As in schools the e-book and e-reader debate continues, and hovers on the "which device?" and "which format?" sticking points, it also strikes me that we need to think about what we will do in teaching and learning if e-books become a reality.
I saw something recently where a teacher was talking about the difficulties of using e-texts in a classroom where you have some students using a traditional paper book, and some using a text book via the e-reader.
I am hoping that this post will attract some comments from teachers who have actually "done it" - some classroom teaching where some students are using an e-reader of some sort.
In case you are not experienced and don't understand what difficulties we could be seeing, here are just a few.
- A "paper" book has page numbers, and it is a relatively simple exercise to tell everyone what page to go to.
- The Kindle format uses location numbers (but not page numbers). The number of locations a book has remains constant regardless of font size. So if the whole class is using the same size Kindles then being at the same location is also relatively simple.
- However I have discovered that Kindle for PC does not use the same location format (as a Kindle device) for the same book. So then to be at the same location, you will need to use the Table of Contents (if there is one). Currently Kindle for PC does not have a "search" facilitiy, although it does Have "Go To"
- Today I have compared e-copies of A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens. Until that practical experiment I had assumed that the Kindle formats would be the same.
- I've also experimented with another title THE MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES by Conan Doyle on both the Kindle for PC and the Borders e-reader (on my computer).
- The Borders application uses epub, so although the source of both copies is probably the Gutenberg Project, Borders numbers its pages according to how many there are in the chapter, and, just to complicate things, if you change the size of the font on the screen, the number of pages changes.
- On Kindle for PC, the number of locations remains constant even when you change the font size.
- Neither the Borders e-reader on the computer, nor the Kindle for PC have a search tool. Borders has a "table of contents" for this novel, as does Kindle for PC.
- But how would you get on I wonder if the "table of contents" was not recognised? Sometimes, I have noticed that the Kindle version of a book has not been formatted to show a table of contents. This is the case in the Kindle version of THE MEMOIRS.
- If we add a fourth e-reading device to the mix, namely the iPad, and you have running on that one of the above Apps or iBook, then life just gets a even more complicated.
But - it can be done! I guess what it boils down to is that the e-reader is just the vehicle for the text. What happens in that context, with a variety of e-readers is up to the teacher's management strategies. It would certainly help if the teacher was aware of the limitations of each device.
But we really can't assume that a particular text will be delivered the same way on a variety of devices.