Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Why eBooks Cannot Replace Textbooks (Yet)

Recently, Apple announced their plans for iBooks. The general idea is that eBooks will replace Textbooks in schools, and, potentially, everywhere. While it is true that eReaders like the Kindle and Nook make good readers and Apple's iBook will undoubtedly be as good or better, they are really designed for the purpose of reading a book cover to cover. For the purpose of research and learning, they end up being very cumbersome.

Have you ever tried to compare two pages in a book at the same time? For example, information on a subject in chapter one with additional information in chapter eight. With hard copy books, it's simple to flip back and forth, and even hold the intervening pages up so you can see both at the same time. I know that eReaders have all kinds of good search capabilities. But this doesn't allow you to work with multiple pages from vastly different sections of the book simultaneously.

If your need is to read a book in the standard linear fashion, or to simply find a passage in it, then eReaders are usable. However, if you're doing something research intensive, in my case application programming, the current crop of readers are not up to the task.

eBooks have the advantage of being far less expensive and effectively weightless. But the purpose of books is to impart information or entertain. For the latter, electronic formats can suffice. For classroom needs, they still fall short.

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