New Sony Readers

September 1, 2010

I started writing my previous blog post on the price of Sony Readers last week, but only published it this morning.  Andy Kemp on Twitter told me that today Sony have announced their new range of ebook readers and linked to the story on Engadget.

Sony’s tweaked its entire Reader line up — the Pocket, Touch, and Daily editions — by adding improved optical touchscreens, speeding up page turns with E Ink Pearl displays and slimming down the brushed aluminum hardware. Beyond that, it’s also updated its Daily Edition with WiFi — there’s still no connectivity options for the other two.

Engdget have reviewed all three new models with the cheapest reader now $179 which here in the UK would translate to roughly £136 so the cheap models in Waterstones are still pretty good value for money as is the new Kindle from Amazon at £109.

Listening to TWiT on the way into work this morning a lot of discussion by the panel on the pricing of the Kindle and an expectation that the price would drop again. Remember when the Kindle first came out it was $399 and now is just $139. In a year or two it might be $40 and after that free when you buy four or five books from Amazon!

It is an interesting time for ebook readers.

Just £99.99

September 1, 2010

When the Sony Reader first caught my attention it was over £200.

Today you can pop into Waterstones and get one for just £99!

This is quite a dramatic price drop and as a result I suspect quite a few more people will consider purchasing one of them as an impulse buy.

The more net savvy consumers are probably likely though to purchase the £109 Kindle from Amazon that does a very similar job but also comes with WiFi.

Though some people will wonder about buying a dedicated e-book reader, there are many advantages to these devices for users and learners.

One way to think about ebook readers is thinking about how mp3 music players, such as the iPod, fit into our lives.

Yes we know listening to CD or vinyl on a dedicated sound system is always going to be a preferable experience to listening to music through earbuds on an iPod.

Yes we know that we can play music on our desktop computer and it has a lot more storage than any iPod!

Yes, it is entirely possible to copy your music collection to a laptop and carry that around with you so you can listen to it any location.

Yes listening to the Now Show live is nice on the radio, even though we know we can download it as a podcast.

What the iPod brings is a combination of convenience and access that is different. The ability to play music when and where we want to is what makes it different, a dedicated stereo system is great for music, but it’s not portable. It’s not always easy to use a computer to listen to music, for example while on a bus, again the iPod makes life easier if you want to listen to music while travelling. Podcasts of radio programmes again make it easier to listen to shows such as the Now Show, the News Quiz at a time and place to suit us, which may not be when the show is broadcast.

Despite the quality and storage arguments, I suspect most people reading this blog have an mp3 player or an iPod.

eBook readers are not there to replace books, they are useful in providing a reading experience at a time and place to suit the reader. Yes paper books have their advantages and can be a wonderful reading experience, however try carrying ten or more at any one time. Being able to access your library whilst travelling, on holiday, anytime on the move is what makes the eBook Reader so compelling. With the Kindle the ability to quickly download a book when you want to read it is a real advantage over buying paper books that would either normally require a visit to the bookstore or ordering from Amazon.

Though it is possible to read e-books on a computer or a laptop (or even an iPad) the e-book reader isn’t there to replace that experience, but allow a more portable way of carrying and using e-books. I have all my music on my iMac, but I still use an iPod to listen to music. Likewise I may read e-books on my laptop, but having those books on an e-book reader is an addition to how I use e-books not a replacement. I can use my e-book reader alongside my computer so that it acts as a reference device, in the same way I currently use paper books when writing or researching on the computer.

I do believe that e-book readers have their place in how we access information and knowledge. I do think at this time we don’t know how best to use those e-book readers and as with music and video these new ways will arrive over time. At around a hundred pounds, e-book readers are going to be much more affordable and I can see many people finding one under the Christmas Tree come December. Some will ignore it, some will sell it on eBay, but many I believe will start to use it and use it a lot to read books.


August 27, 2010

Earlier today I mentioned that Apple had updated Pages to allow you to export to the ePub format. In that post I said

There are other ways of creating ePub publications, but if you already have and are familiar with Pages then it does give you a very easy way to create an ePub e-book.

At the time of writing I knew there was a piece of open source software out there that could do this, but couldn’t remember the name. As I was travelling I was listening to last week’s MacBreak Weekly and Andy Ihnatko’s pick was Sigil.

Sigil is a multi-platform WYSIWYG ebook editor. It is designed to edit books in ePub format.

Available for Mac, Windows and Linux, it is the piece of software I was thinking of when I wrote my previous blog post.

So if you are interested in creating resources in an ePub format, Sigil looks like it could be just right for the job.

Publishing an e-Book

August 27, 2010

Apple have just updated their Pages word processing application to enable you to export your publication in ePub format.

The ePub format is a standard e-book format that works within Apple’s iBooks apps on the iPad and the iPhone.

It is also works on many other e-book readers, though not on Amazon’s Kindle!

Apple have released some guidance and help on choosing between ePub and PDF.

There are other ways of creating ePub publications, but if you already have and are familiar with Pages then it does give you a very easy way to create an ePub e-book.

There are many different e-book formats which makes life challenging for anyone who wants to create e-books or resources in an e-book format for their learners.

I have an inkling…

August 26, 2010

In many recent presentations I have given on e-books I have said that the way publishers market their publications needs to change. Just “digitising” traditional books as e-books is not necessarily the way forward for e-books.

If we look at other traditional media and see how they have evolved in new digital forms it may give us an idea about the future of books.

Watching films use to mean going to the cinema, sitting down through adverts and trailer before the main presentation, oh and popcorn. Through television, VHS rental, purchasing video tapes, DVD, Blu-Ray and now iTunes downloads, the way in which we consume films has changed. In many ways television has changed even more fundamentally. Digital TV means for many, many more channels and choice. A lot of TV series are now viewed by DVD box set over watching it when originally broadcast. Services such as YouTube, iTunes and BBC iPlayer have allowed us very different ways in which to consume television. Even with iTunes it is now possible to buy an individual episode of a TV series.

When we first started watching postage stamped sized video on our Windows 95 PCs, I expect very few of us had any inkling about how we would be watching video via our computer fifteen years later. It was very easy to consume video through physical media such as DVD or Blu-Ray, but it is now even easier to consume video over the web, either through iTunes or services like BBC iPlayer.

We use to buy music either as albums or singles, now with the iTunes Store or Amazon we can buy individual tracks from albums.

I am sure similar changes will happen with books, with e-books just been the start of this process.

One thing I have said is that publishers need to move away from the traditional approach of selling the whole text book as an e-book and start thinking about selling individual chapters to users, in the same way that we can buy individual episodes of a TV series.

I have said we should move away from digitised versions of print books and take advanatage of the digital medium with interactive content and media.

So I was pleased to see that at least one publisher, Inkling, is going to go down this road. As Gigaom reports:

The company believes the iPad — for now, at least — is the future of the textbook. Inkling’s software turns textbooks into interactive content, with video, hyperlinks between text and images, notes that can be shared between students and teachers, and even 3-D molecules that can be viewed from any angle.

In addition you can buy individual chapters or the whole book.

The company’s interactive textbooks can be downloaded by the chapter for an introductory price of $2.99 each, or the entire book can be downloaded and installed at a price of $69.99

This is just the start for digital textbooks.

Do you like books or do you like reading?

August 25, 2010

I am running another symposium at ALT-C, this year it is on ebooks.

eBooks and eBook Readers bring new challenges and new opportunities for learning technologists. Sony has the eReader, Amazon the Kindle and now Apple has the iPad. Publishers are now offering more titles as eBooks.

There is a huge growth and interest in this new medium. Some learners prefer physical books and the feel of paper, but do eBooks have the potential to offer more to the reader? Are eBooks a new way for learners to access information and learning? Are they just a digital version of print, ignoring the affordances of new technologies?

This symposium will explore the potential of eBooks, the role of eBook Readers for learning, and the ways in which learning technologists can utilise eBooks to enhance and enrich the learning experience.

The panel consists of: educators who have used eBooks with learners; researchers who have researched the use of eBooks in education by learners; publishers who have designed and developed eBooks; and learning technologists.

Each member of the panel brings their experience of embedding the use of eBooks with learners. These experiences have been through using eBooks in the classroom and in the library with learners. Researching user behaviour in the use of eBooks and designing eBooks for learners.

The session will commence with an overview and introduction of eBooks and eBook technologies, through mobile devices such as the iPad and using the browser.

The members of the panel will each deliver a presentation on their view of the future of eBooks. They will pose questions to the audience to stimulate debate and discussions. Panellists with the audience will debate the strengths and weaknesses of eBooks and the various eBook Readers available. They will discuss whether eBooks offer new pedagogies or reinforce existing ones.

By the end of the debate participants will have had an opportunity to discuss the advantages and challenges that eBooks bring to education and the role they could play in the enhancement and enrichment of learning.

The symposium takes place between 17:10 – 18:10 on Tuesday, 7 September in Room 1.

Kindle gets sounds and vision…

June 28, 2010

Amazon have announced that certain Kindle titles will now have embedded video and audio.

However to enjoy these new “multimedia ebooks” you will need to view them on the iPhone, iPod touch or the iPad using the Kindle iOS4 App. today announced a new update to Kindle for iPad and Kindle for iPhone and iPod touch, which allows readers to enjoy the benefits of embedded video and audio clips in Kindle books. The first books to take advantage of this new technology, including Rick Steves’ London by Rick Steves and Together We Cannot Fail by Terry Golway, are available in the Kindle Store at

Though Together We Cannot Fail is not actually available to buy for customers from the UK!

Probably not obvious to most, these titles with embedded audio and video, though can be read on the Kindle device, will not play the audio and video.

This does beg the question, does Amazon believe that the future of Kindle titles is on the iOS4 platform, on the iPad and the iPhone? Or will we see a more enhanced Kindle in the future that can play the embedded audio and video in these new titles?

Amazon have recently reduced the price of the Kindle, this may be an indication of either of those two points of view.

We will have to wait and see.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #050: Do you like books or do you like reading?

June 13, 2010

James’ keynote recording from the CoFHE Mid West Circle summer event. He talks about eBooks and eBook Readers and the future of reading.

With James Clay.

This is the fifthieth e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Do you like books or do you like reading?

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Do you like books or do you like reading?

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes

Do you like books or do you like reading?

June 9, 2010

I recently gave a keynote at the CoFHE Circle Mid West event.

Do you like books or do you like reading?

eBooks and eBook Readers bring new challenges and new opportunities for learning technologists. Sony has the eReader, Amazon the Kindle and now Apple has the iPad. Publishers are now offering more titles as eBooks. There is a huge growth and interest in this new medium.

Some learners prefer physical books and the feel of paper, but do eBooks have the potential to offer more to the reader? Are eBooks a new way for learners to access information and learning? Are they just a digital version of print, ignoring the affordances of new technologies?

How can we use eBooks and eBook Readers? How do we promote their use with learners?

“I don’t like the Kindle”

May 27, 2010

It would appear that students at the University of Washington don’t like using the Kindle compared to use printed books.

In a report in The Seattle Times outlines how some students felt about the Kindle.

Wary of lugging a backpack full of textbooks on the University of Washington campus, Franzi Roesner couldn’t wait to get her hands on a new, lightweight e-reader from

Soon after receiving a Kindle DX, however, something unexpected happened. Roesner began to miss thumbing through the pages of a printed textbook for the answer to a homework question.

She felt relieved several months later when required reading for one of her classes was unavailable on the Kindle, freeing her to use a regular textbook.

There were some interesting results and comments from the pilot. 80% would not recommend the Kindle as a classroom study aid for example. However 90% liked it for reading for pleasure.

The implication is that the Kindle did not work in the classroom, however as a device to read books it works fine.

The reason as outlined by Roesner is that:

“You don’t read textbooks in the same linear way as a novel.”

This is a lesson that educational publishers need to recognise when publishing content to platforms like the Kindle and the iPad. Though novels are linear and as a result eBook formats can “work” like a printed book, educational books are used differently and as a result eBook versions need to work differently. Students need to be able to move around quickly, annotate and bookmark.

The experiences at the University of Washington show that the issue wasn’t really with the Kindle, but was much more about the format of educational text books in the ebook format.