Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Canadian Private School Switches to Sony e-Readers

By Leigh Anne Williams -- Publishers Weekly, 12/7/2009 9:28:00 AM

The Blyth Academy, a private school in Toronto, is replacing its traditional textbooks with the Sony Reader Digital Book which will be loaded with electronic versions of students' textbooks. “There may be one or two [books] that we still find are better in the printed version, or that maybe haven’t been fully converted into electronic texts, but we’re hoping by the end of the year, that we’ll have all of our texts completely in electronic format,” said Blyth director of development Brandon Kerstens. He added that some of Blyth’s approximately 170 students in Toronto have opted to continue using hard copies of the books.

The school is maintaining its library of printed books, and students will still read fiction in printed versions. “We’re not doing away with printed text altogether because novels are so beloved, and people love to have their novels in a printed version,” said Kerstens.

But the school will stop using printed textbooks, he explained, “because those are a pain to carry, those are a pain to buy.” Electronic versions will be up-to-date, lighter for students to carry, and he, “it will cut down on the cost because obviously you aren’t paying for the pages, just the content itself. It’s really great.” The environmental aspect of using less paper was also viewed as an advantage.

The school is also loading supplementary material on to the e-readers. Each one will store the student’s personal timetable, a syllabus for each class, information on applying for universities for Grade 12 students, and teachers will be able to make lecture notes available for students.

The announcement came shortly after Amazon released its Kindle in Canada, and Sony is not yet selling a wireless version of its reader in Canada, but Kerstens said that the Sony e-Reader better suited the school’s purposes. One of the most important factors in Sony’s favor is that it allows users to download a conversion program that will convert files to a Sony e-reader format, he said, compared to Amazon’s system of doing all conversions for its customers. “It’s a lot more user-friendly than having to go through Amazon every time you want to put on a file that isn’t in the right format,” said Kerstens.

Sony also offered access to more books, said Kerstens. “Kindle has about 300,000 books that you have access to in that format, whereas the Sony e-Reader, through the Google-Sony electronic bookstore has about half a million books.”

Many of the electronic textbooks the Blyth Academy will be using come from Pearson Canada and McGraw-Hill Ryerson, which Kerstens said had advanced beyond basic text to be more interactive offering links and possibility to highlight and bookmark.

Marty Keast, president of the school division for Pearson Canada, said the company already had a whole array of textbooks available in different formats, but had to do some alterations to convert to the Sony format. “We are very anxious to move the agenda along when it comes to digital resources, taking advantage of what they can offer to students and how they can improve student achievement,” he said. “We’re adding new features and benefits on a regular basis. We see this as our future.”

Grade 12 student Katie Wookey, one of the first students in the school to test out the e-readers, said she liked the greener, less-paper aspect of the e-Reader and the fact that she doesn’t have to carry heavy textbooks around. “These are a lot lighter and you can upload tons of books and articles on them. It’s a lot more practical…It’s cheaper also for me,” she said. Students will be providing feedback to the school, Sony and Pearson about their experience.

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