Industry turns page with e-readers
A plethora of companies ushered in the New Year by showcasing newly designed e-reader devices and technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and they did not fail to impress.
There was an assortment of different hardware designs and publisher deals, and some companies even created units with color displays set to hit the market this year or in 2011.
Ideally, a prevalence of e-readers would cause a reduction in the price of books for higher-education students, reduce the weight of students’ bags and waste from discarded old books and help students stay organized by allowing them to keep all of their books on one device.
These benefits may make e-readers seem like a godsend, but the reality of the situation is that current devices have flaws.
The main problem with all of the available devices is that you can’t write notes on most of them.
Though it is technically possible to write on the Sony Reader Touch Edition, there’s no margin space, and the stylus system is sub-par when compared to pen and paper.
No other readers on the market make use of a touchscreen for note-taking.
Arizona State University actually tried to make the switch to an all-digital book format, testing Amazon’s Kindle DX on its students.
However, the DX has very limited text-to-speech functionality when it comes to navigating the device.
As a result, the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind sued the university, which resulted in the school looking for a more accessible device.
Another issue is that many publishers have yet to go digital with their textbooks, seeing that no e-reader has been able to penetrate the higher education market.
The DX seems to be in the best position since it has the entire Amazon.com marketplace behind it.
But the hardware is clumsy and the device is only compatible with a handful of e-book formats.
Switching formats is paramount to getting publishers on board; they don’t want to just sell their books in a PDF format only to have students make copies for friends.
Publishers are already uncomfortable with the current textbook resale system since they make no money on a resold textbook.
This situation ultimately boils down to a lack of data rights management.
There is no common DRM for e-books; different e-book stores use different DRMs.
While there are several open source formats, no major publisher has publically decided to adopt one.
For an e-reader to take off in the higher education market, a standard will need to emerge when it comes to hardware and software.
Until then, students will be forced to keep buying big, expensive textbooks.
Michael Padon is a computer engineering sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]