Saturday, November 19, 2011
The E-reader of our choice
I was of the belief that the school did not need to supply e-readers for our students use as we are a 1:1 laptop school with most of our students having a smart phone of one variety or other, and many having their own e-readers at home. But, I changed my mind after listening to a web cast with Buffy Hamiliton and researched into e-readers and what would meet our specifications if we were to purchase some.
The specifications were that the model had to :
1. be compatible with the Wheeler ebook loaning service (see this previous post)
2. have flexibility to purchase from multiple places (I really don't like the e-reader tied to one bookstore model)
3. have flexibility to host different formats - EPUB, PDF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, MOBI, CBZ, CBR until everything shuffles down to a standard.
4. to look good with ease of use preferably with a touch screen and minimal buttons, light.
5. be of a reasonable cost
5. a bonus would be speech to text, and wifi capabilities.
I have always liked the Kobo, and was leaning that way as it seemed to cover all the above criteria except touch screen and text to voice, but then the Kobo touch was released and I had to look more closely.
This table (put out by kobo) outlines quite neatly what all the popular e-readers offer in terms of capabilities.
And I liked what I saw - especially with regard to the multiple formats and the touch screen. It did not have speech to text.
I put the submission in my budget last year, it was seen as a step forward and approved. In the middle of all this a 'special' came up on Groupon where the school could purchase a Ben-q e-reader, with a digital camera for the same price as one Kobo. Ben-Q is a Taiwanese brand. Energy was diverted to purchase of this machine by others, I was a bit sceptical that it would meet the criteria specified, but was assured that it would.
It didn't and we had 10 of them. Its limitations were that the Wheelers platform was not compatible, it was very securely tied to a Taiwanese Bookstore or Google books through the wifi capability. It was slow to turn pages. It did however have the capability to take an SD card or USD flashdrive, and ignores DRM coding. I was sad.
The IT director saw my sadness and made amends by ordering the original choice - 10 Kobo's. We decided on the black colour to start with to reduce cleaning issues. With the purchase came coupons to buy from the Kobo store. We were still playing with the free trial of the Wheelers platform, so when the Kobos came in we tested that function - it couldn't do it from the device itself, however it is in the works to be functional from the Wheelers end. It was very easy to lend from the laptop and transfer the files across. One criteria met.
I discovered and downloaded Calibre - wow! This is an open source platform to manage your e-books - sort of like itunes for your books. So many functions I cannot tell you them all - just go and check it out. We will be using this platform to manage any purchases we make that will not be loaded onto the Wheelers platform for the interim before they are loaded. (The uploads are done in batches). Calibre is also excellent for easily seeing what is on each device.
After exploring Calibre and exploring its functionality, I went to the Kobo store to spend some our coupons. Each Kobo device needs to be registered to an email address, initially I had 10 different gmail addresses for 10 kobo's, but this was not going to be easily managed. I then registered 5 under one address and 5 under another after Kobo said it would be no problem. I was then able to to purchase books using either the Kobo website or the Kobo Desktop application.
Buying through the website meant I could put it into Calibre immediately and then place it on the device from there. Going through the Kobo Desktop application means that I sync the device as soon as it is plugged it with ALL the books in my Kobo library. Under the one email address I can sync 5 Kobo's with the same books. Did I want this?
I spent a few days just messing with both the e-readers, Calibre, Kobo and Wheelers to see what we could do with each device and the results were pretty good. I am not going to go into all the possibilities here, but I was happy with both readers for different reasons.
Some of the students really wanted a few books that were delayed in getting to us so I spent some of our coupons on the Steve Jobs Biography, Dead until Dawn (Sookie Stackhouse), and Son of Neptune then targeted those students to be be the testers for the Kobo's and the Ben Q readers. So far the feedback has been positive. (I have hogged one of the Kobo's to read Jobs biography and love the e-reader experience!)
We have not yet launched the full service of e-readers to the students with regard to management and circulation, we are still working on the best fit for us and the students. But I do see that we will need more e-readers in the not too distant future.