E-readers to Replace Textbooks in the Classroom? Study Says...Maybe...

James Harker
March 17, 2010
Photo of the Sony e-Reader next to a pile of books.

Trina Marmarelli and Martin Ringle have recently reported results of a study at Reed College in which students used an eReader (a Kindle DX) rather than traditional textbooks for certain classes. Among the goals of the study were to identify the impacts on teaching and learning and to assess the prospect of widespread use of eReaders in the educational context.

On the plus side, the study found significant cost savings or potential cost savings. However, certain problems arose. The study reports that pointing out textual evidence and locating passages were difficult. The researchers report the the device "did not facilitate either of these needs because of the difficulty of navigating from one point in a text to another."

Another significant problem was that in the classroom context, it is very common to go back and forth between texts.  But, students in the study found " it was virtually impossible to navigate smoothly between multiple texts." Unfortunately, "students reported that their class conversations were more superficial and less supported by texts than was normally the case." One faculty member even concluded, "students' comprehension of the reading materials suffered from use" of the eReader. 

Despite all of these problems, many found plenty of potential in the format. The researchers report "there was considerable optimism that future eReaders would be able to overcome this problem and might actually help to increase comprehension."

As the functionality of eReaders develops, some of these problems may be diminished. But what do you think?  Are you ready to trade a bag full of books for a slim reader?  What would it take to tip the balance?

To download the study, click here.