All the Knowledge of the World in My Pocket: Electronic Textbooks & EReserves

Electronic Textbooks:

One of the next great digital frontiers being tackled is that of academic texts.  Earlier attempts towards electronic textbooks have generally had negative to mixed results.  In many cases the content  needed for academic courses has been unavailable electronically, requiring students to still turn to print books.  In other cases, students find it difficult to reconcile their accustomed study habits with the capabilities that eReaders and eBooks offer.  You can read further on the experiences of a few universities experiments in using eReaders in the following articles:

Clark, D.T. (2009). Lending Kindle e-book readers: first results from the Texas A&M University project. Collection Building, 28(4), 146-149.

Mallett, E. (2010). A screen too far? Findings from an e-book reader pilot. Serials: The Journal for the Serials Community, 23(2), 140-144.

So while it appears that neither higher education institutions nor students are quite ready for an electronic textbook revolution, there are changes on the horizon that suggest that many of these issues that may be corrected.  eReaders and tablet computers have newer features that allow students to highlight and add annotations to the text, as well as the capability to link to additional information.

Electronic Reserves:

One area of digital content that academic libraries have already had a major presence in has been electronic reserves.  This is one area in academic libraries that can be an easy place to start to support eReaders on campus.  By offering the electronic reserves in a variety of formats so that students can choose what suits them, will improve the usability of the reserves system.  The primary difficulty that exists in this area is that unless the electronic reserve content is in a layout that cannot easily be converted to flowable format such as ePub or Mobi, it can be difficult to make it clear to read on the various eReaders.  As OCR software improves and more content becomes available and is born digitally, this situation will improve and make it easier for academic libraries to support eReaders.