Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Case Study on E-Books for an English Class

An English professor I am working with on an online class asked if it would be possible for her students to use e-books, but she was worried about pagination. I did some research and thought it might be interesting to share a real situation on the blog.

I told her that if she is ok with the page number possibly being off by ~1 page when compared to print, the Kindle versions may work for her students with these specific books, if they are using an Kindle or tablet like an iPad with the Kindle app (I verified and it is possible to see page numbers on all Kindle devices). The funny thing is that Kindle books can be read on the computer, but computer version does not have page numbers or a search function! That makes no sense.

When Kindle books do give page numbers, they will indicate the ISBN of the paper book that the page numbers reference which seems to be really helpful. 

If the students have to be incredibly specific (paragraph 3 of page 89) or if the e-book page numbers need to be correlated with a very specific version of the print book, then the electronic version probably won't work. The issue is that people can change the font size on their personal readers. Since there may be multiple or partial paper pages on one electronic page, the page indicated electronically is the print page that matches the text at the top of the electronic page. So text at the bottom of the electronic page may actually be on the next page of the print version. 

Amazon Kindle:

Here is what I found on Amazon. Two are free and all give corresponding ISBNs for the print versions. She will just want to see if it matches the right ISBN of the print version she's using. There are other results too, so if it doesn't, those results can be examined. I just chose the free/least expensive ones to list here. The names go to Amazon's site. 

Emma is free! The kindle version has "real" page numbers based on ISBN 0307386848 (the print version of this ISBN [vintage classics] is $6.97 on Amazon). 

The Great Gatsby is $8.72 and the page numbers correlate with ISBN 4871878406 (the print version of this ISBN is $27.01 new or $16.31 used on Amazon – other ISBNs are less) 

Mrs Dalloway is $2.99 and the page numbers correlate with ISBN 024195679X (funny thing is that this ISBN is 99 cents used on Amazon – weird case that the paperback is less expensive, but it's sold from amazon vendors and not Amazon itself. Other ISBNs for this book are more expensive.) 

Jekyll and Hyde is also free. ISBN 145382717X (the print version of this ISBN is $6.85, but other ISBNs are as low as $1.50) 

Total e-books: $11.71
Total print versions of the ISBNs of the e-books: $41.82 (Gatsby makes it much higher - it's strange that this book is $27.01 - it would be about $10 less with a different ISBN if that's ok)

Barnes & Noble Nook: 

Barnes & Noble runs our university bookstore. On their website, specifically for UWEC, they offer both the paper and e-book versions when available. Here are the prices (it says "if available" after used, so there is no guarantee that's an option):

Emma: Used $12.50; New $16.65; e-book $3.99
The Great Gatsby: Used $11.25; New $15; e-book $8.25
Mrs. Dalloway: Used $9.75; New $13.00; e-book $3.00
Jekyll and Hyde: Used $5.95; New $7.95; e-book $7.55

Total e-books: $22.79
Total new paper: $52.60

I also looked on the general Nook website. I couldn't find the correlation of the e-book to the ISBN of the paper book easily like you can on Amazon's site, which is probably a big downfall of Nook. They had an ISBN-13 (not sure what that is) and a specific Barnes and Noble ID for some books. I emailed the bookstore manager to ensure the ISBNs of the paper and ebook versions are the same and will update this when I know. I also asked her if these books were available on the Nook device, or just in Nook Study, which is only available on the computer. I would find it a disadvantage if the books are only available on the computer, not on the Nook device. 

It is possible to find the page numbers on the Nook, but it is unclear what they are referring to. I assume that when/if they do correlate to a paper edition, there would be the same issue as Kindle - that they may be off by ~1 depending on the size the person chooses on their particular viewer. 

Overall, I'd recommend Kindle over Nook, at least in the case of these specific books due to price and because there were fewer complaints about the quality of the e-books on Amazon (some users said there were errors in Emma and Jekyll and Hyde and they'd recommend paying more for another version). 

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