The session on Ebooks–Finally Gaining Traction was standing room only Thursday morning, as Robin Hunt, research fellow at CIBER at the University College London, led with his rapid-fire talk and slide show to the packed audience about the "death of print" and the emergence of ebooks.
"The ebook," he says, "is the elephant in the room" and considers this time of big transitions as "an exciting time to be in publishing."
On the optimistic side, he cited Bob Stein’s collaborative project called The Golden Notebook (http://chronicle.com/wiredcampus/article/3444/a-virtual-group-read-of-the-golden-notebook). Stein, co-director of if:book in London (a self-proclaimed "think-and-do tank") coordinated "a virtual group read" with seven women (all creative writers and critics) in early November of Doris Lessing’s 1962 novel, The Golden Notebook. It may sound like an ordinary book club, but this time, the reading group annotated and commented on the novel online. Hunt sees this venture as a testimony to the way ebooks can build communities and build trust around a digital product. "The ebook," he says, "will make knowledge and writing instantaneous."
Lorraine Estelle, CEO of JISC, provided an update on the organization’s National Ebook Observatory project on ebooks. So far, the study has shown that more than 61% of students have read an ebook, but only 47.2% of those had accessed the ebook through a library. Although the study is ongoing, the fact remains that this collaborative research have demonstrated how librarians nationwide can gather together behind a single idea and form a unified front. The results point to the need for more education about ebooks and more access to ebooks in libraries, especially for students who need textbooks for classes.
Then, Henri Stiller provided insight into the PORTIAAL project, designed to follow the participation of a group using an ebook bunch (a set of ebooks related to a specific topic). This new publishing paradigm, he says, will change the way information is managed and circulated.
During the Q&A at the end of the session, Hunt says he sees the necessity of ebooks reaching "the tipping point," which is likely to be through the use of ebook readers. In order to achieve such a tipping point, the ebook reader has to offer a "pleasant reading experience" in a digital way. He’s also been wondering why people haven’t been touting ebooks as "an environmentally wonderful thing," saving a few trees one ebook at a time.
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