A Note from the Publisher Concerning eBooks
While it seems at first thought that eBooks are everywhere and every publisher should provide their books in that form, that is a bit deceptive. EBooks are certainly with us in the form of Kindle books, as well as in forms for many other readers, including the Nook and the iPad. But eBooks really come in two flavors. One are books that “reflow” text, and that is the form that most eReaders use. You can tell because the text column changes as the size of the screen changes. The other are pdf files that are essentially static pictures of a book page: you can resize the page to fit on your screen, or zoom in to see particular text or images, but the page doesn’t change.
The problem with the first flavor is that, however useful it is for long columns of pure text as one might find in a novel, it is very difficult to control the flow and the design elements in text that comes in more complicated forms. Shakespeare texts are good examples. The play text itself has lines and numbers, and of course there are issues with footnotes and how they appear (Kindle cannot put them on the same page as the text—something I find indispensable in a book). Further, the digital book reflows and pages change, so if a student is using the digital version of Hamlet, it is difficult to refer to a page number. Those problems are magnified in more complex books such as a second year French textbook.
Flat pdf files alleviate some of those problems, but frequently create their own difficulties. The page for a larger format book (think 8.5 x 11) shrink down on a smaller reader such as a Nook to be almost unreadable. Often to access the text the reader has to scroll the page back and forth to view the entire text column.
For the moment the NookStudy app strikes us as the best available and most useful for textbooks and college level study. It works on a free reader for the PC or Mac downloadable from Barnes and Noble. It preserves the page layout and all the dynamics that go into the design of a page such as footnotes and illustrations. It allows footnotes and line numbers, too. And it provides some alternatives such as highlighting and note taking in the book file, mimicking those features of the printed book, while adding features such as a hyperlinked table of contents. For our authors, the files likewise seem secure. And for instructors the books layout is exactly like the printed version so students will actually have a choice among formats.
As ebooks evolve, of course, we will expand our ebook offerings as we see the optimum way to convey knowledge through words, reading, and media.