Andy Ramsden, e-learning development manager, University Campus Suffolk
Anna Vernon, E-Books for FE Project Manager
Sue Burnett, Facilitation and Publishing, Blended Learning and iTunes U, University of Glamorgan
Information about the session and links can be found at http://www.jiscdigitalmedia.ac.uk/surgery/session/getting-started-with-ebooks
Yesterday I attended the JISC Digital Media online surgery about “getting started with ebooks” – the aim of the session was to give an overview of ebooks and how they can be used in education. An ideal opportunity for someone like me, who is relatively new to ebooks, to find out what the pros and cons are and how best to promote and use ebooks collections already in existence.
I’ve never attended an online surgery before so wasn’t quite sure what to expect, although in the end it was very similar to a webinar, which I have participated in before. This was an interesting experience and certainly very informative. I did, however, have some difficulties with the technology, losing the sound connection towards to end so missed out on some of the discussion, question and answer session and I think I would have benefited from a good pair of headphones. However, this didn’t put me off and I think it helped me to gain a clearer picture of what is going on in the e-book world and the issues that need to be addressed before e-books become an easy format of choice for most students and staff.
Below is a summary of the main speakers’ findings and experiences.
There were three main speakers –
Andy Ramsden talked about his “holy grail” of an integrated world where the barriers to collaboration have been removed (if only) “e-books and e-learning: trying to bring them together”
Anna Vernon spoke on the issues surround e-book discovery and promotion in the context of FE “making the invisible invaluable”
Sue Burnett, gave an interesting talk about ebooks from the perspective of the publisher and editor.
Andy has been involved in a 5 year project/task to see if it is possible to collaborate with other students/lecturers using ebooks via a Kindle and Google Docs. Andy’s ideal or “holy grail” is to have a learning environment or space whereby lecturers make recommended reading available to students and then students can easily make notes and share their notes with others on the course and then use this information in an e-portfolio. However, this is a lot more difficult than it sounds, the problem of combining different technologies is a real barrier, the interaction between Google Docs, email and then a Kindle is not a smooth path. The recent development of new software now found in Kindles, iPads and Androids seems to offer an answer. However, when Andy looked into these technologies he found there was a lack of consistency in functionality across these platforms and has come to the conclusion that his “holy grail” is not yet achievable and that “…ebooks are personal and not collaborative”.
Anna has been involved in a project to make ebooks available in the FE sector. Anna looked at some of the advantages of e-books, as well as some of the barriers to their use, and shared with us some useful tips about promoting collections and the best ways to aid resource discovery.
The main advantages to having a good ebook collection is that they –
• save space
• can be accessed anywhere at any time (ideal for distance learners and part time students)
• very portable
• concurrent usage aids access to books at peak demand times
• offers a solution to managing short loan collections i.e. eliminates vandalism and theft
• offers additional functionality e.g. searching, note taking, automatic citation.
• Helps students with print related disabilities
Barriers to ebook usage –
• A major barrier to access in an educational environment is that only 60% are currently Athens/shibboleth compliant.
Make Access Easy –
• If possible use WAYFless URLs in the library portal to make access easy
• If publishers support SP-side WAYFless URLs use those
Promoting e-resources and e-books –
• Making e-books available via the catalogue is really important as this increases usage. Obtaining quality MARC cataloguing records is therefore vital.
• Promote your collections via the catalogue, library website, blogs, Moodles, Shelf Wobblers and coffee mornings
• Promote “e-book of the day” or e-books on a particular topic to coincide with an assignment/project
• Promote e-book collections to appropriate staff
• Get learner support/disability staff to promote features such as speech tools, font size and change of background to appropriate groups
• Support academic staff in the use of e-books, give sessions on how they can be used for learning
• Promote via Subject Guide
• Use QR Codes to promote e-books. Make reading lists available via QR Codes
Sue Burnett looked at the pros and cons of e-books from a publishers/editors perspective. The main drivers for publishers are –
Who? Who is your audience, students or general public?
Why? Why are you publishing, to share knowledge, to gain more readers, to make money?
What? What are you going to produce – will it be interactive, will there be video links, will it be available on different platforms, what limitations are you going to use. With e-books there are lots of production choices, will it just be available in e-book format or will there be print as well? If you are producing a series then templates could be used to aid consistency in style and layout
Where? This is about distribution, is it going to be open access or is it going to be restricted with a login, is it going to be made available via a website, itunes, pre-publication.
When? When will it made available
How? How will it be made available – there are many choices and many platforms.
When publishing e-books Copyright is a major issue. It’s important to get clearance for usage and to acknowledge sources and to use Creative Commons. There is a common perception that if a resource is on the web it’s safe to use, this isn’t the case. With the advent to e-publishing it is easy for self publishers to forget about copyright or not to be aware of the law. Publishers also need to be very aware of content and make sure they are not being libelous.
Finally the distribution and discovery of the e-book is important. Metadata is important and will aid resource discovery, but metadata is expensive and needs to be taken into account by publishers.
To sum up
This was a very useful surgery and gave me a good overview of the main issues in the production, use and discovery of e-books and the issues that need addressing. Certainly access to mobile technology and e-readers is becoming more common and the demand and need for users to interact with a variety of technologies in order to learn and collaborate with each other will increase. The issues of compatibility across different platforms, ease of access, different download formats and the range of e-books available are all potential barriers to e-book usage, but the technologies are changing very rapidly and public/student awareness of e-books is far higher now than ever before, so demand will probably increase. I agree with Sue Burnett that copyright is a very important issue, particularly with the ease of sharing and copying information in an electronic environment. It will be interesting to see how things develop in the next few years.