Opinions are divided over the usefulness and suitability of e-book readers for teaching and learning. Apologists argue that these portable devices are well placed to offer alternative and “cheaper” access to electronic resources, particularly in distance and work-based learning settings. This could be especially when one considers the £4 billion cut to the higher education budget announced in the 2010 spending review.
Critics on the other hand point to the many issues posed by using e-book readers in teaching and learning such as digital rights management; security and fragility of the devices; cost of equipment, software updates, battery life and limited availability of quality textbooks in e-book format. For these critics, the above challenges have profound limitations on the effective and efficient use of e-book readers for academic purposes. (See for example http://www.sconul.ac.uk/publications/newsletter/49/2.pdf ?)
Guided by the above debate, and in order to gain further insight into the appropriateness and suitability of e-book readers for academic purposes, the Academic Services team mounted an exhibition which showcased e-book readers to academic staff as part of the “Building Capacity” event organised by the E-services and Communication Team on 6 December 2010. We also wanted staff to tell us how e-book readers could improve the quality of teaching and learning in Aberystwyth University and what the potential drawbacks were. Here is a selection of the comments we received:
- “I could use it for distributing assignments as blackboard but directly to readers”.
- “It could serve for some purpose as a portable device than a laptop and with longer battery life”.
- “I could use it on a plane or the train”.
- “It will reduce the load in my bag”.
- “I am not convinced that e-book readers can, [improve the quality of teaching and learning] but e-books can”
- “Having a single purpose device to me is somewhat limiting”
- “Limited screen size, lack of colour and keyboard [pose a] limitation”.
- “I will rather like to see more e-book materials or electronic materials being made available… as an academic it is important to be able to interact e.g. annotate, clip, bookmark and highlight”.