I'm in the middle of a look at digital textbooks and how a student could best use them. In looking at this from the student viewpoint, I've noticed something that I think has escaped most people running the digital textbook pilot programs.
Why limit yourself to only one screen?
I was reading this past week about Reed College, a private school that recently used the iPad in a pilot program. You might recall that they ran a similar pilot last year, only then they used the KDX. They liked the iPad a lot more than the KDX, but they made the same mistake as before; they limited themselves to the one screen.
Have you ever had 4 or 5 books open at once (reference manuals, textbooks, etc)? How exactly do you do that if they're all digital and they're all on the one iPad? That's my concern.
It's only fair that I point out that having digital textbooks on multiple devices is relatively new. When the Kindle DX pilot programs were conceived (for the 2009-2010 school year), the only Kindle options were K2, KDX, and Kindle 4 iPhone. I don't think K4PC had been released yet. There also wasn't a good desktop app for Epub at that time, nor was there a large screen device that could read it.
But in the past year that has changed. Now there are apps on every device that read every format. From the viewpoint of a student you almost don't need a dedicated hardware device anymore. The reading apps on my PC are pretty damn good (both Kindle and Epub). Also, given that you can find a compatible app to read Kindle or Epub on iOS or Android, I'd have to say that the ereader hardware has largely become redundant.
What do you think?
image by mortsan