Penn State University to pilot Sony Reader

Here’s a great initiative that caught my eye. Penn State University has teamed up with Sony to begin a year-long project that will start this fall, in which Penn State will pilot Sony’s latest digital book reader. Sony has donated 100 of the devices to the university libraries as part of the project which aims to “test the utility of e-books in a higher education environment”. The University is taking a fairly scientific approach to the project and will put the Reader to the test in a variety of different environments across campus, including in the libraries, in the classroom, as a tool for research projects and eventually also as a service for people with disabilities.

The leisure reading program is the first to kick off with five Readers available for borrowing by students. The devices will be pre-loaded with titles from five different categories. Each Reader may have up to fifteen books from a given category and can be borrowed for a month. The objectives of the project are not just to promote the device itself but also to allow the university and Sony to understand how people use the devices. Anne Behler, information literacy librarian says:

The Sony Reader and e-books have the potential to change everything from book acquisitions to the way patrons interact with library collections. It’s very exciting for the University Libraries to be at the forefront of this new, largely uncharted territory.

The aim is that by the end of the year both the university and Sony themselves will have a fuller understanding of how the devices have been used. Mike Furlough, assistant dean of Scholarly Communications explains that;

Libraries are moving rapidly towards the day when the majority of our collections will exist in electronic form, but while readers love the convenience of online search, they have been resistant to reading full-length books in electronic form.

I believe the Reader has great potential in the academic environment. If the relevant specialized content can be made available, I think this could take off. Being able to carry around all of your course textbooks, plus any related articles you have found on the internet for projects and assignments you are working on at the same time in a device the size of a piece of A5 paper would be amazing.

You can check out the full story at the Penn State site.

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