Tod Fry, Memorial University of Newfoundland
2 Definitions and background
An e-book or e-textbook, sometimes referred to as an e-text (Pace, 2001), is a copy of a published, or soon to be published, book or text in a digital format with the intent to be read on screen or on a handheld electronic device (Annand, 2008; Buzzetto-More, Sweat-Guy, & Elobaid, 2007). E-books and e-textbooks fall into three categories: static e-books (pdf; epub), media e-books (web and mobile apps with audio and/or video), and interactive e-books (mainly mobile apps) (Roskos & Burstein, 2012).
E-books and e-textbooks originated in 1971 when Michael Hart started the Gutenberg Project, a plan to create a widely available source for books of all kinds in plain text format (Godwin-Jones, 2003). Since then, universities, such as the University of Virginia and Columbia University, have set up collections of texts to be accessed over the Internet and in the mid 1990s, the exponential growth of the Internet and the development of new software and devices for reading text, created media excitement around e-books and e-textbooks (Godwin-Jones, 2003). However, the excitement slowed until 2009 when e-book sales exceeded printed book sales (Hilton & Wiley, 2011).
In design, e-books and e-textbooks are portable, compared to the printed versions, allowing for the transport of large libraries (potentially thousands) with little effort, and can be used anywhere at any time through the use of handheld mobile devices allowing for knowledge building that was previously limited to what was physically transportable (Felvegi & Matthew, 2012; Godwin-Jones, 2007). E-books and e-textbooks are also accessible through wireless connections from many online sources, so that learners no longer have to rely on a printed copy (Cumaoglu, Esra, & Torun, 2013; Fletcher, Kaur, & Emmons, 2009). The cost of e-books and e-textbooks are usually over 50% less than the printed versions and the reduction of cost allows for more students to access prescribed course textbooks (Wiley & Hilton, 2012). The production of e-books and e-textbooks are significantly less and they can last for decades or even centuries reducing the financial burden of purchasing new and replacement texts in schools (Annand, 2008; Buzzetto-More, Sweat-Guy, & Elobaid, 2007).
Unlike printed versions, interactive e-books and e-textbooks have searching capabilities, in-text hyperlinks, audio and visual add-ons, as well as pop-up definitions for in-text words (Annand, 2008; Buzzetto-More, Sweat-Guy, & Elobaid, 2007). They also allow users to do in-text highlighting as well as annotations that can be erased or edited at a later time (Wiley & Hilton, 2012). For users with learning difficulties or disabilities, e-books and e-texts, as opposed to print, allow changes in font size as well as text-to-speech capabilities (Ciampa, 2012a; Felvegi & Matthew, 2012). Students with learning difficulties or disabilities, as well as early readers, benefit from the use of e-books through the ability to explore e-books and e-textbooks with digital scaffolding supports (Moody, 2010). E-books and e-textbooks allow for more independent practice and interactive exploration than an adult can supply by using multimedia to turn the book into a presentation instead of a book to be read (Roskos, Brueck, & Widman, 2009).
Roskos, Burstein and You (2012) found that preschool children were engaged and motivated with e-book use due to their interactivity through multimedia. Wright, Fugett, and Caputa (2013) also found that when they compared print and electronic books, grade two students were more likely to use reading resources when digital text was the medium. Ciampa (2012b) had similar findings in grade one students, that using e-books along with a constructivist approach can increase motivation in beginning readers.
Without the device, its power source, or the wireless network, the e-book may not be accessible (Wilson, 2003, p. 14). Buzzetto-More, Sweat-Guy, and Elobaid (2007) as well as Nie, Armellini, Witthaus, and Barklamb (2011) found that eye strain was reported by users after prolonged use of e-books and e-textbooks. Also, readers reported that they enjoyed the look and feel of printed texts better than e-books and e-textbooks (Baek & Monaghan, 2009). E-books and e-textbooks will be advantageous (Felvegi & Matthew, 2012; Moody, 2010) but it may be too early to consider these results as valid (Roskos, 2012; Roskos, Burstein, & You, 2012). According to Moody (2010), the choice of e-book or e-textbook must be deliberate and appropriate. Felvegi and Matthew (2012) warned that the use of e-books and e-textbooks may hinder reading skills. Many e-books and e-textbooks include multimedia that is random, or distracts from the content, and e-books or e-textbooks need to be more functional and must support early literacy (Roskos, Brueck, & Widman, 2009).
Nie et al. (2011) found that, often the desired e-book or e-textbook did not exist and students had to resort to printed texts that were much more expensive. In order to save money, students would often buy used textbooks, but this is not possible with most e-textbooks since e-textbooks are not usually sharable or transferable between devices unless both parties have purchased it (Hilton & Wiley, 2011; Hilton & Wiley, 2012). The format of each e-book and e-textbook is not a common file type so is not always usable on different platforms or devices (Godwin-Jones, 2003).
Open Access Textbooks allow users to edit textbooks without permission of the author(s) (Baker, Thierstein, Fletcher, Kaur, & Emmons, 2009). Godwin-Jones (2003) found that open textbooks are relatively cheaper than e-textbooks or are free of charge and potentially have a common format that could allow for access to all. Open textbooks have become more popular in education (Hilton & Wiley, 2012) and researchers like Feldstein, Hudson, Warren, Hilton, and Wiley (2012) have found “[h]igher grades were correlated with courses that used open textbooks” (p. 1).
Godwin-Jones (2003) argued, that e-books and e-textbooks need “common format and universal rights management [that] must be established and embraced by all major players” (p. 7).
Project Gutenberg – The first producer of free eBooks.
eBookMall – Digital Books for Your eReader, Smartphone, Tablet, PC or Mac.
Planet eBook – the home of free classic novels and books in electronic form.
Open Access Textbooks – A FIPSE grant project creating a model for Open Textbook implementation.
Introducing Google eBooks – Choice ... set your reading free.
6 Works Cited
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