A professor at the Catholic University of America has been testing a new e-book reader that hasn’t yet hit store shelves but that is designed with textbooks in mind.
The device, called the eDGe e-reader, has two screens, hinged to open like a book. The screen on the left uses the same screen technology as the Kindle or other recent e-book readers — it can display only in black and white, but it is easier on the eyes than a traditional monitor. But because traditional monitors still have important advantages — like the ability to display color and play video clips — the screen on the right uses that conventional technology.
The eDGe is one of many gadgets being unveiled this week at the Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas. It joins the increasingly crowded new category of e-book reader: Amazon has the Kindle. Sony sells the Reader. Barnes & Noble recently unveiled the Nook. Plus several other companies are scheduled to release similar machines in the next few months. Many college officials are watching the changing landscape to see which of these gadgets, if any, might lure students away from their printed textbooks.
When Robert A. Destro, a professor of law at Catholic University, heard about the eDGe, he wanted to try it in his courses. So he convinced the company, called enTourage, to loan him about 20 prototypes to loan to students (it helped that the company’s headquarters are located near the university).
Mr. Destro said students generally liked the device — at least, those who were willing to take the time to try it out. As with many of these new devices, there’s a learning curve to operating it. The touch-screen requires a stylus, and students have to learn how to navigate its menus to open books and take notes — functions that most readers take for granted with printed books.
But Mr. Destro also learned about the challenges of trying to experiment with some of the newest e-book readers. The publisher of the textbook he used last semester did not offer a digital copy, so he could not run the experiement as he had originally hoped. He loaned the devices to students who used them in some other courses where digital copies of textbooks were available.
For an e-book reader to take off in the textbook market, a standard will need to emerge, so that digital formats do not feel like extra homework for professors and students.