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Sustainability Team 2 Workspace

Page history last edited by wikiuser0008 14 years, 2 months ago


April 25, 2010


William G. Cobb

P.O. Box 3559

Reno, NV 89505

Phone: (775) 786-3930

Fax: (775) 786-4160

E-mail: william_cobb@nshe.nevada.edu

Dear Mr. Cobb,


As the current chair of the Academic, Research, and Student Affairs Committee in the NHSE Board of Regents, you and your colleagues consider and recommend policies to the Board regarding applications of technology to education.


Recently developed technology, in the form of eBooks and eBook readers, have shown significant promise in combating the problems with traditional printing technology through eliminating the consumption of natural resources, minimizing the production of waste, and allowing perfect synchronization of demand with supply, thus reducing costs.


The following document presents research information related to the use eBooks and eBook readers for students in the educational environment. Please take the time to review the document and possibly consider the information given if this subject is brought up in future committee meetings.


Thank you for your time.



Kyle Anders

Nathan Douglas

Dawn Girard

Ana Patrnogich-arieli

Amnon Rosenberg




Traditional printing technology presents several issues for sustainability.  First, the use of wood as raw material for paper depletes forests and harms their ecosystems.  Chemical by-products involved in the manufacturing of resilient and high-quality inks, paper, bindings, and other materials are released into the environment in the manufacturing and waste disposal processes.  Each year, many college textbooks go unsold and are returned to their respective distributors.  Due to these unsold books, this document examines the possibility of utilizing ebooks. Recently developed technology, in the form of eBooks and eBook readers, show significant promise in combating the problems with traditional printing technology through eliminating the consumption of natural resources, minimizing the production of waste. Also, due to the nature of eBooks' digital nature, the supply costs of manufacturing, ordering, stocking and labor costs are eliminated and replaced with the labor needed to supply digital versions of the eBooks..


This report investigates the use of electronic versions of current textbooks, on a device such as Amazon’s Kindle™,  Barnes & Noble’s Nook™ or possibly even online ebook sites, possibly reducing the environmental footprint of UNLV. After reviewing the possibilities of using eBooks and questions of cost, environmental impact, and preferences of students and faculty, we have concluded that the current system with traditional hardcover textbooks is the more cost-effective and more environmentally sustainable.




Budget cuts have become a widely heard phrase since financial hardship has fallen onto many people, businesses, governments, and educational institutions. The Board of Regents have had to consider and implement many recommendations. This may have included mandating shorter work days, laying off employees, reducing compensation/benefits, and many other actions.


One recommendation you may have come across as a member of the Board, is to implement more digital versions of textbooks, also known as eBooks. Based on past experience with students' online courses, some have come to their own conclusion of eBooks lowering costs, reducing harmful waste to the environment, and being more convenient. It may seem so, since most of the time the eBook can simply be accessed at home with a PC and or e-Reader. There is no costs related to a physical manufacturing digital text, but only the labor needed to allow people to be able to access that text from home.



Methods and Results


Obviously, most people involved with a University such as UNLV will be required to access a textbook of some form. These books are costly and many of the new copies go unsold. This creates a loss of money for those who had to manufacture the textbook, ship it to the school, have it shelved into a bookstore, and then be sold or taken back down if not sold.


Cost of E-text vs. Hard Copy


Can the cost of textbooks to both the students and the University system be reduced by implementing eTextbooks?

A device capable of reading the format of the eTextbook is first required. The average readers for eTextbooks come in a few brands such as Amazon’s Kindle™ and Barnes & Noble’s Nook™. For new eReaders,The Nook and Kindle 2 are priced at $259. Sony's numerous readers are offered as follows Reader “Pocket” Edition is $199, the “Touch” Edition is $299, and the “Daily” Edition is $399. Lower priced readers can also be found. For example, a used Kindle can be as sold for $179 and a refurbished Kindle can be sold for $149 if available.


Technical Suitability of eBooks and eBook Readers


Are current electronic books technically and usefully equivalent or superior to the traditional textbooks they replace?

The viability of electronic textbooks depends not only on financial considerations but also on their technical suitability.  A number of issues have to be considered in order to determine a device's technical suitability.  These issues can be classified under two categories.  The first category consists of issues inherent to the device, such as display size and quality.  The second category consists of issues inherent to the file formats used by the device, such as the format’s support for images.


For the purposes of this discussion, we will concentrate on the three leading ebook device platforms: Amazon’s Kindle line, Barnes & Noble’s Nook device, and Sony’s Reader line.  While there are a multitude of other ebook readers (and devices capable of acting as ebook readers, such as certain cellular phones, personal digital assistants, and personal computer software applications), such devices:


  • Lack the capacity for standardization that a single platform choice presents.
  • Have failed to demonstrate broad support from publishers and consumers.
  • Introduce other problems, such as cost, student opinion, and impairments to classroom management.


The three devices considered also possess certain characteristics that make them suitable for their purpose.  All have long battery life, measured in weeks, e-Ink screens (highly-readable, even in direct sunlight, and low power consumption), and significant support from publishers. 


Device Display Quality and Readability


One of the most pressing concerns about ebooks is the issue of readability.  The size of the display is a major factor; with increased size comes the ability to put more words on the screen, or to make words larger.  The Kindle 2, Nook, and most Sony Reader models have six-inch displays, measured diagonally – about the size of a small paperback book.  This presents a general issue, as most textbooks, especially technical textbooks, are significantly larger books.  Textbooks also often present information in margins, footnotes, and other special formats; the readability of these features may be significantly impaired by the small screen.


More factors affecting readability are the resolution of the screen, the density of the pixels, and the number of shades that the display can handle.  Screen resolution is a measure of the absolute number of pixels in each row and in each column.  The Kindle 2, Nook, and most Sony Reader models share a 600 x 800 screen – that is, 600 pixels in each row and 800 in each column.  Pixel density is the measure of how many pixels are in each inch (measured horizontally or vertically).  The higher the pixel density, the more detail can be displayed for each character on the screen; smoother characters are easier to read, reducing eyestrain.  The Kindle 2, Nook, and most Sony Readers share a pixel density of 167 pixels per inch, which is significantly above most personal computer screens and somewhat below that of print.


The display’s “shades” refer to the number of gradations between black and white that the display can present.  This is less important for the display of text than it is for illustrations, tables, and other graphics that may appear in a textbook.  EInk displays are not currently capable of color, and so all graphics appear in shades of gray.  Grayscale display is more suitable for some subjects (e.g. mathematics) than for others (e.g. Art History), but even so, the limitations of the format require reengineering of the text, an expensive endeavor.  Most of the Sony Reader models support eight shades of gray, while the Nook and Kindle 2 both support sixteen. 


On-Device Storage


If students use ebooks for the majority or entirety of their textbooks, the issue of storage comes into play.  The size of ebooks can vary, particularly in the case of textbooks with many graphics.  Amazon reports their Kindle 2 as being able to store around 1,500 books.  As the Nook has the same amount of storage (2 gigabytes), it presumably stores around the same number of texts.  The Sony Readers, on the other hand, come with only one-quarter of the storage space.  This issue is ameliorated by the fact that the two higher-priced Sony Reader models can expand their onboard storage through the use of additional memory cards, purchased separately.  Through these memory cards, these devices can expand their available storage to upwards of sixteen times that of either the Kindle 2 or the Nook.


File Format Support and Format Features


The readers vary in support for ebook formats.  The Kindle 2 supports its own proprietary format.  The Nook supports ePub, an open format.  The Sony Reader supports its own “Broadband” format and the ePub format.  In addition, support for “open” or non-proprietary formats varies with each device.  The Kindle 2 and Sony Reader support plain text documents, which is essentially a lowest common denominator.  All three support Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF), a common and feature-rich format, but Kindle 2 only supports it through a conversion service offered by Amazon.  Support for these (and other) formats is a secondary issue, since textbook publishers do not utilize them.


The file formats themselves vary with regard to support for specific features.  The three principal formats (Kindle, ePub, and Sony’s Broadband) all support Digital Rights Management (DRM) –technologies that restrict illicit distribution of ebooks.  Without DRM, publishers are generally unwilling to agree to any form of content licensing.  All three formats support images.  The Kindle format is the only one to support bookmarking and embedded annotations. 


Alternative Online E-textbook  


While looking for information on kindles and other electronic reading devices that could be used for e-textbooks two websites that have access to thousands of e-textbooks were found. They both allow a student to do more than just read the e-textbook. They offer search engines for the text, note taking ability, interaction with other students using the text and many more integrative features that benefit the student.


Course Smart (www.coursesmart.com) and Cafe Scribe (www.cafescribe.com/home) are interactive websites set up for use by faculty, staff and students of a University. The websites have access to more than 6,000 books in various subjects. Course Smart can be accessed anywhere the registered user has access to the internet, and for the convenience of its users Course Smart has an iphone application that can be downloaded from its home page. Cafe Scribe can be accessed when the user downloads MyScribe from the website and can only be downloaded three times to three computers. For Cafe Scribe, the books can be accessed on the three computers only. Further, checking into books that are currently being used at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas the following two examples of books were found: (1) Technical Communication, 9th Edition by Markel, Mike and (2) Understanding Human Behavior and the Social Environment, 8th Edition by Zastrow; Kirst-Ashman.  Course Smart and Cafe Scribe have the same features. These features include highlighting, note taking, emailing, note sharing, and a bookshelf from which you can access the e-textbooks. Everything is kept in the students personal account on both websites. Books can also be accessed either for life or for a specified amount of time, and you can copy/paste and print up to 30% of the e-textbook. Finally, Course Smart and Cafe Scribe is free; a student just has to register. The e-textbooks are discounted up to 50% of normal textbook costs saving the student money, as well as the University.




Our conclusion was that electronic textbooks and textbook readers, while promising, are still in their infancy.  There are many problems yet to be solved with these technologies (e.g. color support, usability, display size) and support from the publishing industry is lacking at best.  Similar issues exist with online alternatives to traditional textbooks, which demand each student possess a suitable internet device.  Due to the traditionally "open" (non-proprietary) nature of the World Wide Web, it is complex for publishers to implement systems to control their content and prevent its unauthorized distribution, resulting in very minimal support from publishers.




While we have not found the current offerings to be suitable replacements for traditional textbooks, we wish to note that these issues are not inherent to the electronic medium.  Each of us expect that, with some time and continued consumer interest, that these offerings will become increasingly enticing.  The electronic medium offers immense potential: interactive materials, integration with other textbooks (e.g. supplementary texts) and resources (online quizzes or tests, more examples, biographies of referenced persons, relevant news or scholarly articles), support for annotations and bookmarks, and in general can be significantly more ecologically-friendly.


We recommend that the University of Nevada regularly monitor developments in this area.  In addition, we recommend investigating the possibilities of limited implementations of these ideas.  Certain programs with particularly tech-savvy, forward-looking students (e.g. Computer Science) may be suited to serve as "early adopters" of this technology, and may provide useful information to assist the University in its transition to electronic textbooks.




  • Prices of new eReaders

Rose, Adam (October 11, 2009).  New Digital Book Readers Spark Competition for Kindle (http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1929387,00.html), retrieved April 11, 2010.


  • Price of a Used Kindle

Kindle: Amazon's Original Wireless Reading Device (1st generation)

(http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B000FI73MA/sr=8-1/qid=1227937395/ref=olp_tab_used?ie=UTF8&coliid=&me=&qid=1227937395&sr=8-1&seller=&colid=&condition=used), retrieved April 14, 2010.


  • Price of a Refurbished Kindle

Broida, Rick (October 7, 2009). Get a refurbished Kindle for $149 (http://news.cnet.com/8301-13845_3-10369520-58.html), retrieved April 14, 2010.


  • Market share of Kindle

Rose, Adam (October 11, 2009).  New Digital Book Readers Spark Competition for Kindle (http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1929387,00.html), retrieved April 11, 2010.


  • Market share of Barnes & Noble's Nook

Barnes & Noble (February 23, 2010).  Barnes & Noble Reports Fiscal 2010 Third Quarter Financial Results (http://www.barnesandnobleinc.com/press_releases/2010_feb_23_third_q_earnings.html), retrieved April 11, 2010.


  • Market share of Sony's Reader line

Katie Coyne (May 12, 2008).  Sony divulges Reader Sales (http://www.thebookseller.com/news/72179-sony-divulges-reader-sales.html), retrieved April 11, 2010.


  • eBook reader software for PDAs and Cell Phones

Peter Kafka (March 3, 2009).  That Was Fast: Kindle, Meet the iPhone (http://mediamemo.allthingsd.com/20090303/that-was-fast-kindle-meet-the-iphone), retrieved April 11, 2010.


  • eBook reader software for personal computers

Amazon (March 18, 2010). Introducing "Kindle for Mac" -- the Free Application for Reading Kindle Books on the Mac, Now Available in over 100 Countries (http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=97664&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1403551&highlight=), retrieved April 15, 2010.


  • Kindle -- battery life and other basic information

“Kindle”.  Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.   (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kindle)  Retrieved April 15, 2010.



Barnes & Noble.  Nook (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/nook/index.asp?cm_mmc=Redirect-_-nook.com-_-Storefront-_-nook).  Retrieved April 15, 2010.


  • Sony Reader -- battery life and other information

“Sony Reader”.  Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Reader)  Retrieved April 15, 2010.


  • Electronic Paper/e-Ink

“Electronic paper”.  Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_paper)  Retrieved April 15, 2010.


  • Alternative Method    

CourseSmart. (2010). Retrieved April 14, 2010, from http://www.coursesmart.com


  • Alternative Method

Follett Corporation Company . (2009). CafeScribe. Retrieved April 14, 2010, from http://www.cafescribe.com/home/


Image of Seal of NHSE retrieved April 20, 2010, from


Comments (2)

wikiuser0008 said

at 12:12 pm on May 2, 2010

As a group we have decided to do individual PAMs for this project.

wikiuser0005 said

at 7:05 pm on May 2, 2010


You don't have permission to comment on this page.