back to article Amazon Kindle flunked by college students

Amazon's Kindle DX is flunking out of college. According to a report by The Seattle Times, the $489, 18.9 ounce (0.54kg) Kindle DX, with its 9.7-inch monchrome e-ink display, is getting bad grades from college students. Amazon distributed Kindle DXs to students at a number of US colleges, then solicited their feedback. What …

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Well DUH!

No one reads computer eBooks for exactly the same reason. They are hopeless to flip backwards and forwards in. I also have CD versions of out-of-print guides on entomology with extensive identification keys they are very inconvenient indeed.

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Pirate

Entomology

Any chance I could get a hold of a copy of those CD's? They'd be awesome for my girlfriend who's getting into Entomology. Post a torrent link or megaupload / RS link and I'd be superbly grateful!

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tas

Re-inventing paper?!

1. Fire

2. Clothes

3. Ink

4. Paper

5. Wheel

Amazon trying to re-invent paper? Whatever next?

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Battery life

Let's have a race. A Kindle, an iPad and my copy of "XML in a nutshell". Let's see which one runs out of power first. :o)

I still think, to a large extent, these tablets are an answer looking for a problem. I am sure some people will find them very useful and fnabois will wax lyrical about how they will save civilisation as we know it, but like the Segway, they will remain niche/luxury products for a long time.

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Coat

RE: Battery life

"Let's have a race. A Kindle, an iPad and my copy of "XML in a nutshell". Let's see which one runs out of power first. :o)"

We could.

We could also wait and see which one you might take on holiday for a little light reading. (hint: it's probably not XML in a nutshell ;)

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Happy

add another 300 books and you would run out first!

A Kindle or iPad can hold hundreds of books, can you? I have seen articles about text books on the iPad, shipped as an app that you can highlight, annotate, search etc. Also including animation and video. Just a shame that so many educational websites use Flash, and Apple has decided not to support it. :-(

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Happy

Hey, once a geek, always a geek!

Don't be so sure!

Seriously, last holiday I went on my missus ordered me to only take a 3 book maximum. I took Oracle DB Architecture, Oracle 11g New Features and Oracle 10g RAC Implementations.

Better than the year before, I as I had 6 Oracle books with me, hence why I was only allowed 3 this year! So I loaded the laptop with loads of Solaris, Linux and Oracle books in PDF instead.

Needless to say this was a UK holiday in a remote Scottish cottage. I hate airports!

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XML in a nutshell

"You put the name of the data item in the tags around the data item. "

I'm sure I could put that on a piece of paper that weighs less than a Kindle.

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Flame

Not surprising

It is a venerable tradition to bring most of your textbooks back to the bookshop on the last day of the year and sell them back. It is also the only way to reduce the red ink on your account and pay at least some of the bills for some (was for me at least) and the way to get some dosh for a last night alcohol binge for others.

Kindle and their ilk are deliberately designed to relieve the user of the option of selling back his book or giving it to someone. That may be good enough for "mature professional" audience which does not plan to sell each and every one of their books 8 months after they buy them. Definitely not good enough for a college student.

It is not surprising that the students have openly demonstrated that they are not stupid and can add and subtract.

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Anonymous Coward

This only works

If you do a degree just for the sake of it, if you actually did one that you might end up using in the real world, then you should hang onto them.

Most of the programming references we have kicking around the office are the staff's old uni textbooks

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WTF?

Maybe it's different accross the pond...

But over here in the States, your typical Bachelor's degree requires that you attend a fair number of other non-major classes in order to start paying your student loans... err... graduate. I don't know about you, but I don't really need the 15 paperbacks from the English class of so-called classics (or professor's hobby horse), or all the text books from the Latin classes I had to take to satisfy my 2nd language requirement.

A whole other debate, of course, but that's what a Liberal Arts education does. I think I might have taken 15 classes related to my major directly or indirectly, plus another 20+ classes to satisfy the requirements for my BA. Most of those books I'll be happy to never see again.

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You're absolutely right there

My old SSADM textbooks have proved invaluable over the years.

Wonky tables, doorstops, looking impressive to anyone who doesn't know what they're for. That kind of thing.

The contents turned out to be useless a couple of years after my degree when the world changed and everyone switched to the latest infallible system.

I think what I'm trying to say is that it can be difficult to judge which books will continue to be useful for years to come and which will turn out to be expensive firelighters - especially when you're just starting to learn.

I used my C reference books for years after leaving full time education, my COBOL lasted a couple of years and the Pascal one wasn't touched for a few years, then came out of hiding when Borland launched Delphi and then went back into hiding again a couple of years later.

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Headmaster

Re: Maybe it's different accross the pond...

Yes you are right, it is different across the pond. In the UK my degree consisted solely of subjects directly related to my subject. It is one of the many reasons I didn't even consider a US university.

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I'm not so sure.

The flaws mentioned seem to be centred on limitations with the various eBook formats (ePUB, etc.) rather than inherent hardware problems.

If "Brushes" (on iPad) is anything to go by, circling text and highlighting it is easily within the scope of the hardware. The faster and smoother reaction time of the display will also help with leafing through pages. Both devices have keyboards (one virtual, one not). So perhaps the future of textbooks may be like the future of newspapers: sold as dedicated apps, rather than as e-books intended for linear reading.

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Troll

I would like to see how you iBrick\Kindle Whatever

stands up to being thrown across a room in frustration

My 'SGML in a nutshell' had no difficulties. Books are a beautiful thing and perfectly designed for what they do. Communicate information in a Linear and Non-Linear way. They need no batteries and no license.

Have you finished your project yet? Sure weeks ago. Have you? No I couldn't get the book out of the Library. Here borrow my book.

or

Have you read the new Stephen King Book? No. Is it any good? Brilliant. Can I borrow it? No because that would be an infringement of the license and criminal offence for which I could be cut off from the internet and my family persecuted. Ohh alright then here... opps Amazon must have heard us and withdrawn the book from my Kindle. Sorry mate. Can I have my book back Amazon? NO! and be grateful we don't prosecute you for attempted Copyright infringement you pirate!.

Hey I have a good idea let's re-invent the wheel so we can make more money out of it and the consumer gets less. This wheel will be digital! You can't get rounder than that. It's a massive improvement on what we had before.

Digital: Charging you more for less.

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Joke

Round digital wheel

"This wheel will be digital! You can't get rounder than that."

That depends on your font -- and the value of wheel...

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Why not spend ~$500 on books?

I thought about getting a Kindle, then realised I could just spend all that money on books. Sure they take up rather a lot of space in my house but they're a lot easier on the eye and don't need recharging all the time.

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Anonymous Coward

"easier and more intuitive to thumb through, search, and scribble on"

That's a user interface issue. A really well designed ebook ought to be easier to use than a paper book, not harder. Unfortunately, very few companies are capable of designing a good user interface. However, one of those companies is Apple, so don't be surprised if the iPad makes ebooks a lot easier to use.

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Anonymous Coward

so...

Can anyone tell me how the makers of an eBook reader can make it intuitive to flick between two specific pages of a text book which may have several hundred other pages in between them? Because when talking about reference material, once done with the first reading, that's how they are most often used, in my experience anyway.

Also, regarding the saving the death of a tree point, how much of a tree is required to generate the electricity for one charge of an eBook reader? I have lots of fiction book which I still enjoy reading, and have read many, many times over. They still only involved the death of one books worth of a tree. I'm wondering how that stacks against the electric use of an eBook reader. Not to mention the materials used to manufacture the hardware in the first place.

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Electronic bookmarks?

@AC: You could 'bookmark' multiple pages in an electronic book and 'flick' between them with 2 key presses.

Have you ever used an electronic book reader for more than 5 minutes in a store? They are not perfect by any means but do provide a useful way to carry more than 1 book with you.

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Pint

Tome Replacement

I am still looking for a good alternative to the 1000+ plus wrist knackering computer texts which are littering my office.

It would be good to find something which replaces these books in PDF format and is as good as a text book but these eReaders just don't yet cut the mustard.

It would be nice to be able to curl up and digest a text book on the sofa or on public transport without having a few pounds weight of dead tree to haul about and handle.

The person who solves this issue is going to be very rich indeed.

beer - because having one right now seems to be a great option.

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The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

"I am still looking for a good alternative to the 1000+ plus wrist knackering computer texts which are littering my office."

Are you sure it's the computer books that are wrist knackering?

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Someone (B & N ?) has a "lend a book" option now-ish.

Probably a reader's annotation system can be bolted onto Kindle. I'd either dock to a PC or put a mono LCD touchscreen on the reverse of the device, so that you just flip it over to get a live editable display.

How to display reader notes... maybe underline words or phrases and use footnotes. But different modes might suit different users. And I'm thinking about text, how about pictumres or diagrams? Numbered footnotes still could work...

I wonder if we should start interface-designing now for colour/touch versions of these devices?

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Anonymous Coward

missing the point

i've been toying with the idea of a kindle DX or an iPad for a while (i've already got a Sony PRS 505). I love the sony to bits but I want access to the wider range of titles available already for the Kindle and almost certainly shortly available for the iPad.

I watched the iTunes store's video section grow from nothing to the place where i now buy all my tv episodes and most of my films in the space of a couple of years. I've got no doubt they will do the same with the iBookstore.

to me it's a no brainer in terms of carting around an iPad or kindle in my uni/work bag, compared to the half dozen 1200+ page textbooks i need with me EVERY day. I totally agree that there are some user interface issues that need to be resolved before hitting the textbook market and I happen to know there are a couple of publishers working on that as we speak for the kinds of textooks I buy. let's face it, with the iPad it's a software issue only... the hardware is more than up to the task with the large clear screen, speed of response and the multi-touch interface... it's more or less going to be a case of either the iBook application being modified to support the needs of textbook users, or textbooks being released as stand-alone specialist apps for the iPad.... I think in the long run the kindle will lose this battle because it has fundamental hardware problems that aren't surmountable without a re-design on the hardware in regards to the way that a student or similar USES a book I would definitely agree in the main with the earlier comment that textbooks are used, not read, I do however also read some textbooks in a linear fashion, but that might just be me.

I'm more inclined to say that in my particular field (not computer related) it's more than likely going to go down the specialist app route as I already have a couple of apps for my iPhone that are invaluable in terms of ease of use and speed of access to information (they both replace books that have a 500+ page large paperback format). In addition to speed of use they are also regularly updated with new information, as opposed to having to shell out twice a year (@ £52.99 a pop) for the paperback versions just to have the latest info (which IS a necessity).

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Another one

Jeepers the anti apple brigade are well out in force at el Reg. How did you turn the "kindle" is crap for this, to the iPad is crap?

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Boffin

Books

It is a user interface issue.

And I'd second the point that whoeever solves it is likely to become offensively monyed.

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Inherent Limitation

This was also my conclusion when I tried the B&N Nook --- that the e-Paper display is too slow to effectively browse a book.

I've not felt that way about using books through web browsers or PDF viewers on a real computer; at least if there is a good search facility for the book. That has worked very well for me in the past.

I think that iPad stands chance, but we will see... But I also agree, as long as re-selling a textbook is not allowed, sellers will have to sell the eBook version at a significant discount to be price competitive. I'm not at all convinced they're ready to go this route.

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more than one?

How can a single ebook reader cope with the time-honoured practice of having more than one book open at a time? Or, repeatedly flipping between page 35 and 632 as you try to figure out why they contradict each other?

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@ more than one?

Imagine you have 3 linked ebooks (by linked I mean sharing licenses for books). That would be really essential in a lot of environments (e.g. IBM mainframe system programming).

That means bringing down the price of ebook readers considerably.

And we still need colour, an easy way to tab and annotate them, and better speed than e-paper provides.

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Anonymous Coward

No surprise there, then.

I've just had to check a file for correct data. In theory this could all be done on computer.

In practice? Print out the list of check data. Search file for check data. Use pen to scrub off item on check data.

It could probably be done with multiple windows, multiple monitors or a tablet PC, but a printout and a biro is effective and requires little faffing around. Writing a script to do the comparison would work for multiple jobs, but takes too long for a one off, especially as it requires a lookup in non computer friendly format.

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E-Readers

I've had a Cool-ER e-reader for about a year now and it was well worth the money. I've used it for both entertainment and studying and have found it to be fantastic for both. However, I am not the kind of person who makes notes in books. If I was, then I can see how it would be annoying to have that basic function taken away.

Searching through a volume should be easier on an e-reader than a normal book. In fact, it is. The space I am saving by having around 120 books (and room for more) on my reader rather than in my study is more than worth it. Plus the millions of out of copyright books, completely freely available books on the internet have actually saved me money, even when you take into account the initial £180 for the device.

The iPad - I'm not a lover of the thing but surely the limitations in the article can be overcome by some clever software, and I'll bet that Apple have the intuitiveness to do it.

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Happy

In defense of digital media on Kindle

I agree with the article for the most part but this does not mean that the eReaders are solutions looking for a problem as the comments here have tended toward. Hopefully Amazon takes this feedback and improves their design. Adding touch screen and the ability to scrible on the eBooks would address several of the problems mentioned in the article. At least one poster mentioned this prevents the sharing of information and I don't think that problem will go away but that does not prevent the device from being useful. I myself own a kindle (6" screeen) and I found that it solves the problem of needing to carry many books with me. The screen is very easy on the eyes and has a very impressive viewing angle. I found that much like a paperback I could lie down or lay back in a chair and read in comfort. I also found that for the books I reference a lot it was fairly easy for me to use the Kindle as a reference tool as I knew where to go in the book. However for other books I did not know so well it is a huge PIA. In all I say it is progress that requires some refinement and maturation. It won't completely replace books but it will and is a great supplement. Keep in mind that I am a different segment from the college population with different goals and needs. I have some disposeable income and a need for portablility. Previous to the Kindle I would look to use online resources via my notebook (15" MBP) in an environment where space is at a premium and a power outlet is rare. This lead to some conflicts where I was disrupting those around me or the reverse. I could also see this tool becoming very useful for the vision impaired if they would add voice/sound to the menu's, allow speach to always be on, and improve navigation while voice is on (hard to go back and re-read a sentence). These are all things within reach as the product matures.

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Boffin

Dead Trees

Just for the record, dead trees are a good thing, as long as they are then stored for as long as possible, and are replaced with new saplings, one way or another - not least because young trees sequester more carbon than mature ones.

Basically, killing trees is only a bad thing if you burn them down to provide grazing for cattle.

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In other news: the sky is blue

I really like my Sony eReader Pocket Edition for reading books when commuting, but for reference material, physical books are a lot easier and better:

* you can browse through them,

* open the book at a point you think the information is, and usually you are only 1 or 2 pages off!

* You can keep your fingers between your current pages and at the same time flip to another section and easily switch back and forth

Eebooks are great for just reading, for reference: no, give me a physical book everytime (a computer or device with a real keyboard is a great second if it comes to looking up info)

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Isaac Asimov got there first

It must be at least sixty years ago, but Isaac Asimov conducted a thought experiment on whether an e-book or whatever he called it then, would ever replace a paper book. He described the required characteristics (some of which, IIRC, have been called out by both the article and the comments) and lead the audience all the way back to paper.

I can't remember the title of the essay.

This isn't it, but is in the same vein "http://users.aber.ac.uk/dgc/funtheyhad.html"

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Boffin

Re: Asimov and e-books

Perhaps, "The Ancient and the Ultimate"? According to http://www.asimovonline.com/oldsite/Essays/misc.html, it deals with the future of books. Essay info:

Subject: future of books

First Published In: Jan-73, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

Collection(s): 1973 The Tragedy of the Moon; 1989 Asimov on Science

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I like ebooks, but not for textbooks

I read novels and such exclusively on my Sony reader, and love the thing, but I will admit, it's pretty useless for text/reference books, and also for poetry; things where you want random access.

This will probably be solved when we get rapid refresh displays, so that we can thumb through dozens of pages quickly, but on the 1 second per page turn now, it's just not at all viable. It may never really work for these purposes.

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UI

As several people have pointed out it is a UI issue but one should not read into that that the issue would be solvable.

For one thing, it is easy to pick up a book you use a lot and turn to approximately the correct page within half a second (frequently even to the exact page in a 500 page book - I've done it many times). It is also easy to flick through a book extremely quickly. You show me a computer screen where you can flick through 500 pages in a second.

There are undoubtedly some big advantages to ebooks (eg the ability to search) but some of the UI issues are inherent in a non-physical format and won't be solved ever.

Add to that the DRM issues, fragility, battery life and I think that we shan't be seeing the back of the (real) book for decades to come.

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FAIL

Bright sunshine stops reader

E-book fails

1. Openness. I want to be sure I can always read my book, or lend it or sell it on to or give it to someone else.

2. Water (and salt and food and sand) tolerance of a paper book is superior to that of any electronic device I know.

3. Books don't have battery-life issues

4. Books reliably last decades (centuries if printed on acid-free paper).

5. Less hassles at airport security with a paper book, and no risk that it might be infected with a virus or hidden content or have its visible content altered.

6. You can still read a damaged paper book (and mend it with sticky tape).

7. Ipad or any other display I've seen is not comfortable to read in bright sun. E-paper (as in Kindle) an exception, but lacks colour and mouse-clickability.

Non-fails: I find a book created as, say, a pdf file with hyperlinked index is slightly better for non-linear access than a paper book (just as long as I have the appropriate means to read it to hand). Annotation *ought* to be a small matter of programming.

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No reason why

There's no reason why an e-book reader shouldn't allow you to: dog-ear pages; scribble & annotate; stick on post-it notes and so on. You also have search - which is hard to do on large paper books lacking indices. Having two books open? Maybe not side by side but again, no reason why you couldn't have multiple books or pages open and thumbnails to navigate between them. Flick through in a hurry? That could be done too (at least on LCD displays) - with touch responsive acceleration/deceleration.

Text book purchases will be a thing of the past. Universities will just purchase a site license and pass on the cost through the fees.

All of which is to say that e-books will take over. The future of paper books is as desireable objects, like vinyl LPs.

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Anonymous Coward

Fanboy or shill?

Which one are you because you definitely aren't speaking from experience.

If you had studied in any serious way you would know that you’re talking rubbish.

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Badgers

Reference books

Have none of you people heard of Google?

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Anonymous Coward

Because

Information on the internet is always accurate.

Oh wait.

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J 3
Alien

Interesting...

"lousy for back-and-forth, search-and-find, "where was that bit?" studying and reference"

Weird, since I would think that's exactly where a digital version would be great. Now, that's just my preconception, since I do not own an e-book reader, and have only played with an iPad's e-reader in passing once (refresh time was pretty good, as far as I remember, but could be better if they got rid of the "page-turn" graphical effect). With that disclaimer stating my near complete ignorance of the subject...

See, people are complaining about "how to quickly flip between page 20 and 600"... Haven't anyone here heard of bookmarks? Wouldn't a "temporary quick bookmark" be a simple function to have? Like: you are on page twenty, then you click to add a "temp bookmark" and a little button with the page number appears in the top of the screen, say. The you find the other passage you're interested in, turns out to be page 600, and do the same there. Now, how hard is it, specially on a touchscreen, to click on the 20 and then on the 600 bookmark button? Hey, and you can have not only two, but 4 or 5, no? So, except for the 1 s refresh time, I don't imagine how this is worse than a real book. And in at least one aspect it is better: I can "let go of the pages" to look something else up, or type on the computer, or whatever, and the e-reader will still hold the pages for me.

Is there no e-reader that does what I said above, really?

The "taking notes" thing is another one where I don't see the disadvantage, but that might be because I myself never, ever write on books, or highlight them -- I have always written my notes elsewhere. But that's just me being weird, maybe.

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Go

Re: INTERESTING

Now J3, this is an IT rag where people should know better than than to come up with a list of requirements before building / judging the thing...

Like you, I have no experience of e-book readers (I have an extensive library of technical books and literature though, so if there is a decent one out there that really meets requirements I would be interested) but have spent the 15 minutes it took to read these comments coming up with an essentially identical list of "things it should do" to you. You might want to add a graphical "edge on" view of the book with chapters clearly demarcated; possibly make this touch sensitive so that as you slide your finger across, the name of each chapter and an appropriate mini-index is displayed - maybe double-tap anywhere on the image to open the book at that page? Then you really could flip through the whole book in a couple of seconds.

UI design really is not difficult (though most people don't get it at all) - you just need to think about what would make it useful and do that rather than thinking "what can I code" and hoping the users will like it.

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@ J 3, that is right

That is right. The e-readers being sold these days do not have those features.

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This "two pages business" ...

It hasn't occurred to me before (I have never used an e-book), but it seems to me that this issue is also an area where an e-book could have a (small) advantage over real books. Assuming that it isn't whole pages, but paragraphs, that are being compared, why can't the two sections be highlighted and then displayed on a split screen (up to a certain size, obviously)? A bit like photocopying the two pages and comparing them side-by-side (which I sometimes do when comparing judges' comments in cases).

Having said that, I still prefer books - I don't need electricity to make them work; as long as there is sufficient light from somewhere, I can read; the form-factor of paperbacks is spot on; they are damage-tolerant and easily fixable in most cases; they smell right (okay, that's aesthetic, not practical). I cannot think of anything more frustrating than knowing that I have x books in my actual possession, but that I can't read them because there is no mains power and the battery is flat.

There is a small cost in that I have to consider my book-load when away, but this is trivial against the advantages of having a collection that I can read in daylight, by candle-light, and by the light of burning barricades lit by rioters pissed off at the lack of foresight regarding the UK's aging power stations leading to power cuts (sorry, that hasn't happened yet, has it? I'm clearly having a flash-forward to 2016!).

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I agree

That fits with my experience using (HTML and bookmanager based) manuals on computers (not good) and browsing news papers and blogs (great).

With manuals and text books, you want to be able to easily markup and make notes in margins, and tape tabs to frequently used pages. And you don't want those notes and tabs disappearing.

Eventually e-books and will have colour and they will have markup and tabbing features.

The other thing you get with paper manuals and text books is a physical feeling, heft, and ability to locate the page by feel. e-books can never have that.

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Kindle can do notes

I have one (if it makes you feel better, it was a prize, I didn't buy it). You hit the Menu button, pick "Add a Note or Highlight," and go from there. It has a little keyboard that you can use to enter your note. Then you can use "My Notes and Marks" (next item down in the menu) to jump back to it later on.

Having said that, I think textbooks would have to be re-thought to work better as an etextbook. If that were done, I think high schoolers would love them — with lockers too tiny to be useful these days and too little time to get to them between classes, kids around here regularly carry a 30-lb knapsack full of textbooks most of the day.

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Never going to fly, even MBAs can tell

I agree with most of the article, but would like to point out 2 things that will keep me from probably every trying any sort of electronic text books:

1) I can grab a physical text book, and open it to approximate sections based on memory, wheras I'd have to recall a phrase and search to do something similar in an ebook. If I can't randomly check pages based on their position in the book, I start to feel kind of claustrophobic.

2) I rarely use one text book at a time - I can balance 3 on my lap, with various pencils and postits and other books as bookmarks in each. When I really get into a project I'm liable to cover an entire table top with some combination of text books, reference books, and assorted printouts. I can then simply walk around the table to switch between different portions of the project, which my mind tends to do pretty frequently. I can't even imagine dealing with my design process on an 8-10" screen.

I must say though, text books can make a smallish moving box surprisingly heavy, and every time I move I do wonder why I'm hanging onto all of them (And yeah, I sold back the ones that I didn't actually think I'd need in the future.)

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