Food for thought

Two articles caught my eye during the past week.  I’d like to share them with you.

1.  An Australian school has dumped iPads and electronic media and returned to printed-page, physical textbooks for its students.

For the past five years, Reddam House’s primary and junior high school classes have used e-textbooks on iPads. But the consistent feedback from the students has been that they preferred pages to screens.

Teachers also found the iPads were distracting and did not contribute to students’ technology skills, prompting the school to announce that students should no longer use digital textbooks, and must revert to hard-copy versions instead.

“We hadn’t completely gone away from hard copy,” said principal Dave Pitcairn. “We kept year 11 and 12 hard copy. When [students] got to year 11, and now had the comparison between digital and hard copy, they preferred the hard copy.

“The ease of navigation through the textbook was easier with the hard copy. I believe they learn better the more faculties they use, the more senses they use in research and reading and making notes.”

“[Students] could have messages popping up and all sorts of other alerts,” said Mr Pitcairn. “Also, kids being kids, they could jump between screens quite easily, so would look awfully busy and not be busy at all.”

There’s more at the link.

I found it interesting that ease of navigation was better with paper books than with e-books.  I find that if I know a book well, flipping back and forth through pages and chapters is straightforward;  but if I’m new to it, it’s easier to use the search function of an e-reader to find something I’m looking for.  Perhaps that’s not necessarily true for textbooks (a genre I no longer use much, if at all).

2.  How to set up and use your Author Page on

Written Word Media has a useful guide on how to do this.  I’m always surprised to find how many promising independent authors on Amazon haven’t bothered to set up their author page, or don’t keep it up-to-date.  It can be your readers’ (and potential readers’) window onto your world, if it’s done right.

Putting yourself in a reader’s shoes makes it easy to see why a quality author page is vital. A page that gives the reader lots of information builds credibility. If a reader is on the fence about buying a book, they might click through to an author page to see if the author is “legit.” While this may not be the best way to determine the quality of a book, it’s the tool the reader has, so they use it. Read our guidelines below to see what information you can put on your page to build it out.

Again, more at the link.  Recommended reading.


17 thoughts on “Food for thought

  1. I have been looking at settling up an author page myself. Problem is that it appears to be only viewable on the .com version and not other countries. Which is a little annoying.

    1. I finally figured out to set one up separately on Amazon UK. Hmm. I suppose I should do it for Australia and Canada, too.

            1. They probably assumed that anything written in Canada would be “CanCon,” and therefore best left buried under a rock somewhere.

              To be fair, actual CanCon is better under a rock, so perhaps there’s some justification.

              Still bullshit though. How hard is it to change a URL from .com to .ca?

              1. Maybe it is still stuck in appeals to the assistant underminister for recreational safety issues after counter-petitioners raised concerns about animals and youth being frightened.

  2. As a reader one of the problems I have with author pages – other than the pseudo random order in which books are presented – is that an author apparently cannot link directly to their own website, though they can still include the URL as text. Another is that the pages can differ between Amazon stores (they presumably have to be set up and maintained separately). In your case your recent blog entries appear on the USA site – so given a link to your blog – but not on the UK one.

    I often want to go to an author’s own website as – if done properly anyway – it will list all their books by series (in series order of course) complete with purchase links, which for prolific writers actually make it easier to reach the book’s page on Amazon than searching through the author page. Mind you this only works properly for authors who remember that the USA is not the whole world and include the links for the individual Amazon kindle stores. As a UK resident I can report that assuming you only have US readers is a good way to piss off foreigners!

    A lot more can be include on the author page than the “about” text you give, though this will unfortunately and unnecessarily be hidden under a “read more” button. You might like to consider adding something like author Cynthia Wright who not only manages to give text versions of relevant URLs but to list all her books in series order. Mind you, this can be a lot of work to maintain across all the Kindle stores and I know that at one time when she re-titled a book she forgot to update the UK author page, so there are dangers in going this far.

  3. That first article isn’t surprising. I like using ebooks for fiction or polemical works, but when it comes to history and such paper is where it’s at.

    1. If the price difference is big enough, I’ll rent or buy the e-book of nonfiction, then get a hard copy if it is good enough. But if I really need the non-fiction for serious research and reference? Hard copy all the way.

    2. I got a free PDF textbook. It was annoying so I spent the $80 to get it printed and bound (~350 double-sided 8×11 sheets). Totally worth it.

  4. The Dragonette prefers paper to electronic books, and the constant use of a computer for all of her work means that her printing is tolerable and her handwriting in non-existent. Math homework is multiple choice, and the computer tells her right away if she made the wrong choice. That’s not learning, because if it isn’t the answer she thinks it is, then her next guess is just that – a guess.

    And we won’t mention that she still has to carry a binder and books every day, but now she gets to add in a heavy Chromebook. And since I don’t want to replace said Chromebook, she has a more expensive backpack with a padded section for her laptop.

  5. The e-books I used in college were different in functionality. I had one Structure book (something something Cambridge) that wasn’t easy to read but did have normal ebook functionalities and ability to select and view diagrams. Plus I still own it! It’s right there on my Kindle list.

    Other school books were borked so bad. At one point I was becoming very confused because nothing much made sense (may have been Chemistry) and then I realized that I’d set the thing (somehow) to view only one page instead of a two page spread and I ended up seeing only the odd numbered pages when I paged forward. It was all completely useless, hard to read, impossible to flip through. And I don’t own it. I paid for it and now it’s gone. True, not much of a loss, but still.

  6. For e-books, I find the e-paper screens (like my Kindle) to be much more inviting than a tablet or phone. OTOH, the Kindle screen is soooo small, but decent sized e-paper tablets (like the Onyx Boox Max 2) are sooo expensive….

    I’m not a power Kindle user, but I do find flipping around and exploring to be much easier with paper. There’s definitely room for UI improvements, but I’m still not sure how much. I also don’t do much searching on Kindle (I’m more likely to do that on a technical PDF, on a computer).

    Both formats have their pluses. Used paper technical books can be MUCH cheaper than e-books, and some highly recommended publishers (such as Manning) give you a free e-book when you buy the paper book. Also, if I’m reading technical e-books, I’m normally on a computer due to the decent screen size.

    OTOH, current e-books can be much more affordable. The Kindle works well for fiction, but I still like paper for my favorite books. Another plus for e-books: it’s impossible to do a subscription program (such as O’Reilly’s Safari or Packt’s MAP – or KULL for fiction, of course) or buy parts of a book (like Manning) with paper. Or give books away for free (like Packt does).

  7. When I went back to college about five years ago, I got stuck with several online versions of books. I love reading ebooks, but text books are a royal pain to work with. And to add insult to injury, the use of the books was finite. The hefty fee the student paid was essentially to rent the book for the semester. If you wanted to refer to it later on in your new career, tough tarantula. If I’m going to pay an outlandish amount of money for a textbook, I wish to have access to it forever.

  8. There are at least three workflows for textbooks.

    One is basic learning the subject. A text book might be laid out preface (why the big was written, and what it is for), a chapter covering the subject without math, math used chapters, basics of the subject with math, advanced math or applications. Physical can help because looking at a page gives you content per page, then you can look at chapter page counts to get an idea of how fast you might be moving. If it has a decent index, search may be less important. Physical can be a little more visceral. You’d need a format with a consistent page size, like PDF, and a reader that one understands at a very deep level to compete with that. If you are doing math, and are doing problems by hand, a physical book on the same table may be more convenient.

    Second is research. If you do research, you look for what you are after, and then take notes. If you have a lot of monitors set up nicely, you might be able to read and take notes without too much confusion and motion. Pen and paper do have some nice head motion qualities paired with a physical book, if you have enough table space.

    Third is reference. When you have learned where things are in the physical book, you don’t have to worry about viewer ‘upgrades’ leaving you confused.

    Reading a bunch of papers can be a lot more convenient in PDF. A bunch of textbooks? You need serious discipline to keep working on them, and going back over them, with the internet just there.

    Format is a tool, and you pick the one that works best for you.

    PDFs, depending on your library, might be more quickly accessible than physical copies. That can be important when trying to quickly dig into a new subject.

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