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Team 2 Draft

Page history last edited by wikiuser0001 14 years, 3 months ago



Traditional printing technology presents several issues for sustainability.  First and foremost, the use of wood as raw material for paper depletes forests and harms their ecosystems.  Chemicals involved in making resilient and high-quality inks, paper, bindings, and other materials are released into the environment in the manufacturing and waste disposal processes.  These ill effects are compounded by the inefficiencies of any industrial process as well as the waste resulting from mismatch between the number of copies produced and actual market demand.


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, and allowing perfect synchronization of demand with supply.


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. We will review the possibilities of using “eTextbooks” and the questions of cost, environmental impact, and preferences of students and faculty.


BODY (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 600x800 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 we came across two websites that have access to thousands of e-textbooks. 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. They also have some drawbacks like everything else. Following is a breakdown of both of the websites.


Method 1:http://www.coursesmart.com 


Course Smart is an interactive website set up for use by faculty, staff and students of a University. This website contains more than 6,000 books in various subjects and that can be accessed anywhere the registered user has access to the internet. For the convience of its users Course Smart has an iphone application that can be downloaded. Further, we checked into books that are currently being used at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Following are two examples of books being used: (1) Technical Communication, 9th Edition by Markel, Mike and (2) Understanding Human Behavior and the Social Environment, 8th Edition by Zastrow; Kirst-Ashman by class, at this university.


Next, we looked into the different features of this website. Course Smart allows students to check out a book for up to seven days before purchasing on most if not all of its e-textbooks though this is sometimes limited due to publishers concerns. There is also a highlighting feature that goes along with the note taking section that is provided. This feature is easy to use and is accessed by using the tool bar. Notes can be shared with other students in the class and mailing features are also available. Another great feature is the book shelf were all of your books can be viewed and accessed. It is all kept in the students personal account. Books can also be accessed for 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, we looked at the cost of Course Smart. For access to the website there is no cost. A student just has to register which is easy. It is just a matter of entering your name, email, the University you are attending, agreeing to their terms and hitting accept. The e-textbooks are discounted up to 50% of normal textbook costs. This saves the student a lot of money and it could also save the University money. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas is also already listed with this website making this a viable alternative to regular textbooks.


Method 2:   http://www.cafescribe.com/home/


Cafe Scribe is the second website we found were university students can access e-textbooks in a single location. It has features for both students and faculty along with access to about the same number of textbooks. Cafe Scribe however has one drawback in the way it can be accessed. Where Course Smart can be accessed anywhere a person has internet, Cafe Scribe can only be access when the user downloads MyScribe from their website. Further, MyScribe can only by downloaded on three computers and accessed from those three computers. This restriction can be difficult for students as students may need to be able to access their e-textbooks at school, work, home, etc. This could mean that they need to be able to access it from more than three computers as at school you are not guaranteed the same computer each time, and at work or home you may have more than 1 or 2 computers. The search for textbooks used by UNLV was the same. This website seems to have access to the same e-textbooks including the two that are previously listed for Course Smart.


Cafe Scribe has the same features as Course Smart. The highlighting feature works much the same way. It also has a note taking sections and allows the user to copy/paste and print different things that are needed, The is website also has the same interactive features that students can connect with each other and works pretty much the same way. Sharing different items can also  be done along with a section that all students can access for answers that other students have found within the texts. Cafe Scribe goes by the same rule of being able to only copy/paste and print up to 30% of the e-textbooks. This is done by the publishers themselves due to copy right laws.


Finally, Cafe Scribe is free to register, and requires the same information as Course Smart. When registration is done then the user can download MyScribe to be able to use the website freely. E-textbooks here are also up to 50% discounted and available immediately upon approval of payment. This also saves the student, faculty and the University money making it a viable alternative to regular 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 -- battery life and other information.

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.


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


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

Comments (3)

julie.staggers@unlv.edu said

at 6:22 pm on Apr 20, 2010


It looks like you're doing a comparison of electronic alternatives to paper-based texts for UNLV, that is fine, but you're going to need some careful structuring.

First, I still see no specific reader or group of readers for this report, which is a problem I've been point out from the original proposal of this topic. You have to have a client in mind who has an interest in this project. No real world reports are ever written because somebody sitting in a cubicle somewhere thought "I'm gonna write a report. Just for the hell of it." (Although, what a beautiful world it would be.) You have a couple of logical potential targets here: 1) If you're going for a straight sustainability angle (making an argument that in some way e-texts are more environmentally friendly than paper-texts) I encourage, again, to go to the website for the UNLV Urban Sustainability Initiative and target this report to them. If you're looking at things from the pov of economic sustainability, then you might think about the Board of Regents and whichever unit on campus is charged with making decisions about educational technology, who would probably secure their safety in the next round of educational budget cuts if they came up with a way to transfer costs to students and save the university a few mil. Stopping here for a moment.
Following your introduction, you need a Background or Statement of the Problem section in which you clearly articulate the problem that you are solving, which could be economic sustainability (cost of books to students) or environmental sustainability (cost of paper books to environment). See my similar comment for Team 1. For whom are paper-based texts a problem? What is the nature of the problem,specifically?

julie.staggers@unlv.edu said

at 6:36 pm on Apr 20, 2010

Okay I lied. I had a paragraph about statement of the problem after I tried to break. Sorry about that. At any rate, by the time your reader has finished your Background section it should be crystal clear what the problem is, why it's a problem, who it's a problem for, and what their stake is in solving the problem, or what their role in solving the problem will be. Your 2nd paragraph in the introduction looks like it might be driving at your statement of the problem; you can take the ideas from that paragraph down into your background section and flesh them out with concrete specific detail. I am not looking for blather about "saving precious resources in our busy modern world of today." I am looking for "the textbook industry generates X amounts of Y types of toxic waste, consumes X acres of trees, and wastes Z numbers of books annually."

Just noticed your sources. Wikipedia is NOT a more definitive source of product features for the Kindle than say Amazon's Kindle home page would be. I've been to Wikipedia about eight times today, trying to get a handle on Wittgenstein's theory of logical positivism. Wikipedia is a fan-freaking-tastic way to get an overview or introduction to some wanky theoretical concept. Will I be citing Wikipedia's Wittgenstein article in the book I'm getting ready to send to a publisher? No. Should you turn this thing in for a grade with any references to Wikipedia? NO. Right now, this is looking a lot like you have done zero actual local research. There are a number of classes at UNLV that use self-published textbooks, some of which are online. Other classes, including this one, are using electronic textbooks already. You might want to tap the folks at the bookstore to get the skinny on that.

julie.staggers@unlv.edu said

at 6:55 pm on Apr 20, 2010

Given the type of report you guys are writing, it makes the most sense to order it as follows: Introduction, Background, Methods and Findings, Recommendation, Conclusion.

In your Method section, you not only have to explain what research you did and why that was the best/most necessary research to be done, you also have to spell out your criteria for selecting an effective solution to the problem. I think you might actually already have some criteria embedded here. If I were going to map your argument, I'd say that you've identified paper textbooks as the problem and you are evaluating two potential sets of solutions to the problem: e-readers and e-texts. Your criteria for selecting an alternative to paper texts are 1) cost -- cost of the solution must be less than cost of the status quo (I'm not clear whether your cost focus is on cost to students, cost to environment, or cost to university) and 2) technical suitability -- you have criteria spelled out for the e-readers; you need to think about criteria for the e-books, some of which may be the same, some may be different.

For you guys, discuss your methods (We did X type of primary research to find out Y type of info for Z reasons -- reasons you did a survey instead of a focus group for example), do a more detailed paragraph on costs/benefits of current textbook situation at UNLV, then set up your competing alternatives. We looked at E-readers and here's what we found. We looked at E-texts and here's what we found. That's where your relevant research goes.

Once you've laid out your data, come in for the kill with the recommendations. Remember you have to make specific recommendations to a specific party. You can recommend that the Urban Sustainability Initiative take up this cause and adopt x-plan of action. Lots of other schools are already doing the things you're addressing here. Whatever you are recommending should be supported by research and sourced. This has to be specific and concrete.

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