International Forum of Educational Technology & Society
Formal Discussion Initiation
The E-book vs the Ordinary Book
(Participation in the discussion requires free membership of the forum.)
Discussion: 11-20 August 2003
Summing-up: 21-22 August 2003
Tel Aviv, Israel
The fast progress in information technology brings us to the
point where we should analyse the position of a commercially printed paper
book in the near future. One may state unequivocally that the printed book
created by Gutenberg (1398-1468) has finished its role as a carrier of ideas
and now it has no future, just as it was with the wonderfully illuminated incunables
written by monks in the monasteries. The revolution brought by the computer
surpasses by far that introduced by the invention of printing.
As is known to everybody a book consists of subject matter
and its physical basis – printing paper, imposed type and cover. The computer
may affect, to some extent, the subject matter of a book, but will never replace
the essence of the book and nobody is considering “replacing the book by a
computer” - but it is clear that replacing the existing form of the book by
an electronic book is inevitable and will occur very soon. Some of the obvious
advantages of the e-book are recapitulated in the following:
- The ordinary printed book is produced in a large number
of copies. This calls for a large initial investment, for providing storage
and accounting for the remaining stock, while an E-book is produced in
the exact quantities requested by the market.
- The distribution of an e-book is practically free of charge,
and its delivery is immediate - by electronic mail.
- The e-book may be updated as often as it is necessary while
an ordinary printed book becomes obsolete, sometimes very fast.
- The e-book may utilize any type of font in whatever size,
and may use an electronic magnifying glass that shows the relevant part of
text with any requested magnification.
- The e-book may be downloaded on a floppy disk, CD or any
other storage device that occupies much less space and weights much less
than a printed book. All encyclopaedias and many other reference materials
printed in form of e-book.
- The author’s honorary may be paid after selling every
buyer of an e-book may print it at home in any format. He may print only
the interesting chapters or parts of the book, and may share the book with an unlimited number of friends.
author of an e-book sees it published immediately after the book has been
finished and corrected.
e-book may be translated into several languages immediately and free of charge.
these features may contribute to a substantial increase of the number of
may reasonably expect that in course of the next 3 to 5 years storage devices
with memory of some 50 to 75 Gb will appear, enabling users to store a whole
library containing several thousand books on a single disk. Thus every child
may be supplied with all the masterpieces of world literature on a single
e-book may contain large number of illustrations, photos and diagrams without
increasing its weight or volume.
e-book may be read by voice, as well as contain clips of music or poetry.
is no delay between writing an e-book and its publishing worldwide.
- The “transportation” of
an e-book does not call for packing and handling.
e-book may be printed on some kind of durable medium which may survive hundreds
of years, even under adverse climatic conditions.
a search for specific passages or for certain information in an e-book is
decisively easier than in a commercially printed book.
fate of an old book is, in most cases, regretfully - that it gathers dust
on the shelf until somebody will dare to throw it away. Most people don't
have enough time to read new stuff, let alone the old one. In the case of
an e-book the problem does not exist, since it occupies a miniscule space
on the storage medium and may be deleted by one click without ecological
e-book provides access to most of the museums and thus may contribute to
the dissemination of art and sciences among the population. The existing
catalogues of most museums are heavy and costly while the quality of pictures
is, in general, far below what a good modern monitor may provide.
using computer graphics, sound and animation teaching kids read and write
may be performed more effectively than by using old printed books only (in
Poland the book teaching read and write – Elementarz Falskiego- was in use
for almost hundred years).
learning creates lasting interest in learning, while oral teaching associated
with commercially printed books is deadly boring. Many teachers feel that
things learned from computer stay etched in the mind for a long time if not
forever, while knowledge gathered from old handbooks evaporates very fast.
allow an extra dimension in education (of adults and children) and call for
a complete change of philosophy and teaching methods. Such a change may take
place only by the replacement of the entire structure of education
by another one, fully computer-based.
Introduction of computers in primary schools helps to introduce this form
of media earlier in life, and there is no doubt that this is the most valuable
aid in further education.
is no place for a distinction between e-books and commercially printed books
since we can place books online and download their contents in minutes. Books
and computers are made for each other and serve each other’s purposes. But
where computers are really going to shine is in conjunction with the Internet
in online courses of education.
e-book provides easy links to similar articles while commercially printed
material besides indicating (in the best case) the existence of relevant
material - does not assist in getting it.
e-book can offer interactivity that engages the student. The e-book and the
computer have the potential of analysing the students learning pattern and
optimise the learning process. Frequently the computer (especially the Internet
with its hypertext links) allows the user to find information without effort.
All this proves that the e-book has the potential of surpassing (rather than
encompassing) commercially printed books.
intelligent, high quality courseware allows to tailor lessons individually
for each child – nothing similar can be provided by a commercially printed
picture is worth thousand words – the number of illustrations in an e-book
is practically unlimited and the cost of their insertion is miniscule.
e-book provides an opportunity for a personal contact with its author.
e-book provides all the means for supervising the child's activities and
reactions, as well as his interests and this way the learner can benefit
from the absorbed material.
multimedia material stimulates the child’s intellect more than anything else. It
induces further reading or watching, and may serve as the most powerful source
of knowledge about the world and about people. The wealth of information
provided by the e-book cannot be compared with that supplied by ordinary
e-book stimulates the development of artistic talents of children, especially
in the field of graphic art, drama, choreography, architecture,
literature and music.
reduction of the price of printers (a very good printer produced by HP costs
below $40), together with reduction of the price of ink cartridges enables
inexpensive printing of large blocks of downloaded materials, including e-books.
material can be bound together and the result will not differ from a book
produced by a professional book publisher at a much lower price.
case of an e-book the attention of the child is concentrated on the text
and the accompanying graphics while the dreadfully boring character of the
paper book causes that the child is constantly distracted. A well developed,
attractive courseware, prepared by team of outstanding pedagogues will undoubtedly
raise standards among all learners, including primary school children.
on the experience of the last 45 years there is no doubt that the next decade
will bring processors that are, at least, ten times faster and hard drives
that are at least ten times bigger, with all the possibilities arising from
such a developmen in the education process. Enormous R&D budgets and
thousands of talented scientists/engineers dealing with the subject guarantee
that such a development is highly probable.
well researched information is presented on the screen of TV or computer,
because it attracts viewers and raises rating, while a paper book rarely
contains information that is given away for nothing. Besides, in most cases
this information is worthless, obsolete or outdated.
the paper book goes hand in hand with headaches, eye strain and mobility
problems because of the font of small size, unsuitable for people above 50,
poor paper and the bleak printing ink (you see the font from the other side
of the page), while the computer enables to get a font of any size by using
the inherent features of the computer and, in addition, has the wonderful ”electronic
magnifier glass” feature that enables reading of every text even by people
with very weak sight, without strain.
using computers in an interactive way the horizons are virtually limitless.
Of course we need to completely rethink teaching methods and to redefine
the role of the teacher, if any.
we accept the idea that it is the subject matter that counts, not
the decorative effect, then the e-book has all the advantages – a decisively
lower price, immediate delivery, easy transportation in case of relocation,
no load on the floor, no fire hazard, fast access to needed information,
a possibility of sharing with friends, easy disposal of outdated books and
course such issues as the cost of a computer, portability and reliability
will have to be resolved – these problems do not seem unsurmountable – before
e-books will finally replace ordinary books and mediocre teachers
as the main tool for education.
e-book may be discussed with a group of frriends scattered over the globe
while discussion of an ordinary book calls for the gathering of participants
in one place or arranging a costly teleconference.
failure of introducing of e-books and computers into the educational process
so far results from the limited courseware development budget, from the lack
of knowledge of most educators how to fully utilise computers, and last but
not least, from the fear that computer will partially or fully replace mediocre
ordinary book may be destroyed by fire or water and nobody keeps a back-up
for books. However, an e-book may be stored on a CD-ROM less than 1mm thick
and one may easily have a back-up that will cost a few cents and be kept
in a safe place.
delivery of ordinary book lasts several days and the cost of delivery is
very substantial (comparable with the cost of the book itself) while an e-book
is delivered in minutes and it costs practically nothing.
books are often large and heavy - e-books in hundreds may be loaded on a
e-book enables to get explanations, interpretations, and bibliographical
data. It may contain a Thesaurus of words and phrases and thus assure better
understanding of the subject matter.
the e-book together with distance learning may satisfy the growing number
of learners that for the age span 14 to 17 exceeds 950 per thousand and the
people in their thirties and forties that encounter new methods, new machines,
new materials and new techniques.
a transition to e-book enables the utilization of the constructivist learning
theory that is the leading learning theory today.
e-book may prepare the learner to learn independently, without a teacher – in
a real situation. The e-book may provide the learner with all the knowledge
that is requested for understanding the new material. Only an e-book may
contain the answers to all possible questions of the learner and may provide
all the information that may be necessary for understanding the new material
so that the presence of the teacher/lecturer should be redundant.
Scheidlinger, Z. (1999). Education calls for a new philosophy. Educational
Technology & Society, 2 (3), 119-122.
Zygmunt Scheidlinger is based in Tel Aviv, Israel.
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