Monday, April 05, 2010

Advertising in ebooks for the iPad

With the Apple iPad now released I thought I should finish the Epub version of my Green Technology Strategies book. One insight is that the Epub format used for iPad ebooks is just a type of canned web site. So it may be feasible to have advertisements, such as those for Google AdWords and embedded in an ebook.

When their ebook reader was connected to the Internet, the reader could click on an advertisement to connect to the advertiser's web site. This revenue might be enough to make many ebooks, magazines and newspapers available at no charge to the reader.

For those who do not like the idea of advertising being introduced into books, it has been there fore at least 100 years, as some Victorian era paperback books included advertising at the front and back.

Obviously there would be the issue of what to do when the reader is offline and where to put the ads on the small screen.

Another insight this brought was that e-books don't have back covers. I was designing the cover using's online tool and wondered why the button for creating the back cover was missing from the tool. It took me some time to realise that ebooks don't have back covers, in effect there is just the title page combined with the cover of the book. The promotional material which is usually on the back cover of a paperback, or the dust jacket of a hardback book is provided external to the book in the publisher's system.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Amazon Kindle DX First hand

Having borrowed an Amazon Kindle DX e-Book reader for a few days to try out, here are a few first impressions. The device looks like an Apple product, with its stark white case and sparse writing. The unit is very slim, abut as thick as a pencil and along with the slippery aluminium back, it is hard to hold. I would have preferred a unit about as thick as the average paperback (about 20 mm) with a non-slip rubber coating on the back and sides. The screen is very readable but slow to update and a very dull grey. The QWERTY keyboard on the front is annoyingly small and slow to use, even for the occasional search. The other navigation buttons are easy to use. It was surprising the unit did not come pre-installed with some free books. About all there is are some manuals and some PDF documents my colleagues downloaded.

Reading the Amazon format works very well, with the text able to be re-sized and an excellent text-to-speech facility (my Green Technology Strategies book sounds so much more impressive when read aloud by the kindle, than by me). However, the facilities for PDF documents are more limited, with the text not able to be enlarged nor read aloud (you can still make the text larger by rotating the display to landscape mode).

I was able to preview a book, after registering with my account. The preview of my Green Technology Strategies book gave the table of contents and outline, plus a little of the first chapter. This was enough to see that, much to my relief, the Amazon DTP system had done a good job converting the book from HTML to the Amazon format.

Disappointingly the web interface on the Kindle is not available in Australia, apparently due to networking costs. It is frustrating to see a network indicator on the Kindle screen showing it is connected to a 3G wireless network, but not being able to use it for much more than buy books from Amazon.

The Kindle works well for its intended purpose: to lock the consumer into buying materials from the Amazon bookstore. But as a wireless tablet computer it is very frustrating. The device would seem to have very little use outside the niche of being able to display reformatted books. It has little use in education, where the student will need wider access to online material and will need a way to compose text easily, not just read prepared material.

It will be interesting to see how well the Apple iPad answers these needs. The iPad might be a better e-book than the Kindle, but there is still the question as to who wants to buy an expensive netbook computer with no keyboard?

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Creating an ebook with eCub

One of the tools suggested by LuLu to create an Epub eBook was eCub (also for MobiPocket books, which are similar to the Amazon kindle format). I was able to install eCub on my Ubuntu netbook and run it. I also tried the more sophisticated Calibre tool but was unable to install it (and caused problems with my Linux configuration in the process).

I like the eCub approach which is that while it has a graphical user interface, it is a simple batch program working on a directory of files underneath. You place the content you want converted to ePub in a folder and then run eCub, which creates the ePub file. You can't preview or edit the document with eCub, you have to use other programs to do that, all it does is take the files you provide and package them up.

On my first attempt I created a book which has a cover and all the content, but the menu is not correct. However, this is good progress for a few minutes work (after hours of working out why Calibre did not run and what happened to my software configuration).

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Converting a manuscript to Epub Ebook format

LuLu now offer Epub eBook format as an option for distributing via the service. They seem to imply that they have a service to create Epub format, I could not find it. WHat I did find was "Can I convert my manuscript to Epub on my own?". This had some suggestions for tools: Epub Tutorial, Calibre (Free tool), eCub (EPUB and MobiPocket books), Google Epub Toolkit. What they do not seem to have is an online sercvice like the Amazon DPT service which turns your HTML into a Kindle book.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Seminar on training green technologists online with ebooks, Adelaide, 19 - 20 May 2010

This is to offer a seminar on green technology, professional e-learning and e-books, Monday 19 or Tuesday 20 May in Adelaide.

I am an Adjunct Lecturer at the Australian National University (ANU) and a course designer for the Australian Computer Society (ACS). I will be in Adelaide for a meeting of ACS educators at University of Adelaide. So I thought I should offer a free seminar for anyone interested, assuming someone will provide a venue (ideally at or near Adelaide University).

My "Green Technology Strategies" e-learning course is offered to
University of South Australia postgraduate students as part of the 'Hubs and Spokes' Project with ANU.

The course was originally commissioned by the ACS for their globally accredited Computer Professional Education Program (first run February 2009) and is offered in the Postgraduate Program of Open Universities Australia from second semester 2010.

The textbook is available free online in the National Library of
Australia PANDORA Archive, as well as a print-on-demand book and Amazon Kindle e-Book.

The content of the course, as well as the techniques for preparing it to be part of a globally accredited program and converting the content of the Learning Management System into into a book, may be of interest.

Some recent talks:

ps: The environment and technology do not necessarily mix. On a previous visit to an Adelaide technology park, I could not see the buildings for the trees and got lost. ;-)

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Princeton University e-reader pilot

An e-reader pilot at Princeton University, using Amazon Kindle DX ebook readers, found them as readable as printed material, but a major problem was the difficulty of annotating ebooks. There is a 7 page (127 Kbytes PDF) executive summary as well as a full report available. Ironically, these reports are provided in PDF, the format the report finds the students had most difficulty annotating.

In my view a low cost netbook computer would overcome most of the limitations reported with the Kindle for educational purposes at a lower overall cost. This would have a superior keyboard, allowing notes to be taken and add-on software could be used to add notes to PDF documents. Netbooks provide a colour screen, more useful for annotations. Most students could use the netbook as their primary computer, with a low cost external screen, keyboard and mouse at home. The ebook has advantages of light weight, long battery life and daylight readable screen, but require students to have a second computer for their studies, adding cost and complexity.
In the Fall of 2009, the Office of Information Technology (OIT) at Princeton conducted a pilot program using electronic readers (e-readers) in a classroom setting. The pilot was conducted with three broad goals. One was to reduce the amount of printing and photocopying done in the three pilot courses. The second was to determine if using this technology in the classroom could equal (or better) the typical classroom experience where more traditional readings were used. The third sought to explore the strengths and weaknesses of current e-reader technology to provide suggestions for future devices.
E-reader technology offered the promise of delivering a large number of digitized documents on a lightweight device with a long battery life, and a display that mimicked the reflective qualities of actual paper. The consumer market in e-readers had already proved it was possible to read on these devices; we sought to see if they could be useful in higher education by conducting a pilot using e-readers in several courses.

Three courses were selected for the pilot, involving 3 faculty members, and 51 students. The e-reader used in the pilot was the Amazon Kindle DX.

The goal of printing less in the pilot courses was achieved: pilot participants printed just over half the amount of sheets than control groups who did not use e-readers. The classroom experience was somewhat worsened by using e-readers, as study and reference habits of a lifetime were challenged by device limitations. This pilot suggests that future e-book manufacturers may wish to pay more attention to annotation tools, pagination, content organization, and in achieving a more natural “paper-like” user experience. In summary, although most users of the Kindle DX were very pleased with their “reading” experiences with the Kindle, they felt that the “writing” tools fell short of expectations, and prevented them from doing things easily accomplished with paper. ...

The areas in which they felt the Kindle could be best improved were:
  • The ability to highlight and annotate PDF files
  • Improving the annotation tools
  • Providing a folder structure to keep similar readings together
  • Improving the highlighting function
  • Improving the navigation within and between Kindle documents
Because it was difficult to take notes on the Kindle, because PDF documents could not be annotated or highlighted at all, and because it was hard to look at more than one document at once, the Kindle was occasionally a tool that was counter-productive to scholarship. ...

What features do ereaders need to be effective tools for higher education?
... One thing that emerged clearly from the surveys was that superb annotation tools are critical for the success of an e-reader used in higher education. ... There were also functional concerns, such as the ability to compare documents, or have more than one reading open at a time, and some ability to “skim” or “flip” rapidly through a reading to see highlights and notes. ...

There was a strong positive attachment to some present feature of the Kindle DX, most particularly the reflective screen, which allowed for long periods of reading, the size, the form factor, and the battery life. When told that any additional features (such as a color or LCD screen) would impact battery life, most students said they preferred to stick with grayscale and e-paper technology – with one exception: highlighting, where more contrast to the page, and a variety of possible marking styles would help create the same effectiveness as color highlighters on a black and white paper page. ...

From: The E-reader pilot at Princeton, Fall semester, 2009, Final report, (executive summary), Janet Temos, Princeton University, February 2010

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Microsoft Office 2010 support for OpenOffice

Microsoft Office 2010 is due for release in May. A Beta version with the new features of Word, Access, PowerPoint, Publisher, Outlook, InfoPath, Excel, SharePoint Workspace, OneNote and Communicator is still available. The new version will be able to create and read document in both the Microsoft sponsored OOXML format (Office Open XML, ISO/IEC 29500:2008) and Sun sponsored ODF (OpenDocument Format, ISO/IEC 26300:2006). This will better allow the interchange of documents with the open source OpenOffice.Org office suite.

OOXML was provided with Open Office 2007 and ODF in Service Pack 2. However, it seems likely that many documents will still be created in the older proprietary .DOC (Word 97-2003) format to maintain compatibility with older versions of Word and other pre XML formats.

Neither OOXML nor ODF can be read directly by a web browser. My preference would be for a HTML based format. Microsoft tried this with a previous version of Word, with a HTML based format which could be edited, however it did not become popular. However, newer versions of HTML and CSS provide more features and so fewer workarounds to implement word processor features. In addition both OOXML and ODF are conceptually similar to HTML based ebook formats, such as Epub and the Amazon Kindle format. These all consist of an XML formatted document, plus formatting and images, zipped into one file.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Epub eBook Tutorial and Tool

The ".epub eBooks Tutorial" provides a good overview. A sligly more polished presentation is ion "EPUB Resources and Guides" By Keith Fahlgren. Of the tools avialable, calibre looks promising as a free open source HTML or ODT (Open Office Word Processing format) to Epub ebook converter. However, I have not been able to get it to run on Linux so far.

Feedbooks provides a useful online tool for creating and publishing free ebooks. It uses a familar looking web based editor to create the book. It would be interesting to see if this could be added to online commercial book publishing systems like Currently these assume you prepare the book offline and then upload the typeset result, usually as PDF. But for books which are mostly text it might be easier to provide a web based editor.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

e-Book on Research Integration

Research Integration Using Dialogue Methods David McDonald, Gabriele Bammer & Peter Deane will launch their new book "Research Integration Using Dialogue Methods" 26 November 2009 in Canberra. The whole book is already available online for free as a very well formatted set of web pages, for mobile devices (scoring a very good 80/100 on the W3C Mobile OK Test) , in PDF chapter by chapter and as one file. It is also available as a conventional printed paperback.

As to the content, these are techniques which could be applied from areas ranging from planning what sort of weapons systems to buy, to how to deal with natural disasters. I have used such automated tools at the Defence Department in considering systems and the Sahana open source disaster management system project is planning to incorporate Large Groups Making Decisions In Extreme Events.

University Co-operative Bookshop Limited

The ANU Co-op Bookshop and the ANU E Press wish to invite you to
the launch of David McDonald, Gabriele Bammer & Peter Deane’s book
Research Integration Using Dialogue Methods.

Date: Thursday, 26th November 2009

Time: 5pm for a 5:30pm start

Location: The Co-op Bookshop, Bldg 17, Union Court, Canberra, ACT 0200
The book will be launched by Professor Ted Lefroy, Director of the Centre for Environment at the University of Tasmania. Ted is also a Director of Land & Water Australia.

Dr Michael Robinson, CEO of Land & Water Australia, will officiate.
The launch is co-sponsored by Land & Water Australia and the Drug Policy Modelling Program, which funded the research underpinning the book.
RSVP: or (02) 6249 6244 by 24th November 2009.

Colleagues & guests welcome. Refreshments will be served.

Research Integration Using Dialogue Methods

Research Integration Using Dialogue Methods

David McDonald, Gabriele Bammer, Peter Deane

ISBN 9781921536748 $24.95 (GST inclusive)
ISBN 9781921536755 (Online)
Published August 2009

Research on real-world problems—like restoration of wetlands, the needs of the elderly, effective disaster response and the future of the airline industry—requires expert knowledge from a range of disciplines, as well as from stakeholders affected by the problem and those in a position to do something about it. This book charts new territory in taking a systematic approach to research integration using dialogue methods to bring together multiple perspectives. It links specific dialogue methods to particular research integration tasks.

Fourteen dialogue methods for research integration are classified into two groups:

1. Dialogue methods for understanding a problem broadly: integrating judgements

2. Dialogue methods for understanding particular aspects of a problem: integrating visions, world views, interests and values.

The methods are illustrated by case studies from four research areas: the environment, public health, security and technological innovation.

Table of Contents

List of Tables
Acknowledgments and author contributions
1. Introduction
2. Using the dialogue methods in this book
Identifying and classifying the dialogue methods
I. Dialogue methods for understanding a problem broadly: integrating judgments:
II. Dialogue methods for understanding particular aspects of a problem: integrating visions, world views, interests and values:
Applying the dialogue methods in this book
Preparing to use a dialogue method
Areas not covered in this book
How to read this book
3. Dialogue methods for understanding a problem broadly: integrating judgments
Citizens’ jury
Consensus conference
Consensus development panel
Delphi technique
Future search conference
Most significant change technique
Nominal group technique
Open space technology
Scenario planning
Soft systems methodology
4. Dialogue methods for understanding particular aspects of a problem
Integrating visions
Integrating world views
Integrating interests
Integrating values
Appreciative inquiry: integrating visions
Strategic assumption surfacing and testing: integrating world views
Principled negotiation: integrating interests
Ethical matrix: integrating values
5. Differentiating between the dialogue methods
6. Conclusions
Learning from failure
Other research areas
An invitation to contribute
Appendix 1
Gabriele Bammer
Rationale for developing I2S
The four cornerstones of I2S
Focusing on integrating disciplinary and practice (stakeholder) knowledge
Appendix 2
Tool kits that include dialogue methods
Appendix 3

Chapter 1: Introduction

Research integration is the process of improving the understanding of real-world problems by synthesising relevant knowledge from diverse disciplines and stakeholders. Methods for undertaking research integration have not, however, been well developed or explained. Here, we show how 14 methods developed for dialogue can be useful for research integration. What makes this book unique is that we tease apart components of research integration and match them to particular methods.

Research integration is essential for effectively investigating real-world problems. Such investigation requires bringing together the insights of different disciplines. For example, examination of the impacts of the encroachment of housing on farm and bushland on the fringes of cities can benefit from the expertise of ecologists, economists, hydrologists, sociologists, soil scientists, demographers and so on. Similarly, to comprehensively model the impact of the covert release of an infectious disease agent on a major city requires input from, among others, communicable disease epidemiologists, statistical modellers, urban geographers, psychologists and legal experts....

From:Research Integration Using Dialogue Methods, byDavid McDonald, Gabriele Bammer & Peter Deane, ANU Press, 2009

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009's second generation wireless eBook

Amazon Kindle have released a second version of their Amazon Kindle 2 electronic book. At US$359 the question is if a dedicated e-Book is more useful than a general purpose netbook for about the same price.

As with the previous version, the Kindle2 has a wireless modem built in which comes with a free account allowing downloading books. There are a number of limitations this system: it is only available on Sprint's USA mobile phone network and while the wireless account is free, the books are not.

Changes to the device itself seem to be minor. It still as the same design with a large portrait monochrome screen above a miniature QWERTY keyboard. Amazon claims the new design is "sleek", as thin as thin as a typical magazine and lighter than a paperback book. However I doubt these were great problems with the previous device. There is more storage and longer battery life (e-books have a longer battery life than a typical laptop in any case). More useful for people with limited eyesight is built in text to speech for reading out books (although the Adobe PDF reader has this feature available for netbooks). have a very clumsy way to get non-Amazon publications into the device. You can send files in Microsoft Word, PDF and HTML formats via Amazon to the device, but are charged ten US cents for each. To avoid the fee you have to email the documents for conversion to the Kindle's format and then upload the returned document with USB. There is no WiFi on the Kindle.

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Monday, August 25, 2008 eBook for Students

 Amazon Kindle eBook readerNews reports suggest are planning a new version of their Kindle eBook reader with a a bigger screen for college and university students. But a subnotebook computer would seem more useful.

The current Kindle has limited functionality as a computer, is US$399, has an electronic-paper display, wireless Internet, a QWERTY keyboard and week long battery life.

There are now several sub-notebook computers for around $US500, which would be about the same size as a larger Kindle. These have a shorter battery life than the Kindle, but have a larger keyboard and more general purpose software. It seems unlikely that a university student would want to purchase and carry around both an eBook and a notebook computer. Given the choice, they are likely to prefer a slightly more expensive but more useful computer (perhaps supplemented with a large screen smartphone).

The Kindle includes a wireless modem for downloading content via a US cellphone network, with are paying the access charge when the US wireless network is used to download a ebook content from Amazon's store. But this is not a great advantage for university students, who are likely to have WiFi access on the campus.

Also while the eBook may be able to display electronic books and play podcasts of lectures, it is less likely to be able to usefully work with other educational content. Students will have to be able to interact with a web based Learning management system (LMS), such as WebCT or Moodle, carry out research using open access electronic libraries (such as the IFIP DL), write and submit their assignments. They are unlikely to want to do that on a tiny monochrome screen and calculator like keyboard. In contrast the sub notebooks have usable keyboards and readable colour screens (and can be plugged into a full size keyboard and screen for desktop use).

The move seems to designed to lock universities and students into purchasing textbooks from large publishers, in much the same way that Apple locked them into buying music for the iPod. Apple have had some success at convincing universities to provide audio lecture podcasts via its store. It will be interesting to see if any universities attempt similar deals for textbooks.
Carrier Sprint
Available November 19, 2007
Screen 600×800 px,
167 ppi resolution, 6" diagonal, 7.5" x 5.3" size, 4-level grayscale
Electronic paper, LCD side scroller.
Operating system Linux (2.6.10 kernel)
Input QWERTY keyboard,
select wheel, next/prev/back buttons.
CPU Intel PXA255.
Memory 64 MB RAM,
256 MB (180 MB available) internal storage, SD expansion slot.
Networks Amazon Whispernet
Connectivity EVDO/CDMA AnyDATA wireless modem, USB 2.0 port (mini-B connector),
3.5 mm stereo headphone jack, built-in speaker, AC power adapter jack.
Battery 3.7V, 1530mAh lithium polymer, BA1001 model.
Physical size 7.5 × 5.3 × 0.7 in
(19.1 × 13.5 × 1.8 cm)
Weight 10.3 oz
(292 g)
Media capabilities Kindle (.azw), Plain text (.txt),
Unprotected Mobipocket (.mobi, .prc),
MP3 (.mp3),
Audible (.aa).
From: Amazon Kindle, Wikipedia, 2007

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

iRex iLiad another e-Book reader

iRex iLiad eBook readerThe iRex iLiad is an e-Book reader, similar to the Sony Reader, and the Amazon Kindle, with an electronic paper display and low power processor. However, like other eBook readers, the iLiad is expensive (US$699) compared to subnotebooks like the ASUS Eee PC (2 G model US$299). Underlying Linux operating system is limited::
Because of its open Linux operating system, the iLiad is able to run third party applications created for it.

Developers and users wishing to create or run third party applications can request shell access from the manufacturer. Developers have been able to improve on the devices functionality by porting viewers such as FBReader, and programs such as abiword and stardict.

From: iLiad, Wikipedia, 2007

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Amazon Kindle eBook reader

 Amazon Kindle eBook reader have released an eBook reading device called a "Kindle". This is US$399, has an electronic-paper display, wireless Internet, a QWERTY keyboard and week long battery life. But like other e-book readers, it has limited functionality as a computer. are paying the access charge when the US wireless network is used to download a ebook content from Amazon's store.
Carrier Sprint
Available November 19, 2007
Screen 600×800 px,
167 ppi resolution, 6" diagonal, 7.5" x 5.3" size, 4-level grayscale
Electronic paper, LCD side scroller.
Operating system Linux (2.6.10 kernel)
Input QWERTY keyboard,
select wheel, next/prev/back buttons.
CPU Intel PXA255.
Memory 64 MB RAM,
256 MB (180 MB available) internal storage, SD expansion slot.
Networks Amazon Whispernet
Connectivity EVDO/CDMA AnyDATA wireless modem, USB 2.0 port (mini-B connector),
3.5 mm stereo headphone jack, built-in speaker, AC power adapter jack.
Battery 3.7V, 1530mAh lithium polymer, BA1001 model.
Physical size 7.5 × 5.3 × 0.7 in
(19.1 × 13.5 × 1.8 cm)
Weight 10.3 oz
(292 g)
Media capabilities Kindle (.azw), Plain text (.txt),
Unprotected Mobipocket (.mobi, .prc),
MP3 (.mp3),
Audible (.aa).
From: Amazon Kindle, Wikipedia, 2007

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