have stalled, I think e-book readers would be great: many allow you to store a book and an MP3.  You could easily read and listen at the same time.

Also, as an opinionated person, I often want some evidence close-to-hand to support my claims.

Finally, I love to read and even if a book file were as expensive as a paper book, I would save on postage.  If/when I start my Masters, having the necessary books in a convenient device instead of going without-
I am unlikely to visit the University in question often - will be very valuable.

The Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is looking at e-books for Elementary school students.

Korea envisions digital school books ushering in a new chapter in education. Now, if only government authorities could find a company to make e-book readers for the schools to use.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is planning to spend 18 billion won (about $15.5 million) to establish e-book infrastructures in 110 schools in rural communities around the country, where the digital transition is to be tested first. 

However, there are concerns that the project could be derailed. The consortium that the government picked to provide the e-book readers, led by LG Dacom (LG Group's fixed-line telephony unit) and American computer giant Hewlett Packard (HP), is showing signs of bailing. 

More than 9,800 e-book devices are required for the project, and the government insists it won't be spending more than 1.1 million won for each unit. However, LG Dacom and HP are finding it hard to keep the price of the device below 1.3 million won.

Another company offered to build the readers for 900,00 but they offered "an inferior device".  I would love to see the readers in question.  The top-of-the-line Kindle goes for around 400,000 won so I guess these ones would have homework and some interactive capabilities.  a commenter at the Korea Times article described how American test users were unhappy with the ability to take notes.  I think most readers have some bookmarking, and highlighting functions as well as the ability to take some notes.

The Herald is also looking at e-book readers:

For starters, Samsung Electronics, the country's biggest electronics firm, unveiled an e-reader that attempts to mimic what Amazon's Kindle can do, except for the U.S.-based bookseller's already sizable library. The smaller yet recognizable Korean firm iriver, known for its MP3 players, also put out a similar e-reader armed with a 6-inch screen and QWERTY keypad.

The e-book reader initiatives by the major device makers have helped create a growing list of news articles about the fledgling market in recent weeks, and Korean publishers are now duly set to focus on the topic of digital publication in the forthcoming Paju Bookcity Forum (, which will kick off its two-day run on Nov. 19 under the theme of "Evolution of Books & Future of Digital Publication."
...experts said the e-book market in Korea will confront many difficulties before taking off. Among the thorniest issues are the standardization of e-book formats and new practices for copyright arrangements regarding e-books and other new platforms.
Baek Won-keun, chief researcher of Korean Publishing Research Institute, said that publishers will struggle for a while to come up with a viable vision about the act of reading itself at a time when other options such as video gaming, Web surfing and mobile texting are widely available. "At the heart of the problem is that people are spending less time reading books in general and we have to think about whether we can persuade them to read books again by offering a digital version."  

Although standardization is an important issue, the thorniest issue I know of is sharing books and efforts to stop same.
At No substance, All Eloquence, Clay discusses the problems with Digital Rights Management (DRM, software that controls what rights you have toward your MP3 files, e-books, and videos).  Quoted with original bolding:
So long as DRM is used in digitally delivered literature, it will never be “permanent” in the way a wood pulp-based text is. So long as its possession is revocable, an e-book will only ever exist as a disposable, ephemeral set of data, unsuitable for the sort of long-term collection we build upon our bookshelves.

Did someone talk about DRM?  Cory Doctorow must not be far away.
Hmm, after a second glance, it is still Boingboing, which Doctorow is editor of, but Rob Breschizza wrote the article I am currently looking at.
I recently talked to Sony's Steve Haber, President of Digital Reading, about its flagship ebook reader. Named the "Daily Edition," it hits stores next month. Notwithstanding differences between each manufacturer's respective libraries, it offers all the best features of its main rival, the Kindle. But Sony says it offers one thing that Amazon won't: actual ownership of your books.
Breschizza also compares a few readers:

Sony's new reader also features a 9" display, page-changing swipe gestures, annotations and a cellular connection to download new titles on the go. At $400, however, it's as pricey as the top-of-the-line Kindle DX that it resembles; Sony already has a new generation of cheaper e-readers out which lack the fancy features and big screen.
Barnes and Noble announced its own reader, the Nook, a few weeks ago. At $260, it's competitively priced and has a secondary LCD display. It also focuses hard on consumer-friendly features that Amazon seems unwilling to indulge: in its case, books can be shared between devices and even with friends. Not all books will be available, and shares are limited to 14 days at a time.

I remain interested in buying one and I like iriver's other products but it remains difficult to choose.  The keys are 1) owning the book (or it being clear that I don't), 2) able to read a variety of formats - I want to read text files, PDFs, HTML and whatever formats Amazon and others use and 3) the ability to take notes easily.  I don't need many other features - I am willing to do my up and down loading connected to my computer so I don't need wireless capabilities - but having an included MP3 player would be nice.

1 comment:

kwandongbrian said...

I can't remember if I mentioned this article in the past, about the same time as the articles in the main post, I found this:
E-readers offer boundless opportunities, as they can be used for interactive learning, virtual university libraries and many other applications, said the chief executive of iriver, a Korean maker of MP3 players and electronic dictionaries.

Kim Kuno said he sees big growth potential of the e-book market in education and regards it as a new growth engine for the company.

"We aim to sell 1 million e-readers here and overseas by next year," Kim said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

"The benefits of e-books are boundless. E-books are a revolution in a sense," said Kim, who worked for Samsung, Sony and Kodak before moving to iriver in 2007.