If this is just a product of which software I'm using, please tell me, I'd love to use better software.
(The iPad with its big screen does work for scientific papers though, because those are usually short and rendered as a PDF that benefits from being able to see the entire page on the screen. But the reader software I've tried there is also very much linear.)
I love my kindle fire. I have in the past six months read all of the G.R.R. Martin books. I have also read x < 10 non-fiction books. Took notes on all of them. Perfect for this sort of thing.
Programming and technical books are fucking terrible for this. The interface, ability to search, and translation into the real world are just not interactive enough.
They just don't match the ability to flip through the pages like in the physical world.
You get a real sense of where the content is by the thickness of the papers. You don't have that with a browser.
Paper textbooks permit students to have unlimited access to information at any time during a course as well as after the course ends. Laughable. I have no idea what hardware or software these students are being forced to use, but given statements such as these, it sounds like they are getting your typical DRM and failware cruft we've come to expect from our modern Bloatware OSes. Do these ebooks come with impossible-to-remove stickers around the screen too?
A sound argument is that ebooks provide less spatial landmarks, this kind of context seems to be important for increased retention. See: http://healthland.time.com/2012/03/14/do-e-books-impair-memo...
In this usability research (http://www.nngroup.com/articles/ipad-and-kindle-reading-spee...) they found that ebook reading was slower than print for both the kindle and Ipad, however they weren't able to differentiate those two.
An often overlooked physical aspect of books is that they "live" directly in the environment, unmediated by screens, icons or distractions. Their physical presence prompts me to read them.
Embarrassingly, I've bought e-books and later realized I forgot about them. They tend to disappear into the "virtual shelf" or some corner of a hard drive somewhere.
The spatial landmarks you mention make a big difference for me. Somehow being able to hold the whole book in my hands helps me build up a mental index of what the book contains. I don't experience the same thing with ebooks.
4-6 Kindles and everything electronic is still a lot easier for me than storing books.
You've just blamed DRM and, in the preceding paragraph, fallen victim to the same fallacy that makes DRM look like a good idea: a computer is under the control of the user, any piece of software or content that seeks to control the computer will likely be broken and rejected.
Also, what do the operating systems have to do with anything at all? Have you ever even used an ebook?
I buy DRM-free books from O'Reilly all the time. But I would never buy a reference book in epub format because I like the ability to flip back and forth between many different sections of the book very quickly (if I have several sections marked I can literally flip to the section I want while picking up the book). Regardless of how good the ebook software becomes, I doubt it can achieve the simplicity of a paper book in this regard. I often use textbooks as reference books, so I feel similarly about textbooks.
Maybe you, or others, don't use certain books in the same way I do. Maybe you do, but don't have the hang-ups that I have. Fine. But that doesn't mean that the solution to my (or others who feel as I do) problem is just better software. That's unbelievably arrogant.
I started my PhD last year and was shocked at how intentionally broken academic e-books are. A few examples of daily experiences that send me into fits of frustrated rage and incredulity.
- ebook substitute for a text that only allows online perusal and restrict download for offline use.
- ebooks that only allow access to one user per institution at a time (in an institution with 30k+ students)
- ebooks that can only be viewed by adobe digital editions.
- journal article pdf downloads that only display bitmap images of text so that copying quotes is impossible.
I'd much rather use electronic resources as physical storage of 200 texts per years is just nuts, but sadly, publishers would rather extract rent from a broken system.
The advantage to this layout is that I can flip back and forth between several pages quickly like a paper book, but I have the light weight and capacity of an e-book reader. I assume it would cost more than a current Kindle, Kobo or Nook but I think the more familiar feel of a paper book would be worth the cost.
You can say that it's not important, but it's not a problem that can be solved in software.
Usual solution: the printer becomes a DRM-circumvention device.
"Searching" a textbook for the "good stuff" is a bug dressed up as a feature. With an ebook you get the ability to sift through cruft faster while still dealing with the cruft, paying the cost on par with a brand new book, and then not being able to dump the book on somebody else when you're done with it. Ebooks might be the future, but right now they're a serious ripoff and everybody in college knows it. Just follow the money.
On a more fundamental level, there is absolutely no reason for textbooks to be priced as they are. This goes double for e-book versions, that are typically crippled DRM rentware wrapped in an interface that makes you want to tear your eyes out. I used to be frustrated that professors hadn't banded together and developed a creative commons style curricula online, or at least not required the latest versions of texts (older versions are typically far more readily available at an appropriate price). What on earth is stopping a motivated group of academics from putting together textbooks for all of the basic courses one encounters at a university? Hell, such projects already exist: Paul's Online Notes did more for me regarding Calculus than any textbook. But then I realized that the professors don't get to make those calls. They're made by people above them, which is ridiculous.
1) college bookstores. It's a distribution issue. Students are used to walking into the bookstore to buy something. The bookstore is used to selling them something. Digital books hurt that experience so there's an inherent disadvantage to bookstores promoting digital. This is as big a factor as any.
2) price. Publishers think they've priced digital books fairly, because they use the full retail value as their point of reference. Instead of paying $200 for a full retail copy, students will surely pay $100 for a digital rental, right? They fail to understand that digital books are going to be acquired online, meaning there is a greater chance students purchasing these books will be comparing prices. College bookstores which offer digital as an option even compare that price to their other (often more affordable) options, like buying it used. That $100 digital rental is frequently available for less than $60 on Amazon or sites like it.
It's not a feature problem, it's distribution and really bad pricing.
Until publishers pay attention to these things, digital will never catch on (regardless of how much they innovate technology).
When it comes to studying and trying to retain information, I've found in my personal experience that greater "inefficiency" ironically leads to better retention i.e. the fact that I spend more time and effort taking physical pen-and-paper notes in a notebook causes me to dwell longer on the material I'm studying, thus increasing my retention and understanding. You could argue that today's technology makes it TOO easy to read material and take notes on it, causing you to spend less time on the material and decreasing retention.
And I think this finding is key:
The paper textbook helps them to avoid the distractions of being on the computer or the Internet, the temptations associated with checking e-mail, Facebook, or surfing the Web for unrelated information.
Perhaps giving out e-readers at schools used ONLY for e-textbooks would help e-textbooks catch on more. The same reason going to a library will help you study better than you would in your room, perhaps having a dedicated interface for class readings would help you to focus much more than having your e-textbook buried somewhere in your desktop/tablet/smartphone.
Being the lazy and practical boy I am, I chose to instead read the PDFs on my tablet (10 inches) instead. While it worked for me, I can definitely say that things were easier with the paper version.
Being able to flip back and review something quickly (What battle was Shaka Zulu famous for again?) and then resume reading is huge and something that doesn't work very well on tablets at the moment. Will it ever improve? Probably. But I don't think we'll get to the point where it becomes better than paper in that aspect. The tangible aspect of paper is just so nice.
As far as my own courses go, almost every single exam I give is open-book open-notes. Problematic for the e-text version is that I don't allow tablets, phones, laptops or other potential communication devices during exams. I'd love to be able to sort this problem out, so I could get more creative with exams, but currently, I think it makes it too easy to cheat.
 Of course, c&p-ing huge swathes of text is normally not a great technique for note-taking. But, I think it's perfectly acceptable for things that were only ever intended as reference material to begin with (pictures, charts, graphs, timing diagrams, schematics, etc).
I agree with some of the commenters here that DRM appears to one of the main problems of eTextbooks.
It is responsible for locking students in to using the publisher's reader software which is usually buggy, limits their printing privileges, and more...
For example the publisher Cengage is now employing new DRM software that only lets you stream protected JPEG pages from the book in some HTML5 viewer, instead of their previous solution that simply used a protected PDF file. This means that you have access to an inferior version of the book, instead of the vector PDF version.
Publishers don't realize that a person can just scan the paper book and upload it online, thus defeating all their fancy protections. For example, I've taken multiple books from the library that had no digital editions available for purchase or a DRM that was (as of yet) uncrackable and scanned them so I could read them on my iPad.
I mostly buy and read technical DRM free books in pdf form and read it with my Ipad, mostly or a big multitouch 19'' portrait screen wall mounted with an arm.
Some things I hate is they putting my name on some part of the document, so I remove it with scripts.
The problem is DRM infested books, for them I buy online the dead tree thing, wait for weeks (I live in Europe), I use the radial saw for cutting the book covers, scan it with an automatic feeder scanner and store it in an storage room, convert them to pdf.
IMHO, there are some things you need for reading technical books with ebooks:
1-Retina display resolution on books.
3-Fast indexing and random access(already there with good software).
4-Fast page transitions( no 1 second "wait for turn page" delays).
Cross referencing different sections of different books quickly is something I think is an exclusive benefit to using e-books.
In fact, an Ebook requires a particular device and battery charge; it cannot be readily shared unless you want to give away or lend your device. You cannot easily annotate or draw a diagram next to a description. There isn't yet a satisfactory electronic equivalent to the experience of flicking through a book.
IMHO borrowing another student's well thumbed and annotated textbook will often be more useful than downloading my own pristine copy.
You can't do that with e-textbooks and I bet they cost the same.
plus eBook readers are horrible for textbooks. I have a hacked kobo touch and its pretty much only suitable for linear reading.
I read books on my iPad but not technical books. I think the main problem is navigation, I'm not sure, there's just something about it.
What it boils down to is that ebooks are difficult to flip through, there's usually two types of page numbers - the page of the entire book and the page number within the book, and they are often not equal - making finding a specific passage or chapter more difficult than it should be.
her use pattern is weighted significantly towards the digital content. the only place i see her fall back to the textbook is in math.
of particular note though is the app that is used in her Chinese language class. Without a doubt the most well implemented use of the ipad platform for any app i have yet seen anywhere.
this is the future. i'd probably assert that these studies, if run in another 2-3 years would be quite different in their findings. they will be issuing the ipads at the middle school here i believe next fall.
this conversion is going to happen...only a question of time.