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Would You Want a Digital Textbook?

Categories Theology

Sony-prs505 Back in February '09 we gave away two Sony Readers. The winners were chosen at random from a drawing collected at the ETS and SBL annual meetings last November.

In addition to the Sony Readers, the winners received free copies of Scot McKnight's The Blue Parakeet, Bill Hybels' Axiom, Larry Osborne's Sticky Church and the complete text of the TNIV Bible. After our winners had the Reader for some time I sent them a list of questions with the hopes that the Zondervan Academic team could gain some insight as to what readers want in regards to digital, academic books.

I've posted my interview with one of our winners, Dr. Robert Hewell of Ouachita Baptist University. After you've read it, I encourage you to post an answer to this question:

In regards to academic ebooks what would you like to see Zondervan Academic doing?

Should we: Create a large library of our backlist? Push for full-color, photo-friendly formats (e-readers cannot handle our full-color textbooks yet)? Ignore them because textbooks should be "real books"?

What are your thoughts...?

Here's the interview:

- Andrew, for the Z Academic team

1) How much did you read digitally before receiving your Sony reader? (Include blogs, e-journals, newsletters, books, anything that you could read in print but choose to read electronically.)

I typically spend 2-4 hours per week reading various digital resources.

2) What have you read on your Sony Reader?

TNIV Bible, "The Blue Parakeet" by McKnight, "Render Unto Caesar" by Bryan, and a few PDFs downloaded from the internet.

3) Has your digital reading increased because you have the Sony Reader?

Yes, but not a significant amount-some weeks up to one hour more, some weeks not at all.

4) Has digital reading changed your opinion of books? If so, how?

Not necessarily.

5) What materials would you like to see available as digital content? Why?

I was able to find a decent variety of resources on the Zondervan website and on the Sony eBook Library site. The idea of having a book like Grudem's "Systematic Theology" available digitally in such a small package (the Reader) is intriguing.

6) Do you see digital readers as the up-and-coming replacement for people's print libraries?

"Replacement" might be too strong a word. "Supplement" might be better. The ability to take several books in the Reader format on a trip is certainly appealing, though.

7) In regards to Christian academic books, do you prefer digital reading or print reading? Why?

At this point, on the whole, I prefer print reading in this category. The bookmark feature in the Reader is helpful for remembering specific passages in the text. I tend to mark and highlight ideas and statements in books I study closely, so print is more helpful to me.

8) What do you think Zondervan should do in regards to releasing books digitally?

My initial expectation was that a book in digital format might be less expensive than the comparable volume in print; in some instances that was true, but the price difference was not significant. The exception would be purchasing a used book through a site like Amazon. I don't have a clue how Zondervan might deal with that issue.

Zondervan might also consider doing book bundles in digital format-allow Reader users to choose a set of books by a particular author, on a particular topic, or even random selections.

It seems to me that for digital reading with a product like Reader to make a dent in the print market, a larger library of available books would be needed. I found myself looking for digitally-formatted books I would be willing to purchase since I found very few books on my "hot" list of books I'm committed to having.

While fraught with its own set of challenges, a series of books available in digital only format might create some interest in purchasing a Reader just to have access to those particular books.

 What are your thoughts about eBooks? Would you want a digital textbook?

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