I returned from my two weeks of traveling (a wedding in Austin, a honeymoon in San Francisco, and wrestling nationals in Fargo) to have my wife tell me about the World eBook Fair. If you have not had the opportunity to check this out, do so before Friday. This is the last week a free access to the World eBook Fair search engine. After this Friday the website will return to its $8.95 yearly fee, still a great deal. Currently, World eBook Fair provides access to 1/3 million eBooks. The goal is to have one million eBooks by 2009.
The current free month is in celebration of Project Gutenberg, 35 years old. I started using Project Gutenberg in college as a means to complete research at the library without having to carry several literature books at once. This was also in a time when PDAs and laptops were not a common among students. As schools continue to embrace technology I feel that eBooks will become a popular trend. I have been using on-line text as alternatives in my English and History courses the past three years.
Will eBooks work in educational settings? Consider this: Weight—this is a concern of parents when purchasing text books. I see more students each year arriving to school with back packs that resemble airport luggage relying on wheels to transport books from classroom to classroom.
Cost: many of the books used in schools are texts that do not fall under copyright laws because of their age. Textbooks companies make money by organizing these texts into a single book. Using eBooks can eliminate the need for a single textbook with all of these eBooks available on a PDA. This can reduce costs as current research shows that schools are using PDAs as an alternative to laptops when the school is facing financial difficulties; which are most schools I know.
Flexibility: If a student has on-line access to text, then you eliminate leaving your books at school or home. This also assists those students who think they are too cool to be seen with books. Putting a PDA in your pocket takes little space.
Readability: I feel this is an unsupported excuse for those resistant to embracing technology. While researching the educational uses of PDA for a graduate class I found no information that supports difficulty with students reading texts from PDAs. Students already read text messages on phones and instant messages on home computers. The screens on PDAs are usually larger than both phone screens and text message boxes. Secondly, if a student has a home computer they can upload the text to a PDA and use the larger screen. Most businesses require employees to read information from a desktop computer, so this is a skill that our students should learn in school anyway.
Regardless of your thoughts on this issue check out the World eBook Fair and see if any on the eBooks interest you. Just remember, the free period ends this Friday.