Friday, March 18, 2011

Are E-books a good fit for profs, scholars and other researchers?

The research that I've seen suggests that serious readers like e-books for skimming lots of information quickly but prefer p-books when it comes to deep reading. Over at the Chronicle of Higher Ed, the popular columnist the ProfHacker proposes a list of reasons that scholars might prefer e-books over their paper counterpart.

  • To quickly locate passages in books (using Google Books). Sometimes I can’t find a passage in the print version that I own, and can quickly find the passage using the search feature in Google Books. Sometimes I just need part of a book, and the available preview has what I need.
  • For marking up text, much as I would with a traditional book that I own. With some ereaders, it’s possible to annotate and highlight text, then transfer those annotations and highlights to a computer.
  • To gain quick access to a book that I don’t need to own permanently, but that isn’t available at my library—especially if I need it sooner than interlibrary loan could get it to me. (The University of Chicago Press’s digital options make this possible. Purchasing temporary access to a book would add up quickly if done frequently, but for occasional use it could be quite convenient.)
  • To sample a book to see whether it’s worth buying or trying to acquire through interlibrary loan, if my own library doesn’t have it. (Some ebook sellers make book samples available; those samples typically include the table of contents and the first chapter, which is often enough to get a good sense of whether the book’s worth the time and effort.)

What do you think? Do you prefer e-books to p-books? Some combination of the two and if so, under what circumstances do you grab an e-book rather than a p-book (and vice versa)?

Be sure to also check out the always interesting reader comments here.


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