How to survive with an e-reader at college

Summary:E-readers are great, but only if you can get e-books to download. For many students, there seems to be a lacking in the academic department.

Forgive the misleading headline, but on the face of it -- it's all but impossible. For all intents and purposes, e-readers are pretty useless without the input of the academic community.

Don't even get me started on the iPad. The iPad is not, and never will be a viable e-reader. The glossy screen on a bright sunny day makes it near impossible to read from.

It's not that I have a direct problem with e-readers, per se, but for college students there is only so much they can be used for; and limited in their full potential.

College is all about reading. One reads a degree, rather than studies for one. The terminology makes all the difference between a high GPA and a low one. If you don't read, you can't succeed.

A two-way process between academics and the bookstores is paramount to attaining the student market for university e-bookshelves. The academics need to make it easier for services like Amazon and Barnes & Noble to gauge which books are the best platform to offer on the Kindle or e-book platform.

Reading lists as set out by course and degree professors could be uploaded to publishers and Amazon and the most popular are selected for e-book publishing on their respective web stores.

Whether you like it or not, until the Amazon store offers a vast selection of academic materials that are downloadable for the Kindle, I can't advocate one purchasing one.

Journal articles, however, are the key to academic success.

Every institution is different. Some universities have wide-ranging access to e-journals in PDF format, which is what the vast majority of students use. In the UK, there are tens of thousands of journal services connected by a university proxy server; articles accessible for free with your university username and password.

Though many e-readers are PDF compatible and frankly, the cheaper the better, books seem, on the most part, secondary to journals which are downloadable, searchable and printable.

But they do not rule out the need for good old fashioned books. If you are working on something current such as my own dissertation -- an empirical analysis of the 2010 Wikileaks diplomatic cables release -- even journal articles are lacking in content, let alone books which can often only provide theory on past events.

Until the world of academia wakes up to the potential of e-readers and their innate flexibility, along with publishers and content providers working with colleges and academics to get a larger collection of content for students, then e-books are nothing short of an expensive paperweight to the average student.

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Topics: Mobility, Hardware

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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