I would like to begin this presentation on digital books by just saying, I love paper books! I love the feel, turning the pages, writing in the margins, and seeing a bookshelf full of my books standing as trophies attesting to what I have read and hopefully learned. I do not believe that digital books should totally replace paper books, but the fact is, digital books are growing in popularity and they offer many affordances that are equal to or, in some ways, better than paper books. Take for instance traveling, how many of you bring an ereading device with you on your trip to Dallas – cell phone, tablet, laptop. eBooks are mobile, light, and provide a variety of access. Print books have always been mobile, but they are in a bound container – the book covers. eBooks, especially etextbooks, and more specifically multimedia digital textbooks with active links to the Internet, are unbound – thus fundamentally changing the reading process, and thus the ways people learn. This is what I would like to explore in my presentation this afternoon.
Embedded in these issues are two terms I would like to clarify. Although there is no single, agreed-upon definition for these terms, and some use them interchangeably, myself included. Typically an etextbook is a just a digital version of the print text. Certain features can be utilized, such as changing font, because the publisher or distributor has essentially overlaid these features onto the text. At the simplest level, nothing is inherently different about the text itself other than the format. Sometimes an etextbook has added live Internet links within the text, so a reader can access additional information instantly. An etextbook can be read on an ereader, such as a Nook or Kindle or other electronic device. A digital text may have many of the same features as an etextbook, but in addition, multimedia elements have been embedded within the text, such as podcasts, video clips, interactive graphics, possibly quizzes that link to an instructor’s database, or notesharing features. A digital textbook typically must be read on a tablet (iPad or Kindle Fire) or on a desktop or laptop computer, and Internet connection is needed to access the links.
Clearly we are in the midst of great change when it comes to books and reading. During a time of change, it’s natural to hold on to known while transitioning to the new. I believe print and digital books can coexhist as we negotiate the ways each fits the task. The keys to helping us understand this transition is to look at what we know, through facts and theory, that point the way for how we can apply what we know to this new world of books.
The work of Don Leu and colleagues provides us with a guiding theory, New Literacies. Central to that theory is the idea that literacy, and what it means to be a literate person, is always changing because the ways we send and receive ideas are always changing, because of technology and the Internet.Leu has coined the term deictic to describe this constant change. As Don would say, “To have been literate yesterday does not ensure one is fully literate today”. Let’s apply this concept to our own lives. Just when it seems we begin to understand all of the features of our email, things change. For those of you with Apple devices, about 6 weeks ago a new operating system was released. The look of many things changed. It took me a little doing just to figure out how to add a meeting in my calendar. The literacy skills that served me fine one day, were not sufficient the next day. This constant change is being applied to the textbooks our students read, which had not changed very much for many years.
Other forces, besides constant change, are also playing a role in the changing nature of reading and learning – those include both text factors and reader factors. With an ebook, as the format of text changes, so do our reading habits, preferences and strategies. Here is an example, when I first started reading ebooks on my Kindle, I found myself clicking the button to turn the page before I actually reached the last line on the screen – almost like I was anticipating clicking the button – so I missed the last few words on the screen. If I could fill in the gap, I could continue reading, but more often than not, I had to return to the previous screen and read again. This slowed down my reading and put some small glitches into my comprehension. The way I read the book, my process of reading, literally changed because of the technology.
One aspect of the text factors has to do with the devices we are using for ereading, because these devices often guide the titles we can access and the types of features our ebooks have for us to choose from. We know that the number of tablets (iPad, Kindle Fire, others) has just recently surpassed PC notebooks, or laptops. People want their ebooks to be mobile, to be able to take their ebooks with them easily.
We also know that those who read ebooks like to personalize their reading experience by using many of the features built into the ebooks themselves, and the principles of Universal Design can be promoted with these ereading features. Lotta Larson, in her study of preservice teachers and their reading of the ebook version of Moon Over Manifest, found the candidates had the following preferences when reading the book on their own device. Larson found that personalizing e-book settings supports individual differences among readers.
Reader factors speak to the unique habits, preferences and strategies each individual reader brings to the reading process. For the readers in Larson’s study, a little over half of the participants believed reading an ebook ultimately supported their reading comprehension, as compared to reading a print text. One student said, “With the ebook I was not worried about the number of pages left, which helped me slow down and comprehend. With print text, I’m too focused on how many pages I have left.” While 16% of the students did feel the ebook hindered their reading comprehension. One said, “I had to stop myself from skimming because that’s what I usually do when I read from a computer screen.” And another one said, “The tools and features were distracting and I was so focused on features that I forgot what I was reading.” And 31% felt the ebook neither hindered nor supported their reading comprehension. “A text is a text to me, and I don’t feel like I read or understood any differently than I would have otherwise.”
Besides the reader and the text, there are additional forces, outside the reading experiences, acting on the changing nature of literacy. The Common Core Standards call for the students our candidates will be teaching to recognize the need to prepare children for their future success by integrating technology into literacy learning. An expectation is set, with these standards, that children will become more proficient with accessing, understanding, evaluating, and using various types of electronic texts.
We know that children are reading ebooks, and this number is likely to continue to increase as more devices find their way into the hands of children.
Although many children seem to enjoy and possibly even prefer reading ebooks, as adults we recognize there are issues of quality when it comes to ebooks, and here I am also including children’s book apps, as well as ebooks or digital books accessed through the Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or the iBookstore.
It’s not just an issue of free books. Some free books are of high quality, and on any given day, essentially any book could be free.
The time is ripe for digital textbooks to increase in availability and popularity. Yet, many faculty are inexperienced with etextbooks and the digital reading process, thus impacting the kinds of support that can be given to students as they embark on this learning adventure.
While at the same time, our preservice teachers are barely keeping pace with children in their ebook reading. Many college students of various age levels, use their technology for communicating with each other, rather than for learning. The skills needed to use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram are quite different from those needed to make sense of digital texts.
We have a limited number of studies to help us understand the issues surrounding the use of etextbooks by college students. One study focused on an eTextbook pilot with five universities: Cornell, Indiana, University of Minnesota, University of Virginia, and University of Wisconsin. For this study, ebooks were accessed through the CourseLoad program, published by McGrawHill. Faculty chosen based on interest, variety of content, course sizes, levels of students, willingness to participate, and use McGrawHill texts. Standard set of questions developed and used across universities.
Universal design principles improve inclusiveness for students with disabilities and diverse learning styles and can impact learning for all, by providing information in more than one modality.
Eye strain and physical discomforts from reading on screen, as well as being used to reading print. Those without a mobile device must read their textbook at a desktop or on a computer without Internet access, if this is not available, thus limiting where and when they can read their assignments.
Decisions are influenced by funds and the desirability to keep the textbook for future reference – leaning more towards the printed book.
When all of these features are contained within a book, what it takes to make sense of the ways people are learning are fundamentallychanging. My study seeks to understand the reading strategies, habits, and preferences of college students when reading a multimedia digital textbook.
Digital preferences cited reasons such as search features, less expensive, easier to carry, can make digital notes. Print preferences cited: already familiar with the format, likes physical movement of turning pages, highlighting and making notes, get easily distracted online
How do you feel about reading a digital textbook? Feelings run the gamit.I am excited for the opportunity to try this. I feel digital books are the way of the future and it’s important for us to have this experience.It’s new for me. I don’t know what to look forward to.I don’t mind it since it will help me understand more about technology.I am not fond of it, but I willing to experience it.I am looking forward to it and hope I like it.I do not like it at all.I am not very good using technology. Being an older student makes it a little harder.I am leary of it. My eyes get tired.
Digital postreading comments: Accessible on my laptop and I do not have to carry around a textbook. It’s easy to search and it includes extra features and resources.I could interact with the book.I prefer the digital version because it totally changed my mind after reading our textbook. I enjoyed reading, watching outside resources in this textbook by clicking the links of the book. I felt like it was going by faster!Many students commented on enjoying the note sharing feature.Print Preference: I was get too distracted when reading the digital version.I would rather have a print copy. It helps me learn better.I like having the book in my hands. With the digital copies, it just doesn’t seem permanent or concrete.
The search capabilities made it easier to find things.I like how the sections were tabbed. I also liked the linked definitions. They were helpful for understanding the book.The linked definitions allow for reading fluency as I don’t have to access another source or turn a page to find a definition.
Key finding: various aspects of reading are intertwined among the digital elements of the text. The digital elements provide this underpinning that encourages motivation, promotes interaction with the text, and may even cause readers to “try on” new reading strategies they might not have used when reading print text, in their effort to find the best means of making sense of various media.
Text factors and reader factors seem to both have an impact on the participants’ perceptions of their reading.
Analytics – data about what users do – which elements they click on, how long they stay, can provide us with valuable data, coupled with interviews and observations of users to create a stronger picture of the digital book reading experience.
Digital books and the changing nature of text and reading
Axel the Truck
by J. D. Riley and Brandon Dorman
Garbage! Monster! Burp!
by Tom Watson
48% of preservice
teachers have read an
ebook for pleasure
43% of preservice
12% of users elected to purchase an additional
Lower cost of etextbook most important factor
Portability is a key factor
Internet2 Pilot Study, 2012
Available throughout academic career and
Features, such as zoom, must be easy to access
Faculty, for the most part, did not use ebook
features (note sharing, additional links, etc.)
Little benefit from collaboration capabilities
because not utilized by faculty
Internet2 Pilot Study, 2012
Update and customize (Miller & Baker-Eveleth, 2010).
Promote new ways of engagement (Dorn, 2007).
Use of annotation features linked to student
performance (Dennis, 2011).
Promote Universal Design principles (see Scott,
McGuire, & Foley, 2003).
Lack of comfort (Carlson, 2005).
Encourage collaboration (Ravid, Kalman, & Rafaeli,
Access to computer/Internet (Shepperd, Grace, Koch,
No correlation to student performance (Woody,
Daniel, Baker, 2010).
57 undergraduate preservice teacher
Language Arts methods course
Using a digital textbook
Subgroup of 36 used digital book coupled
with print text
91% read on laptop
16 % on iPad
27% prefer digital
55% prefer print
22% prefer digital
50% prefer digital
58% prefer print
42% prefer print
20% no preference
8% no preference
Note sharing – learning network becomes social
Sticky notes for marking spots
Highlighter to follow along
Adjustable font size for reading preferences
It was easier for me to find definitions and
more convenient to look at suggested
resources and podcasts. In a regular
textbook I wouldn’t go out of my way to
do these things.
Opening a new chapter in this online text
is a bit more intimidating for me because
it shows the list of sections to the side,
and there are sometimes many. I’ve
started previewing and picture walking
before I read this text in response.
I noticed I was more intrigued about
reading the text. It wasn’t like I was just
sitting with a book in my hand.
I believe my reading habits improved
because the text was spread out. I read
the text normally but I went back and
looked at the text again.
Do the reading processes used with digital
textbooks differ for skilled and less-skilled
Which features of a digital text are most
effective for promoting comprehension?
How can analytics of reader behaviors help us
to create more effective textbooks?
10 Reasons to Use Digital Textbooks at
Carlson, S. (2005, February 11). Online textbooks fail to
make the grade. Chronicle of Higher Education.
Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/OnlineTextbooks-Fail-to-make/18496/
Chulkov D. V., & VanAlstine, J. (2013). College student
choice among electronic and printed textbook options.
Journal of Education for Business, 88, 216-222.
Dennis, A. (2011). E-Textbooks at Indiana University: A
summary of two years of research. Indiana University
Working Paper. Retrieved from
http://etexts.iu.edu/files/eText Pilot Data 1010-1011.pdf
Dorn, R. (2007). Online versus hardcopy textbooks.
Science, 315, 1220.
Internet2 eTextbook Spring 2012 Pilot at
Larson, L. C. (2012/2013). It’s time to turn the
digital page: Preservice teachers explore e-book
reading. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy,
Leu, D. J., Kinzer, C. K., Coiro, J., Castek, J., &
Henry, L. A. (2013). New literacies: A dual-level
theory of the changing nature of literacy,
instruction, and assessment. In, D.E. Alvermann,
N. J. Unrau, R. B. Ruddell, Theoretical models
and processes of reading (6th ed.), 1150-1181.
Miller, J., & Baker-Eveleth, L. (2010). Methods of
use of an online economics textbook. American
Journal of Business Education, 3(11), 39-43.
Paczkowski, J. (2013, January 9). Steve Jobs was
right. All Things 3D. Retrieved from
Ravid, G., Kalman, Y., & Rafaeli, S. (2008).
Wikibooks in higher education; Empowerment
through online distributed collaboration.
Computers in Human Behavior, 24, 1913-1928.
Scott, S., McGuire, J., & Foley, T. (2003).
Universal design for instruction: A framework for
anticipating and responding to disability and
other diverse learning needs in the college
classroom. Equity & Excellence in Education, 36,
Sheppard, J., Grace, J., & Koch, E. (2008).
Evaluating the electronic textbook: Is it time
to dispense with the paper text? Teaching of
Psychology, 35, 2-5.
Wood, W., Daniel, D., & Baker, C. (2010). Ebooks or textbooks: Students prefer
textbooks. Computers & Education, 55, 945948.
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