eBooks Are Getting Kinda Hot These Days

Maybe it was just me, but it seems like a large number of updates and emails I got this week were about eBooks.  They’ve been around forever it seems without really ever catching on.  For a while, it seemed like it was one of those cool SciFi ideas that looked great in the movies, but people realized that it wasn’t so cool in real life.  I guess that is not the case – developments are happening in many areas… some of which I am not really sure of.

First of all, there is the Amazon Kindle.  Or it’s the Kindle 2 I guess.  Interesting features.  But the lack of color really seems to be a significant minus in my department.  I know it is new technology and all that, and they will probably figure that out some day.  So, really – significant but not huge.  The biggest drawback is the one that always seems to plague the technology world: it’s a separate device.

Yep – yet another device for you to find a storage space for.  It can’t do everything that your laptop, smart phone, digital camera, or even old school beeper can… so you will have to find yet another spot on your belt to hang it from.  Belt holders are quickly becoming the new pocket protectors.

So – maybe you don’t always need it with you, but think about those vacations now…. finding a place for your laptop, digital camera, smart phone, video camera, mp3 player, and now… eBook reader.  The apparent overlap of functionality there is mind boggling.

Or you could just read the eBook on your laptop… or iPod… or smart phone.  But that would be too simple, huh?

Maybe I could see the use of an eBook reader if you marketed them to schools as a replacement for the stacks of books that students are carrying around every day.  Well, at least, the books they should be carrying around.  Of course, for the price of a Kindle you can swing a decent smart phone that reads PDFs and does a whole lot of other things that would be useful.

Another head scratcher is the Follet Digital Reader.  It is not a product, but a whole new format designed to replace PDF files.  Basically, it looks like Follet didn’t like that some minor features were missing from PDF, so they decided to re-create the wheel… only with slightly different hubcaps.  Some nice, but ultimately unnecessary, differences.  Or so it seems.  You have to to have .Net 2.0 on your computer to download and try it out.  I avoid .Net 2.0 like the plague… and I don’t have admin privileges to install it in the first place.  This new reader could actually be the coolest thing since sliced bread, but I’ll never get to know.  That is a severely limiting factor in my opinion. You may never see this thing make the jump to mobile devices because of that.  Or even to a Kindle 2 for that matter.

Oh, and by the way – if you are already a Follet customer – you seem to have no choice in this change. That is what customers today love so much – lack of choice.

Of course, Gmail was sounded pretty redundant until people started using and realizing ‘hey, this really is better than anything out there right now.’  Maybe the same will happen with the Follet Digital Reader.

I guess you really can’t blame people for trying something new.  But… why? Especially when there are already good options already out there? My problem with so much of this is that so many companies just re-create overlapping technology.  Why not just create a PDF reader with the capabilities that you want, that works on multiple platforms?  Oh, wait – people have already done that and didn’t make that much money from it….

If you don’t want to learn from history….

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

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