I'm interested in the future use of ebooks and ereader technology specifically for textbooks. I believe that textbooks are used differently than casual reading materials; the devices and software currently designed to accommodate casual reading may or may not work for textbooks or other learning-oriented media.
The technology that is used in commonly available readers is made by: http://www.eink.com/
The video linked here shows some of their future vision for textbooks. The company is running a program in Russian schools at this time.
I'll explore the pros and cons of this technology as it applies to textbooks over the next few weeks. Here is some information I've gathered so far.
From: Baker College. "E-book and e-reader guide." http://guides.baker.edu/ereaders
It's simple to carry dozens of books at once.
In some cases, books may cost less per title.
It is easy to search an entire book by word or phrase, and still have the option of using a Table of Contents or index.
Write notes or do highlighting without damaging the book.
Change the size of the text and, in some cases, choose a preferred font.
The universe of public domain books is rapidly becoming within reach of anyone with access to a device with an Internet connection; lots of 'free' options.
Academically-oriented eBook sites will often show proper citation format for multiple styles and work with such software as EndNote and Refworks.
Find yourself with time on your hands? (at a doctor's office, on line, etc.) Pull out a small device and access your personal library.
If you read a lot but don't necessarily want to keep all your books or have room for many books, the reader is a compact storage device or you can delete the books.
It can be difficult to print as much as you'd like to - and sometimes you're not allowed to print any pages at all, depending on your ebook format or simply restrictions from the publisher. Which could be a problem for non-fiction, reference, and textbooks.
If your battery dies, your book dies. eInk technology allows you to read much longer - but not forever.
Non-eInk ebook readers especially, can be hard on the eyes.
Plenty of books are simply not available in digital format.
For libraries buying ebooks, some titles are held hostage in expensive collections: a library sometimes can't buy one title for $100 - they must buy the 'collection' for $5,000. Can't afford the collection? You don't get the book.
How perishable are books made of bits? Answer: In some cases, Quite. Read your terms before buying an ebook if you want to own it forever. Even then changes in future access formats could create future headaches.
A book you want to buy may not be available in a file format that your e-reader can access.
E-books are hard to cite in academic papers as most do not have standard page numbers.