E-Books: Still not ready for prime time?
Part of his pessimism comes from experience:
My own experience with computer- based subscription services was as a librarian in the California State University (CSU) system. From March to December 2001, all but CSU's smallest campus participated in a pilot e-book project with NetLibrary. In that time, there were 17,473 accesses to the e-hook collection. If that number were annualized and each access assumed to be from a different person, then, at best, only 5% of students and faculty would have accessed the e-book collection--and many of the accesses during this period were actually by librarians demonstrating the new system. Each access during the pilot project cost the university more than $5, This is not to fault CSU's implementation of e-books. The trial was well-planned, with most campuses integrating NetLibrary's e-books into their catalogs and providing a spate of publicity for the new service. Our students--who should be a group that readily accepts new technologies--just preferred paper books.
And part comes from ergonomics analysis that seems to indicate that reading off a screen is intrinsically harder than from a book:
Because both convergence and accommodation occur at a further distance when looking straight forward, monitors must be placed further from the eye. Since monitor resolution is less than print, the text on a monitor must be made larger to convey the same amount of information, which means that the width of the monitor must be wider to handle the same amount of text. As the eyes cans across text on a monitor, the distance between the eye and the monitor varies: closer to the eye in the center, farther at the edges. This means that the eye must constantly adjust for both accommodation and convergence as each line of text is read.My spouse likes to use our XO Laptop to read fanfic stories and it seems to work for her. But stories are sort of like journal articles. I've tried using our XO Laptop for reading some book length works and I can attest that it's a more tiring experience. Although my main issue with using my laptop is that there isn't a good way to bookmark your place. I have to make a notation in another file or on paper to get back to the page where I left off. On the other hand, the laptop is a great and comfortable tool for getting through my personal RSS feeds.
The consequences of these differences are enormous. Most computer users try to keep their eyes in the center of the screen, ignoring information at the edges. They skim text rather than read. When confronted with blocks of text longer than a couple screens, users either print the text or ignore it. This strategy works well with journal articles: Users can skim for relevant entries and print the ones they want to peruse in detail. But it doesn't work for book-length manuscripts or other lengthy text forms that require detailed reading.
Does your library offer e-books for reading? What has your experience been with them? Are any more popular than others?
Title: The Elusive E-book.
Authors: Sottong, Stephen
Source: American Libraries; May2008, Vol. 39 Issue 5, p44-48, 5p, 1bw
Full text via Digital Pipeline: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=31872775&site=ehost-live