OK I guess I have been reading without posting, is that " lurking"?
Very interesting discussion, here is my perspective. I have been following and participating in the OERU initiative, which promotes openess in tertiary education, resources, planning, access, the whole gamut.
I think the great value of e books is access.
Great observation, Don. Thanks! I think you're on to something very important here. e-books make it easy and inexpensive to distribute materials for sure, and there does seem to be a growing appetite among educators to write material and share it for little or no return. I think academics are coming to understand that the real incentive for writing material is to reach an audience, and traditional publishing outlets such as subscription-based scholarly journals and academic publishing houses are not the most effective way to reach a wider audience with material. Of course there is still the institutional attention paid to conventional academic publishing, especially when considering tenure and promotion, but those walls are being chipped away little by little.
My own experience has been that my free ebook outperformed any previous book I had ever written, and it did it in less than three months. And now I see the classic long tail of e-distribution stretching out behind the initial burst of downloads. I really like Google Analytics, and it provides some of the data we need to be able to document the performance of publications.
Here's something I've been wondering about, though. Because ebooks require some kind of technology to read them, is there an equity problem? For people who can't afford or don't have access to readers, laptops, notebooks, etc., are they being systematically excluded from learning opportunities? Maybe this is where things like e-reader loaner programs from public libraries become even more important.
Yes the ebooks/technologyrequired scene is a problem, but in many situations, access to the internet and cell phones is easier than access to books, especially in parts of the developing world where the infrastructure fo libraries is minimal. But yes, programs that provide e readers and such are a huge step, it is kind of like the beginning of public libraries in Ben Franklin's era. Sharing information, learning together, powerful stuff. In Canada, Athabasca University is a leader in this open education arena. This leads to questions about copyright, creative commons, and many other tangents
Your comment about an audience had great resonance for me. When I published in journals, I rarely knew if people were reading what I had written. Now that I only publish in openly accessible online locations, I have traffic stats and a constant stream of people at conferences and on twitter commenting on what I write. I love the feedback positive and negative because I feel like I'm making a difference in medical education.
I think many people will want to print e-books - particularly people with limited access to computers and the internet. This doesn't invalidate the idea of e-books - it's just a combination of technologies to enable the widest possible access. So while the creation and initial distribution may be done digitally, further distribution and actual use may be done using paper.
Gabi Witthaus (Beyond Distance Research Alliance, University of Leicester)
Printing e books, combing technologies for increased access, very interesting.
I wonder if this is generational, I am 52, and I tend to go first to print , and then to electronic resources. My younger students do just the opposite, and more power to them. I am thinking though, what about cultures that have access to internet, but not to printers and paper.
Don, we did some research at the University of Leicester (details at www.le.ac.uk/duckling) where we issued students doing distance programmes with e-book readers that had been pre-loaded with the course content. Many of the students said they no longer felt the need to print out their course materials, but there were a few people who said they still preferred to work on paper.Some people read the materials on their e-books to get a general overview of the topic, and then printed out the bits that they wanted to read in more detail and annotate by hand. I guess the ideal is to use technologies that give people the choice, which I think e-books do.
Thanks, for this interesting idea, Gabi, and it reminds us that no matter how we design, it is ultimately the reader who will decide how our products will be used. We can persuade people by taking full advantage of multimedia and interactive affordances of e-books, but it doesn't mean people will consume them in the way we intended.
In this way, epubs can be more like "good" literature who had "hidden" Easter eggs like symbolism, allusion, metaphor, etc.
And by the way, isn't the OERu initiative exciting? I was fortunate to be in Dunedin when Wayne called together the inaugural meeting of the group, and the energy was palpable. His leadership is really something to behold!
Yes very exciting
I was in Vancouver this fall and met Wayne in person, and have been working online with the group since then.
I was unable to complete their inagrual course, as it coincided with our final exams, but did particpate in parts of it.