Thursday, December 2, 2010

YSL5: E-book Futures

Several of us here in Vancouver are attending the latest YSL online international 12-day conference entitled E-Book Futures.  How timely! 

Allow me to preface my insights from the first presentation with the information that I have just finished my first e-book using a KOBO which I have learned is an e-ink tool, as opposed to an LCD reader like the iPad. 

Thanks to our District "Library-ann," I was able to access The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud (for my review in Shelfari, see sidebar feature of this blog), the elusive recent Giller-prize winner.  Elusive, you ask?  Yes.  Print copies of the book were initially hard to find due to a small but exquisite run with a boutique publishing company in the Maritimes.  And maybe, just maybe, there is an intention to give a push to the digital publishing possibilities.  My KOBO was delightfully small, light, easy to use and navigate with most functions in the single button, and convenient to drop into in my bag; I read the whole book without re-charging the battery; it wasn't so good in dim lighting as it has no backlight feature (this is a distinguishing feature of e-ink as opposed to LCD readers, I have learned) and it was a little disconcerting not to be able to judge readily how much of the book I had read by its heft or by the location of the bookmark!  But, that said, I am keen to try and compare it with other readers.

The opening presenter, Richard Siegersma of Jo-ard Advisory, explored the context, creation, and challenges of e-books.  He offered teacher-librarians the following advice: every TL should have a reader as an investment in the future.  As custodians of information dissemination, we need to be leading the way and finding new ways to add value for the educational community we serve.  He suggests we invest in the e-ink device for its size, price, and battery life; the iPad is costly when acquired solely for this purpose, it has nice apps, but it also has issues with Flash.  But fear not that these are the 8-track of the e-reading venture: the e-ink readers are cheap, and e-books are a trend, not a fad.

At the outset of his presentation, he had advanced his DD-squared approach for organizations, jobs, and lives, particularly relevant to facing up to change:  develop, diversify, discover, divest, he said.  One participant asked, Divest what, in school libraries?  Siegersma replied, Get rid of what isn't working, what isn't delivering value, or what is taking up space and isn't needed.  Every task in the school library needs to be evaluated in light of available technology and services.  We will need to make space in our minds and our work days -- let me add here, in our school library facilities and in our lives, as well. 

Asked about e-texts, Siegersma recommended we look at Flat World Knowledge as an example of what is possible; FWK offers free e-texts but you pay for the print or downloaded version.  We, of course, would always be concerned with Canadian content, with the reality that much of the teaching we find in our schools is still text- and test-driven, diminishing the opportunities for inquiry- or resource-based teaching, and with the reality of technology issues.  And I am reminded of the opportunity I had to do a pre-conference workshop at the Berkeley IASL Conference, summer 2008, with David Loertscher who told us that every child should have his or her own personalized iGoogle page as a way of organizing his or her learning tools.  Such an interface with learning and life would enable educators to select resources from amongst e-books, e-journals, free e-texts, digital databases, learning objects, CMS modules, and other current online sources, and to integrate creative, productivity, and other tools.  So that was Session 1 ... and there are many more to follow!

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