Tussen droom en werkelijkheid

Iedereen die denkt dat de introductie van e-books in het hoger onderwijs een kwestie is van de portemonnee trekken (sowieso natuurlijk al niet zo gemakkelijk vandaag de dag) en licenties afsluiten, doet er goed aan dit recente rapport van JISC Observatory te lezen: TechWatch Preview: Preparing for Effective Adoption and Use of eBooks in Education.

’t Is een beetje een zwaktebod, maar ik beperk me hier tot twee uitvoerige passages uit het rapport te citeren: het slot van de executive summary en de aanbevelingen waarmee het rapport eindigt:

Key priorities for institutions are:
1. Acknowledging that ebooks are not necessarily a replacement for printed books, but allow for a more diverse range of reading opportunities for students.
2. Planning for students arriving with a range of mobile devices and laptops from which they will want access to ebooks, and preparing for how this will affect the institution’s choice of ebook platforms and formats.
3. Considering how, although it is very easy for academics to create and publish ebooks, institutional policies should best approach the issue of intellectual property in relation to academic self-publishing.
4. Focusing on the need for responsiveness and agility as they adopt and use ebooks, because the landscape for ebook formats, standards and licensing is still in flux.
5. Maintaining the institutional library as a key focal point for the adoption of ebooks, as academics and students look to their library for access and support.
6. Paying attention to the importance of cultural change, as the expectations and perceptions of academic staff and students are challenged and accommodated.

Recommendations
As with any emerging technology, technical issues in terms of standards and formats can cause problems and frustration to learners. Cultural barriers to the successful adoption of ebooks also need to be overcome. As the JISC National E-books Observatory Project (JISC Collections, 2009) observes, “we know very little about student purchasing behavior with regard to course texts in either print or electronic forms.”

Higher and Further Education institutions can start to prepare and ensure that processes and systems are in place to take advantage of the benefits that ebooks can bring to education whilst minimising the potential problems that adopting new formats and technologies can bring.

Looking to prepare for developments over the next five years, Higher and Further Education institutions should take into consideration these factors:

• Institutions need to be responsive and agile as they adopt and use ebooks, because the ebook landscape is an evolving one: formats, standards and licensing are not yet in a stable position.
• Institutions need to prepare for new subscription, purchasing and licensing models as the current ones are in an embryonic stage (often following traditional printed book business models). If ebooks follow a similar pattern to music and films, these subscription, purchasing and licensing models will evolve and change.
• Institutions should ensure that their users are fully aware of the possibilities and limitations with any collections or subscriptions, as many technical issues need to be overcome when adopting ebooks. Specifically, incompatibilities between readers, devices and ebooks need to be identified and addressed whilst users should be made aware of potential issues.
• Institutions need to consider the importance of cultural change as they challenge and allow for expectations and perceptions of academic staff and students adopting and using ebooks.

Het rapport is vooral sterk in het belichten van de technologische problematiek m.b.t. formats en readers, die voor de consument van voornamelijk fictie al niet zonder obstakels is maar die in een hoger onderwijs setting helemaal tot vooralsnog nauwelijks oplosbare problemen leidt. Het wordt kernachtig samengevat in de observatie “Although ebooks have been around for some time, the current technologies and business models for usage of ebooks in academic institutions can still be described as anything between archaic and embryonic.” Overigens besteedt auteur James Clay minder aandacht aan die financiële kant van de zaak (al merkt hij terecht op dat er geen sprake is van vervanging maar van én-én) en wordt zijn blik wel heel erg bepaald door de Angelsaksische markt. Maar als zelfs op die markt we nog oplopen tegen de problemen die Clay zo uitvoerig belicht dan ligt de brede toepassing en gebruik van e-books in het hoger onderwijs op dit moment nog ver achter de horizon.

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