Thursday, August 13, 2009

Textbooks, the iPhone, and the Kindle - Update2

This is an UPDATE to yesterday's entry on the 7,000 CourseSmart e-textbooks now made available for the iPhone and iPod.

 Currently, a search at Amazon for textbooks not in the public domain results in about 4,400 titles, although a good number of them are not what you'd expect to see categorized as textbooks.
UPDATE 8/14/09 - Original Update was 8/13/09, 8:19 AM.
  The above "textbook" results (official textbook store not in place yet) were sorted by "relevance" -- here's a listing sorted by "bestselling" titles.

Some more detail is available about the app's functioning and the type of access available, and there are 2nd day assessments by some of the review sites.

1. SmartCourse e-textbooks can be purchased for download to your computer/laptop but are allowed to be used on only one device at a time.  If you buy one for your laptop, it doesn't seem to come with a subscription to access it online at their site.  There is no return on these, no refund.

2. Their e-textbooks can also be purchased for ONLINE access only, and with this subscription type, you can use any computer/laptop or iPod/iPhone to access the e-textbook.  In this mode, you cannot read the book unless you have a connection and are online at their site.  The subscription allows you to copy or print 10 pages at a time.  You can return the book within 14 days if you haven't printed or read more than 20% of the e-book, online.

3. In this first edition of the iPhone app, you can't add or edit notes with the iPhone/iPod, but you can view any notes you've made when using your computer/laptop to access the e-book online.

4. The "half-price" "purchase" is really a subscription rental, in that you must return the book at the end of 180 days (or 360 days if you buy a year's subscription) and then you can't reference the book if needed for your next, more advanced class on the subject.

5. CNet's Rick Broida writes:
' Long bouts of reading might prove cumbersome, as the app doesn't reflow text to fit the screen the way, say, the Kindle app does.  Each page is more or less a static image, much like a PDF. You can zoom in, scroll around, rotate into landscape mode, and so on. '
6. Your 3G cellular reception in class will have to be good.

7. The screen, especially noticed when used for a textbook, is very small.  The image above is from their website's demo and I couldn't find an image with fewer and larger characters on it.  If I were a student using the iPhone with a CourseSmart e-textbook, I'd likely always be in zoom mode.

8. PC World's Todd R. Weiss, with some whimsy, wonders:
' Then there's the potential for cheating at exam time when students can stealthily view their iPod to get information from an e-textbook to answer a tough exam question.  Hey, it could happen.  Maybe you'll have to leave your iPhones and iPod Touches at the door as you enter the exam room to prevent cheating.  Could we eventually see students being patted down by hand for their iPhones or iPod Touches at exam time as they enter the room? '

Photo credit: This a screen capture from the SmartCourse page at actual size shown there Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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