by Kate Lyons
“Millions of people now own Kindles… And Kindle owners read, a lot. When we have both editions, we sell 6 Kindle books for every 10 physical books” (Amazon.com, 2010). eBooks are increasing in popularity. They haven’t quite usurped their predecessors, physical books, which despite scattered predictions of their demise, have not yet become extinct. Regardless, they’re catching up. According to an October 2010 Pew Internet Report approximately five percent of the adult (over 18) population in America own eBook Readers or Tablet computers. (Smith, 2010).
For the Hostos College community, there are numerous ways to try out eBooks. The Office of Instructional Technology has 10 iPads (a popular Tablet PC designed by Apple) available to loan faculty for one week each semester. Although a number of popular book sellers (Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble and Apple’s iBooks) offer options for downloading books from their sites (and typically charge a fee, although many offer free chapters or entire free books so that users can sample their eReader software), the Hostos library also offers a few different lending models for eBook content. The OIT staff can help faculty learn to use the new device and download free eBook reading apps. Just stop by C-559 for one-on-one help with this popular new tablet.
For users who want to download eBooks to a device and read the book without needing Internet access, the Hostos library offers the Hostos Library To-Go collection (http://downloadlibrary.hostos.cuny.edu), which is hosted by the vendor, Overdrive (http://www.overdrive.com/). Users can download these eBooks to eBook readers, desktops and laptops, and iOS and Android powered tablets and Smartphones. Hostos Library also subscribes to ebrary (http://www.ebrary.com), which means that users will find over 40,000 eBooks in the library’s catalog. These books can be read using the web browser of any computer connected to the Internet. Plenty of free content is also available. For example, Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org) is a well-known collection of over 33,000 free (free of cost and free of DRM) eBooks that are available to download to a wide variety of devices and PC platforms.
For those who want to take the next step and own a device or purchase eBooks, it’s important to note that, currently, the eBook market is flooded with new devices and numerous eBook file formats that are often protected by different types of Digital Rights Management (DRM) software. This means that options for using eBooks are growing, but also that using eBooks can entail deciphering the compatibility of devices, formats and DRM (which prevents users from copying and sharing digital files). Many retailers are marrying their devices to their collections. For example, Amazon’s popular Kindle reader works especially easily with books purchased through their amazon.com website.
However, don’t let this stop you from using eBooks. The EdTech staff will help you research any current compatibility issues. Additionally, it seems promising that while standardization is not yet here, it’s not so far away in the future. ePub, the International Digital Publishing Forum’s standard, seems to be emerging as a dominant format (readable on a wider variety of devices and platforms). eBook files that end with the .epub file extension tend to be compatible with a wider array of platforms and devices. DRM is also beginning to standardize- more eBook vendors are using the same type of DRM.
Once you’ve explored eBook technology, you’ll see how they can be useful in education. Linking to eBooks in Blackboard is one way to encourage students to use them. Also, some textbook publishers sell eBook versions of their books that were developed with the Blackboard environment in mind. eBooks tend to be less expensive than their print counterparts. Some eBook readers can hold hundreds or even thousands of books in a device thinner and lighter than most magazines or newspapers. Please visit OIT for more information about this exciting new technology!
Amazon.com Investor Relations (Jan. 28, 2010). News Release: Amazon.com Announces Fourth
Quarter Sales up 42% to $9.5 Billion. Retrieved from http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1380453&highlight=
Smith, Aaron (Oct. 14, 2010). Americans and their Gadgets. Retrieved from