Monday, November 2, 2009

eBook Readers for Scholars

There's been a bunch of discussion about some forthcoming ebook readers on Wide Scope, here, here, and here. I would like to get one of these things; sometimes I worry that I might miss the actual books and stuff, but then I think about how much I don't miss the shelves full of CDs that were replaced by my ipod, and how much I don't miss carrying CDs around, and how nice it is not to have to plan ahead and anticipate what my listening desires will be (particularly if I am traveling), and I realize that this will not be a problem.

But (apart from being broke) the dealbreaker for me is the apparent inability to support annotations for scholarly content. The capability to make annotations and marginal notes is critical. I'd say about 60% of the value of reading something is that I create a record of having read it which I can then store in my archives for future reference. Subsequent read-throughs are guided and informed by this record, and my thinking about the issues takes off from this starting point--the thinking I have already done. Until there is an ereader that allows me to write in the e-margins of my e-journal articles, I will be forced to keep printing them out and doing it the old-fashioned way.

--Mr. Zero.


zombie said...

The only drawback to paper books, so far as I can see, is the weight. I don't like carrying them around. But I also don't like reading on a screen, and I NEED to annotate, highlight, and underline, so an e-book reader has limited appeal to me. But I'm a luddite holdout when it comes to books.
Plus, if I got rid of all my books, I'd have to actually decorate my walls.

praymont said...

Sony's released its next generation e-readers, and one of them allows for highlighting and annotations. Details at:

It uses e-ink, so there's no big problem with eye strain. The main drawback so far with e-readers is the lack of suitable e-texts, esp. in academic areas. Even when academic books are available in e-format, they generally have the same price as a hard copy (approx. $100). I've never tried using pdf's on my old Sony reader, but in theory it can be done; in practice, it seems difficult.

According to a June, '08 report, people at Berkeley and Maryland were working on this dual-display device, but I haven't heard more about it. Here's the report:

Anonymous said...

What about questia? It is limited regarding content, but I am pretty sure that it has the ability to annotate and highlight. It also lets you print (all be it for an extra fee if you want to print more than one page at a time). One thing that I really, really like about having electronic copies of things is the search capabilities. Having said all that, I like the (percieved?) security of owning paper books. Does anyone have a questia membership? Is it worth it?

Anonymous said...

It's probably going to be one of the most expensive on the block, but Plastic Logic's QUE reader is the one I'm waiting for. It'll handle ebooks, and, more importantly, PDFs. I like the idea of downloading a bunch of journal articles onto such a thing, rather than having to print them. Not sure if it'll support annotations, but it seems likely, given their business focus.