Friday, November 20, 2009

E text readers and E text books

Ms. Zahavit Paz, Executive Director of the LD Resources Foundation at the 12th Annual Access to Higher Ground : Accessible Media, Web and Technology, Conference.

November 13, 2009 Panel: “From Clay Tablets to the Kindle – implications of the new e-book technology (in particular, it's implications for accessibility)”


My overview today is not only speaking as an organization that assists college students with LD & ADD, but also as an individual with LD who is dependent on assistive technology.

E- readers & E-text books have potential promise closing the gaps for Students with learning disabilities.

E-reader devices have been around for at least a decade. Today's E-reader devices are in the news almost daily, because they are more mainstream. Its exciting news for post-secondary students with learning disabilities the manufacturers promise easy download solution within seconds for textbooks with text to speech option.

General overview of the E-readers market and price trend

Forrester Research Inc, an independent research company suggests most consumers will buy digital devices when the price drops to $100. However, I read another report that predicts holiday sales for e readers will be up by fifty percent. (,7211,53825,00.html).

According to The International Digital Publishing Forum’s (IDPF) Mike Smith, “The sweet spot maybe $100, but the educational market will support a higher price, since students, who will typically be in undergraduate programs, will need to use it for 4 years saving the cost of purchasing actual books and eliminating the burden of physically caring for books. The access to a search capability rather than having to look up information in an index, as well as readers that offer copy and paste capabilities, will save lots of time for students working on their assignments.”

IDPF Trade and Standards Association for the digital publishing industry, just announced that eBook industry wide sales statistics for the first quarter were up by 228.3%, and calendar year to date revenue increased by 154.8% (


There are so many e-readers on the market today. Rumors are, according to Mitch Ratcliffe’s blog on ZDnet, by the end of 2010, that 52 e-reader devices will be on the market in the next 12 months. (

Listed are some e-readers below:
  1. Amazon Kindle -
  2. Barrens & Noble Nook -
  3. Sony eBook Reader -
  4. Franklin eBookman eReader -
  5. Elonex eBook -
  6. Irex Digital Reader Series -
  7. Interead Cool-er -
  8. Fujitsu FLEPia -
  9. Bookeen Cybook -
  10. Plastic Logic Que -
  11. Key to Access VPod -
  12. Apple Tablet -
Amazon Kindle (

The E-reader industry, realizing postsecondary schools are potentially a lucrative market, are trying to lure colleges to purchase their e-readers.

Amazon Kindle ( has the largest market share today of a little more than 60 percent (

Amazon is trying to market the Kindle e-reader to post-secondary institutions with note-taker capability. As with any other new technology, the technical glitches need to be worked out.

This fall, students at seven universities were given a large screen (9.7”) Kindle DX weighing about one pound and at a cost of $489. These students (at the following seven universities (Darden Graduate School of Business, the University of Virginia, Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Princeton University, Reed College, Pace University and University of Washington) are currently testing the product. So far, the results have revealed some problems with reading PDF files, no Page numbers, folder organization, web accessibilities, etc.

Overall, some students liked it. There is room for adjustment as a functional navigation as textbook when you need to search by page number.

The Author’s Guild (

Interestingly, I asked the director of the Author”s Guild about their position on speech to text for text books. He said they do not have an objection since it would not be offered to students as audio books. That is exciting news for college students with LD.

iPhone as e-reader

Greg Krause of LecShare ( gave me a demonstration of their new application of text to speech, with easy navigation by page numbers and highlighting, for the iPhone. It will be on the app store by the end of November at a cost of ten dollars.

An advantage to the iPhone, or PC screen, is that it refreshes very quickly and could be useful for augmented reading, rather than the slower E-Ink screen technology.

NOOK & Kindle

The comparison between the Amazon Kindle & the Barnes & Nobel Nook is that the Kindle is facing stiff competition from the Nook. The Nook offers a color touch screen, an easy-to-read and use display, bookmark capability, text highlighting, notes and a memory card, which can be upgraded to store 17,500 books. Nook owners can lend their eBooks to another Nook friend for 14 days free. The Nook will on sale on November 30th. On November 2, Spring Design sued Barnes and Noble to protect the intellectual properties of the Alex E-book.

What does all this mean to people with disabilities?

Almost all books will be available for download for people with disabilities. However, the design of these devices does not meet the accessibility needs of people who are legally blind or have print disabilities or motor skills problems. If they need to use assistive technology these books may not be available to them. We have to remember that a student with print disabilities, who needs to get using a new device, requires a learning curve, and costs associated with acquiring the device.

Assistive Technology is not one tool that fits all!

Advantages of E-Reader
  • Green environmentally-friendly
  • Students have access, 24/7, to the books.
  • Less eyestrain from overuse of computer LCD screens.
  • Zoom capacity.
  • No glare, since most readers use E-Ink displays
  • E-Readers have a long battery life.
  • Less back and carpal tunnel injuries caused by overuse of the computer.
  • For students with learning disabilities it has the potential to level the playing field by using a mainstream fashionable gadget.
Disadvantages of E-Reader
  • Students will not be able to sell their textbooks after the term ends.
  • Would Colleges and Universities support the e reader devices? Would they give a loaner to a student when his/her kindle is down? If yes, what would be the turnaround time of service for the kindle?
  • Navigation using I-ink E-Ink displays can take a second or more to refresh.
In closing, competition is a good thing after all! The mainstreaming of readers going to the post-secondary institutions is going to increase. We are closing the gaps by using a universal design learning UDL approach.

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