How to survive with an e-reader at college

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.

TOPICS: Mobility, Hardware

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

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  • Re: The iPad

    Seriously??? Your quote: 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."

    Do you hold classes outdoors? Are your libraries outdoors?

    Darn .. I'll have to retake my grade school history and geography classes. I was certain your weather dictated that schools hold classes indoors and your library books are best kept under roofs.

    But .. I could be wrong about that.
    • RE: How to survive with an e-reader at college

      @kenosha7777 Regardless of where, the iPad's light-based pixels will wear your eyes out if you read it too long. It's appropriate for dynamic content, like the web, but horrible for reading for long periods of time. E-Ink screens are basically the only appropriate screen for serious reading.
      • RE: How to survive with an e-reader at college


        You make a valid point. However, I would agree with your opinion only for static text images.

        Humans have stared at "low res" TV images for hours on end without noticeable eye fatigue. Likewise, staring at computer monitor screens above a refresh rate of 60 Hz can be done safely for hours on end without eye fatigue as well.

        On my iPad, I have no problem viewing nightly interactive reading content (online news articles, The Daily, and other digital content - like reading your content and responding to it from my iPad - without eye strain.

        However, you are correct .. Reading static pages of text on my iPad can be a bit tiring at times. But reading the digital content from "Our Choice" app did not prove physically taxing. Mentally, however, I did become a bit "fatigued". Grin.
  • RE: How to survive with an e-reader at college

    I don't know for school but for work, the iPad with O'Reilly's Safari is fantastic.
  • Come on, Zack .. The future of classroom text books are interactive

    electronic digital content.

    For example, the Al Gore "Our Choice" app is a prototype of what future text books will be.

    Your probably not familiar with that app but if your not, please find a more enlightened friend who owns an iPad and have him demo the app for you. It will be time well spent.
    • RE: How to survive with an e-reader at college

      @kenosha7777 Really? I think "our choice" is really more of the future of coffee table books.
      • RE: How to survive with an e-reader at college


        Regardless of how a person feels about Al Gore's climate opinions, his app does incorporate interesting interactive content display technology.

        Personally, I could imagine all future history text books using the "Our Choice" digital content template.

        As for myself, I have the full Shakespeare body of work installed on my iPad. Could you imagine incorporating those timeless literary masterpieces with video inserts from actual Shakespearian plays? Or various insights supplied by noted literary critics?

        Digital interactive content is the wave of the future. At least on "this side of the pond" we have already embraced that concept. From what Zack said about previous computer usage in his homeland, I suspect our British Brothers and Sisters will take twice as long to embrace digital content as a mainstream way of life.

        But there is hope for the U.K. The Queen has her new iPad! Long live the Queen.
    • RE: How to survive with an e-reader at college

      @kenosha7777 The future, yes. The present, not so much.
      • RE: How to survive with an e-reader at college


        All journeys of a thousand miles begin with the first step.

        Today, I could only offer a few current examples to refute your "expensive paperweight POV". And, of course, all our current historical paper based documents stored in libraries will remain as the valuable resources that they are. Traditional Books will never become obsolete. (But new paper based editions may become increasingly rare within twenty years .. at most, IMO)

        But within ten years .. at the most .. paper bound text books will be a distinct rarity.

        How long did it take for electronic mail to supplant hand written letters sent thru the mail?
  • Oh .. One more thing

    When it comes to teaching mathematics, one only needs a tablet, a good teacher and access to the Mathematica app or their web site.

    Even simple e-readers have Internet capability now.
    • Except for the Kindle

      @kenosha7777 nt
      • RE: How to survive with an e-reader at college

        @wackoae The Kindle has had Internet capability via a web browser (albeit a poor one) since at least late 2009.
  • Technical books require COLOR

    Where your rant about the iPad fails is on the fact that most technical books require color. A lot of technical information is displayed in color coded letters, images and diagrams.The Kindle e-reader may be good for plain text .... but it sucks at displaying B&W images and can't display any colors at all.

    Physical books will slowly become obsolete as technical ebooks become more interactive and more visual.
  • RE: How to survive with an e-reader at college

    I am a graduate student, and I have purchased all of my books as e-books. Unfortunately, none of them are in standard format like ePub or PDF or available offline except through web-based interfaces. I know the textbook market is still a racket, so if I have to pay $100/coursework book, I want to be able to read it on my Nook, Netbook, or whatever device I choose.
  • Editors - Please EDIT Your Article Titles

    I am so discouraged at the rage these days of writing article titles to grab views when the article has virtually NOTHING to do with the article. "How to survive with an e-reader at college" when the VERY FIRST sentence is "Forgive the misleading headline, but on the face of it ? it?s all but impossible." No, I will NOT forgive the title. I thought we left blatant yellow journalism behind with the sinking of the battleship Maine
    • RE: Editors - Please EDIT Your Article Titles

      @dksmidtx Agreed -- it's ridiculous and unprofessional.
    • Editors - Please EDIT Your Article Titles

      @dksmidtx - Agreed.
      Zack -- If I may. Writers (even CNN, &c.) have taken to creating misleading headlines in order to obtain traffic on a page, and many readers are overwhelmingly tired of these cheap antics. We're starting to take note of who does these sorts of things. In the emerging "transparency" of the internet, I think this sort of baiting is losing favour, and I'm pretty sure this isn't the image you want, based on your writings in general.
    • RE: How to survive with an e-reader at college


      Agreed... Yet again why Zach fails as a credible journalist.

      And here I was looking forwards to an actual useful article. Waste of time.

      I suggest you do what I am about to... and contact ZDnet's parent company about Zach's blatantly unethical journalism standards.

      I pity whatever company hires him after graduation, a dishonest employee like Zach can cause a lot of trouble before they're discovered and fired.
  • RE: How to survive with an e-reader at college

    In my experience, the Kindle is great for bookmarking and highlighting (it puts them all in a text file on your Kindle) for citations, as long as it's an Amazon purchased Kindle formatted book. OTOH, not sure how many professors will accept location numbers in lieu of page numbers. Also, PDF support for highlighting is not up to par- better to print those out or read from a PC. Maps, family trees, diagrams, graphs, etc are often too small and difficult to distinguish on the Kindle; and anything that requires frequently jumping back and forth (list of names, terms, glossary, other reference tools) is a PITA. Don't get me wrong, I love my Kindle, but for anything other than cold, hard text, I'd go with a tree book. In a perfect world, the printed text would come with a free ebook version, but I think that is unlikely in the near future.
  • Neither black or white

    As someone who reads PDF's on a Kindle and a laptop, here are my impressions.
    1. For text only, Kindle often works well, books or journals. But NOT of any kind of graphics. Sometimes read them in native PDF, sometimes translate with Calibre, which is free.
    2. For graphics, especially scientific, have to use a laptop. Don't have an IPad yet, but covet one.
    3. For some uses, can read the text on Kindle, which is easier on eyes, and more convenient, and switch back to laptop for graphics. Sometimes even print out a few graphics, use to supplement Kindle.
    4. For graphics heavy books, DJView is way better, smaller, faster. Why can't Kindle read them?