Posts Tagged ‘epub’

eBooks and the Reader Experience – an introduction

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Is there a future for the paper books and bookstores?

As mentioned in a previous blog entry, I had the pleasure of attending the ‘Paperless Pedagogy’ Workshop run by the AUC.  As a former librarian, I’ve been quite keen to be involved in ADFI’s eBook projects.  What I have noticed in the several years of different projects at both public and academic libraries is that the eBook conversation is capable of morphing into many different beasts.  My aim in a short series of posts will be to look at some of these.

Around the same time as the Workshop, I caught the 1991 movie ‘Toy Soldiers’.  The premise is very simple – an exclusive Boy’s School is taken over by a heavily armed group of drug dealers who try to ransom one of their number from the US Government.  As the siege continues, the boys continue classes out on the green and it is during one of these classes the Headmaster holds up a book.  ‘The men here will go away and cease to matter’ he says. ‘But this will outlast them – this will endure’ (or words to that effect).

I’m certainly not going to espouse the belief that paper books are going to disappear completely – I’d be highly sceptical of it happening within my lifetime – but a twenty-year-old quote is certainly being challenged. 

Australia has had a tumultuous year in terms of the book industry.  Within weeks of each other, Borders, and Angus & Robertson announced closure of all stores.  In total, over 2500 employees and 250 stores were closed across the nation.  Of course, the media gave us soundbites of concerned shoppers who all spoke about the future of the book – but online was a completely different story as bloggers posted about Amazon and BookDepository which shifted the debate to pricing, rather than a love of books.

Whenever I have spoken to people (especially during a previous life in a public library) there is always a strong emotional undertone to the discussion of eBooks.  About eight years ago when our Library trialled an early eBook reader, borrowers spoke about glare, portability, that a ‘real’ book didn’t need recharging or simply that they ‘felt wrong’ (one patron insisted he wouldn’t use eBooks as they didn’t smell right).

At the heart of the issue is what the O’Reilly Media book What is ePub3? eloquently describes as the “ephemeral ‘reading experience’”.   How people interact with books, and what they expect from a reading experience is individual.  Many of us can recall a favourite childhood book, or a particularly striking piece of literature.  I mostly read fiction outside of work – because my interest lies in how playfully, insightfully or intelligently an author can evoke language.  Neil Gamian’s American Gods, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road or Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash are all fine examples where the evocation of language is just as important as the story.

For me, then, is it the content, or the container which is more important?  After using the Kindle for a month now, I’m inclined to weigh in on the side of content.  Whilst I love the feel of a hardcover book, the Kindle delivers a comparable experience.  I’m not going to suddenly replace the five hundred or so books I own with e-copies, but I’ll be considering buying some items in e-format in the future.  The argument shouldn’t be an either/or for print or eBook, but rather a conversation around print and eBook.  This rings true for the inclusion of technology, especially in a broader, societal context – provide the end user with a range of options and let them interact comfortably. 

The ePub format impacts on this concept of the ‘reader experience’ and in many ways offers the end user more opportunities.  Next week, I’ll explore some book apps and titles which are redefining what a book is, and how people can use them – and also discuss how easy it is for user-generated eBooks to see publication.

In my next post, I will discuss  how eBooks can go beyond the traditional reader experience and engage people in new ways.

Adrian Stagg (Learning Technologist (Co-Pilot)

Image: Mal Booth, Bookstore in Denver, used under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial NoDerivs 2.0 Licence.

Paperless Pedagogy Workshop

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

ePUB is an open eBook format

Adrian and I attended the “Paperless Pedagogy” workshop yesterday at Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove campus. The event was organised by the Apple University Consortium and centred around the creation and distribution of eBooks using the ePUB standard.

ePUB is a free and open standard for eBooks. It allows eBooks to be displayed and manipulated on a number of devices including Android and iOS devices (although unfortunately not Kindle – let’s hope that changes in the future). The latest version of ePUB (ePUB3) has real potential as it allows creators to add multimedia and interactive features.

The workshop began with an overview of the electronic book and how it is slowly being leveraged for educational purposes, both in the creation of open content and in the academic publishing market. We then learned how to create ePUB content using a number of different tools. A particular highlight for me was a presentation by Paul Cowan of Waikato University who explained how it is possible to workflow the creation of ePUB content with standardised styling, interactive content and output to RSS feeds.

Here’s five other things that were really helpful to know:

  1. ePubs can be created quite easily using Pages for the Mac.
  2. Calibre is a feature rich piece Open Source software that allows the easy production of eBooks and is well worth experimenting with.
  3. ePUBs can be created on an iPad using Creative Book Builder.
  4. It is quite possible for ePUB content to be downloadable from Learning Management Systems such as Moodle and Blackboard – great for mobile learning.
  5. ePUB can be distributed through RSS. This offers great opportunities in terms of creating subscribable content such as newsletters. RSS also enables ePUB content to be available on iTunes U.

All in all an extremely rewarding event. Adrian and I would like to express our thanks to all the speakers for such an illuminating day.

Neil Martin, Learning Technologist (Co-Pilot)

Image Credit: nestor galina, book, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence.

iPad in Tertiary Education Event

Thursday, October 13th, 2011
Interacting with the iPad

iPad - education game changer?

On Wednesday, USQ welcomed Stephen Atherton and John Webb of the Apple Higher Education Team, who gave an Apple University Consortium Seminar entitled “iPad in Tertiary Education”. The event was organised by the Faculty of Business and Law and was enlightening for all who attended..

Since its launch in 2010, the iPad since  has sold over 25 million units and as a new category of device, it has revolutionised the way many individuals work, create, consume content and play. On release, as noted by Stephen at the start of the seminar, it was seen by some as a potential “game changer for education.” Stephen and John then continued to test this idea further by introducing the audience to some key educational features of the iPad – specifically, the iPad as a mobile device, iTunes U, educational apps, and E-books.

In the first part of his talk, Stephen cited Gartner and the Horizon reports, which predicted that mobile device use within organisations will be ubiquitous by the middle of this decade. He also reflected on how disruptive mobile technologies are forcing universities to react quickly to these changes, in terms of both IT provision (huge numbers of devices connecting to the wireless network) and of course reviewing pedagogy. Stephen pointed the audience towards a number of really useful mobile learning links and it is worth sharing them here:

iTunes U is a distribution channel for public and private educational materials. It is a section of the iTunes store that allows learners to download and subscribe to literally thousands of lectures (both audio and video), PDFs and ebooks. Around 20 Australian universities have iTunes U sites and some of the world’s leading universities are participants, including Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge and the Open University. Stephen showed examples of successful implementations of iTunes U and some great content including short pieces which he called “vignettes” – my favourite being a physicist demonstrating the concept of pressure by lying on a bed of nails!

John was then given the floor and demonstrated a number of iPad apps that are gaining traction for educational purposes. These included:

The final part of the seminar was dedicated to e-books and electronic publishing. Steve talked about the epub standard and how it was being utilised for electronic book creation for a number of mobile devices including the iPad. Epub allows the embedding of text, but also interactive content and video. The ability to annotate content, bookmark key pages and view content across multiple devices has the potential to revolutionise the printing industry and a number of publishers are embracing the format as well as offering their own apps with epub content embedded. One such company to watch is Inkling, with interactive textbooks including quizzes and study tools.

I thoroughly enjoyed the seminar. I think Steve and John demonstrated that the iPad does have the potential to be an educational game changer. There is no doubt that tablets will revolutionise the delivery of educational content in the coming years and currently, the iPad leads the way.

 Neil Martin, Learning Technologist (Co-Pilot)