Friday, 29 July 2011

Paper is so 20th Century

@banana29 is currently taking her Master's degree. We're already 500 sheets of paper and a lot of toner and electricity into printouts. All of that paper immediately becomes less accessible once she's read it and made notes on it; it disappears into a stack of unsearchable ideas. Obviously not ideal for keeping your ideas accessible and developing them. Paper is so 20th Century.

The master's course is online, but the text book isn't available electronically. Does this strike you as inconsistent? Why would this university make a course available online and then not offer the text digitally? Money!

I'd love to move her to a digital format, where her content creation and her content consumption is entirely electronic, but text book publishers won't release their content digitally because they can only respect the money they've put into paper publication and refuse to see the digital wave happening all around them. Very similar to what music companies did a decade ago, and we all know how that turned out. Burying their heads in sand is exactly what they shouldn't do, but it's what they are doing.

The other side of the problem is a good educationally friendly digital window. Ipads are nice, but they aren't designed to show text books in their original format. With low resolution and limited screen real estate, ipads work very well as quick digital windows, but long term content contact means lots of page turning through a small 1024x768 window.

I had high hopes for the Kno tablet, but it's been cancelled... : Kno tablet awesomeness that never will be.

Is the idea of an educationally focused computer/tablet that mimics text book layout and offers generous screen real estate dead? Can we get by with an Apple monopoly? It looks like we have little choice. Microsoft has cancelled its Courier 2 screen tablet as well. For the foreseeable future, 1024x768 is the only window you're going to get into ereading.

Kno is now an ebook presentation software for ipad (ipad dominance destroys potential improvements in hardware before they can even appear). This isn't an entire loss, a piece of software that lets students organize and access their texts on a single device is great, but I think I'd prefer something web based, so I can get at my content anywhere on anything.

The fact that they are trying to force the paper based text industry into providing etexts is also invaluable. They are forcing the change that is coming anyway. Until we can pry text content control from an industry solely focused on paper based money streams, the option to adopt an etext is very limited.

"What a student needs, according to Kno's research, is something that faithfully reproduces a full-size textbook, without compromise. In contrast, the attempt to cram a textbook onto a smaller screen is a primary reason that previous trials with replacing textbooks with e-readers such as the Kindle DX were abject failures."

I love the idea of a dual screen tablet that folds like a book. The screens are protected while in a bag, it can be opened into a 2 screen or 1 screen layout (by flipping it over) and one screen could be used as a full(er) sized keyboard, the benefits of a short interface ipad like device or a longer term dual screen interaction with content (that doesn't require all books to be reformatted).

I also love the idea of a transformable tablet, so here is my wishlist for that ideal education tablet:
  • a tablet that can be purchased like Lego pieces: one screen, two screen, three screen, keyboard, whatever: you can keep joining them together and configuring depending on what you need
  • the ipad2 has nice dimensions, but a huge bezel! And the resolution is too low.
  • Keep the dimensions for length and width but lets aim for 5mm thick (so 2 folded together are only slightly thicker than a current ipad), and 500g (so 2 folded together still only weigh about a pound and a half)
  • instead of a 9.7 inch display, an 11.8 incher would all but eliminate the MASSIVE BEZEL, making for an almost seamless dual (or more) display.
  • 1400x1050 resolution on that bigger screen
  • when you link multiple screens the systems work in sync to offer you a multicore, networked machine, more screens equals better performance
  • yeah, it should run FLASH, and HTML5, and offer an open source, community driven OS (so I guess Apple and M$ are out)
ipad3? Not without Jobsian control. Asus, are you into this? Google? You could partner up for the OS, Honeycomb is awesome! I'd ask Blackberry but they'd take 3 years to get it finished.

In the meantime, reams of paper get printed and paper text books get delivered. Living in a hybrid time period kinda stinks. Twentieth Century, will you end already?