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M-Learning: Landscape Changer: E-Reader

While the rage in the m-learning industry is focusing on Smartphones, I believe the real player in the market will be the e-reader, which offers enormous possibilities and features that will truly incorporate the essence of e-learning.

I know that there are quite a few out there right now going HUH?? What about the smart phone, I mean they have been pitching the smart phone.  Yeah, I am well aware of it. But while the smart phone will be involved and be utilized in the mobile learning scene, IMO the e-reader will become more of a beneficial partner with m-learning because it offers soooo many more capabilities than the smartphone.  Case in point:

One Person’s Thoughts

I was chatting with someone the other day on this topic and she said to me (and btw she is an end user, not someone in the industry), why would I want to access a course on my Blackberry? The screen is too small.  However with an e-reader, I would be able to see the course since the screens are larger (more in a sec. on that).  She added, I have no desire to take a course on my Blackberry and never would.  Now, think about that for a second.  Would you take a course on a Blackberry?  Would you find it enjoyable?  A smart phone is an amazing product and in the m-learning sector will compliment learning, but her statement, makes just another reason, why an e-reader can change the market.  So, without further adieu:

Screen, Color, uh I don’t know file format?

I hear the snickering, what is this guy talking about. Everyone knows that e-readers are in that gray screen (some 4, 8 or 16 shades) using that e-ink thing, the screen size – come on, give me a break and the file format..wow, can they have any more and what is it?

Color

There is already a couple of e-readers out there that offer color. Yes, you heard me, color. And not crummy color either. Rich 1024×768 LCD in one case with high frame per second, the other has equally superb color.  No they are not your Nook, Kindle or Sony E-Reader.  You can be assured that in the not too distant future, other e-readers will follow. Oh, another key reason: the Ipad. Do you think Amazon is going to let Apple have a color tablet with e-reader capabilities and Amazon will stay in non-color field?  I don’t think so!

Screen Size

The true “e-reader” field, they range (for the most part) in the 6″ to 7″ field, but the Kindle DX is 9.7″.  Now, a new player hit the market with a 10.7″ screen. Again, brand new into the marketplace. How many other e-readers will increase their screen size by the end of 2011?

File Formats

Before I blaze into this glorious land, let’s setup a quick term you may have seen or heard – DRM, which stands for Digital Rights Management. In a nutshell it was created to thwart piracy of the vendor’s file format i.e. to pirate e-books.

While I won’t get into all the file formats and this and that, I will focus on the ones that will matter to us – first – the ebook format, next the other formats which add to the changing of the landscape.

Epub

This is already and soon will become even more so the most dominant e-book format. Sony uses it, so does the Nook, Ipad too, and many other e-readers.  E-readers do not have a one only format, but if they did, this is it and yes it is DRM protected, but more open.

Who doesn’t use it..Amazon. Why not? They want their proprietary format .azw.  I surmise for awhile Amazon will stick with .azw as their format and keep the monopoly going, especially for Kindle users who cannot purchase e-books anywhere else, unless they use Amazon.  Ironically, the premise of the tough DRM standard, is somewhat of a joke. There are reports out on the net of hackers cracking the code, and thus enabling Kindle users to go elsewhere too. So long monopoly.

Other File Formats – Relevant to Us

Umm, lets see:

  • .Swf (yes, Flash and not Flash lite either) – An e-reader already boosts this as a new feature into the marketplace.  Ipad is going to use HTML5 instead of .swf, assuming they can get it to work in the near future, but its Flash sans Adobe. This e-reader also had the color screen too.
  • .PPT – Another e-reader player has it; many offer .txt, .pdf; some offer .doc as well
  • .WMV, .AVI, MP3, .MP4, .ASF – E-readers hitting the marketplace are starting to offer these features as well. So, you now add audio/video capabilities too. Again, eventually the big guys will have to follow suit.
  • .GIF, .JPG, .BMP

Cool Bonus Features

  • Text to Speech – Many e-readers offer this already. Lots of possibilities here for our industry.
  • SD cards – Expansion city.
  • Hard Drive – Plastic Logic offers this in 6b, and 8gb respectively. Price point is outrageous in the e-reader market, but still intriguing, nevertheless.
  • Surf the Internet: Alex anyone? If you are curious Google “Alex e-reader”.

Wi-Fi

E-Readers most powerful arsenal against the smart phone industry. FREE 3G Wi-Fi. Repeat it. FREE 3G. For those e-readers who offer it (all the big guns do), wow..thank you! No more having to pay extra for data or extra for the privvy of using 3G with your smart phone.

Yeah you are stuck with you the e-reader company went with, but hey you are paying for the e-reader and its features and uh, e-books (the original premise of an e-reader), so this is like extra sprinkles on an ice cream cone.

E-Readers + Possibilities

There are so many out there, too many to say in one blog column, but here is just a quick few tied to a LMS.

  1. End users can access select courses, course catalog or courses themselves, download them and take them on their e-reader. The courses are .swf with audio/video capabilities, oh they offer text to speech too.
  2. End users can grab sims and download them, training templates, mini quick reference guides, manuals (which should be banned..really 20 pages? Who is going to read that?), whatever. Download and take it with them. Read them on their time, anytime, plane, auto (not driving of course), wherever. Unlimited access.
  3. You can add a “Library” to your LMS and offer the same features and capabilities to your end users. Check out materials, items,remember that webinar you recorded last month? Download the audio version of it, or video or both? Take it with you.  Smorgasbord of possibilities. All available, plus you can fully track. How about sections in your library? One for this topic, or that topic.. People go to that section, find what they are looking for and whalla.
  4. Bookstore, anyone? You can sell any type of materials, content, courses you can think of, your customers buy it via a bookstore with e-comm on your LMS.  Same as the library, they pick what they want – templates, mini guides, social media offerings, you name it, it can be done. Heck sims using .swf , audio/video, etc.

Last Word

I often think back to my friend’s statement about smart phones and using them with learning. When I mentioned to her all these features and possibilities, she looked at me, and said this makes sense.  M-Learning is here, and it is only going to get better, but compare your devices and ask yourself a simple question. Will Wally Widget of the general masses more likely to purchase a smartphone or an e-reader?

Toss out the only twenty year-olds are using this thing. According to Tech Crunchies: Average age: 35 to 54; College or post grad degree.

Now, let me re-state the question again. Is Wally the Widget of the general masses,  more likely to purchase a smartphone or an e-reader?


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2 comments

  1. As a specialist in the corporate e-learning market as an independent producer of learning modules, I have to say the insight in this article is absolutely magnificent. I am anxious to see the continued expansion of these complex issues in the market place.

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  2. In the enterprise (non consumer) space, the device most likely carried will be a smartphone since it is considered an essential communications tool for mobile knowledge workers and provides access to voice communications, email, calendar/scheduling and, increasingly, corporate information or systems via available apps. These devices are getting better and better too – at CTIA this week several more smartphones with 4+ inch, 800×480 hi res displays were introduced and while the format is still small, the experience is certainly workable for accessing both learning and eReader-style content in all the favors you’ve cited. Finally, mlearning is not something that everyone is going to get or want to do/participate in either – like so many other tech-related things, a good 40% of equipped mobile workers will appreciate its value and actively participate, another 30% will give it a go from time to time, and the remaining 30% will never see the point. Viva la difference!

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