Adventures with electronic textbooks

I’ve had some maddening experiences this week acquiring text books for the one course I’m taking that has texts.

One of the texts was very easy to obtain; the publisher has a reader, I downloaded the reader, bought the book, synced the reader to my account and it downloaded. Pretty easy. But, the reader doesn’t have an iPad version, and at this point in our technological evolution it seems a little ridiculous to have an eBook reader solution that doesn’t work on iPads. They’ve been out for more than a year, there are half a hundred million of them in the world and they’re not going anywhere. Write an app, get it done.

The second book was a pain. First of all, it took forever to find the electronic version. It wasn’t available at the publisher’s website through the same reader software as the first text, although a Google search showed that courses at other universities that used the book in the fall semester last year indicated that the same edition was available online last year. So I had to get it from Barnes and Noble, which had a Nook Study version — which, oddly, is different and entirely separate from its Nook reader. So, I needed a Barnes and Noble account, I needed to download a new reader app separate from the Nook app I already had, and then discovered that, like the publisher’s reader, B&N doesn’t have an iPad version for Nook Study. So, I downloaded Nook Study and installed it, then synced it with my B&N account to download the book. That reader then immediately wanted my Adobe account credentials, for some reason, so it could decide how to render the book in the reader, or something like that. It made no sense.

So, to boil this down — I have one class that has two texts. Each of those two texts is segregated in its own proprietary reader, meaning I need a different program to read each book. Neither of the two readers has an iPad version, which means I’m stuck reading in one window and tabbing over into what I’m writing, instead of having the iPad off to the side. And for one of the texts, I couldn’t get an electronic version of the text through the publisher of the actual book (although all indications are that the same edition of the book was available through the publisher last fall), but I could get one through Barnes and Noble as a rental — but not in B&N’s Nook reader, which means I now have *two* entirely separate book readers from Barnes and Noble.

It’s madness, honestly.

Andy Bartlett

By day, I am the executive director of communications and marketing at Bemidji State University. The rest of the time, I'm a husband, father of three, and proponent of super heroes, lasers, space ships and explosions.

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2 Responses

  1. M C Morgan says:

    From one guinea pig to another – Proprietary publishing isn’t ready for prime time. A couple of textbook publishers have tried to foist ereader exam copies on me. “Pu it on Kindle, release it as PDF, or gimme paper.” I say. The next big issue is being able to annotate and copy and paste parts of the text. It’s not technology in this case. It’s publishers being too cautious.

  1. August 27, 2011

    Adventures in graduate school: fun with electronic textbooks.

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