Purdue News

August 15, 2005

Expert: Read between the lines when learning how to use e-books

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Universities, libraries and schools are asking more people to use electronic books, and a Purdue University English expert offers a few tips to help users get a read on this technology.

"Even though more people are using electronic books for school and pleasure, understanding this new technology can be a struggle," says David Blakesley, associate professor of English and director of Purdue's professional writing program.

Electronic books, known as e-books, are growing in popularity on college campuses, in school districts and at public libraries because they cost less – up to 40 percent to 60 percent less – than print books. Blakesley, who is founder and publisher of Parlor Press LLC, says e-books are cheaper to produce, store and distribute.

"E-books are not only becoming popular because of their affordability, but they also are a great resource," says Blakesley, who assigns e-books in his professional writing courses. "I often hear people, including my students, say they just can't get past holding a book, but using an e-book is like reading e-mail or visiting a Web site, but better. This digital format offers so many advantages."

For example, e-books offer electronic search functions, highlighting options, the ability to write in margins, collect notes and even virtually turn the corner of a page to mark it. Some software also allows the reader to play video or sound in the book or link to relevant Web sites elsewhere.

Blakesley recommends the following tips to novice e-book readers:

  • Make sure your computer has the most recent version of software needed to read the e-book. Most software is available free.

  • Contact the publisher if there is a glitch with the e-book – to ask for help or a new book.

  • Make time to get to know the book before needing to use it for class or starting the story. Scan the tools and look for the glossary, indexes, multimedia content and other interactive features. Blakesley recommends spending 30 minutes with an e- textbook before reading the first assignment.

  • Take advantage of free book samples provided online by companies such as NightKitchen or Parlor Press.

    "E-books are here to stay," Blakesley says. "They are easy to update, and that is critical in fields such as computer science, engineering, government relations and medicine where information is changing rapidly."

    Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, (765) 494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

    Source: David Blakesley, (765) 494-3772, blakesle@purdue.edu

    Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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