E-readers for Distance Students

Posted by tmb10 at Sep 03, 2009 01:35 PM |
Easy steps to prepare documents for e-readers

ereaderE-readers or e-book readers can store and nicely display hundreds of ebooks, available from booksellers’ online sites. The newest e-reader models connect directly and wirelessly to the internet to access ebooks as well as sound and video files. In traditional distance learning, teaching documents are photocopied and shipped to students often at great cost. It seems a natural step to load such documents onto an e-reader, thereby gathering all handouts, plus sound and other files, into one handheld, readable package. This guide offers simple steps to configure handouts so that they can be loaded onto Sony e-readers as well as iPads and other mobile devices.


Software needed: Microsoft Word, Calibre (free, cross-platform, available from http://calibre.kovidgoyal.net/download. You may also need a screen shot capture utility such as MWSnap for Windows or Snipping Tool; for Macs this capability is built into OS X  (shift-cmd-4).


Begin with a Word document. PDF documents can work, but results are inconsistent; it’s easiest to work with Word.

  1. Clean up the document—eliminate multiple line spaces and left-side indents. This is cosmetic --- the document is easier to read on the eReader if you do this.
  2. In Word, got File - Save As, and choose save as website. It does not seem to matter whether you choose save as website, or save as filtered website; they both work. When saving, name your file according to this pattern:

         the document title – authorfirstname authorsurname    For example,

         Language Teaching Assessment Brief – Gabi Witthaus.html

  1. In Calibre, click Add Books, browse and find your html document.
  2. Highlight your newly-added “book” and click Edit Metadata. Title and author name should have come over correctly; fix if not. Fill in whichever fields you like. (Tip: in this box, whatever you type in “Series “will establish a “collection” on an eReader. You may have “Assignments” “Extra Readings” etc. This is a good way to organise documents on e-readers.)
  3. Highlight your “book” and click Convert Books. In the upper right corner for Output Format, select EPUB. Click OK at the bottom.

To save the file for distribution to students, click on Save to disk. You can then choose a folder on your computer where your ebook will 'land'. The epub file can be distributed as you might any other file -- by posting on a virtual learning environment or learning management system, emailing, posting onto a website, or any other method. 


To move the document onto the eReader, launch Calibre and connect the eReader to the computer. Highlight the document you want and click Send to Device.


To move the document to the eReader without special software: connect the eReader to the computer. In My Computer, you will see the eReader as if it were an external hard drive. It often shows up as three volumes (for example, E:, F:, and G: ). Locate the epub file you created. In Windows, you should find it in My Documents, in a folder entitled with the author’s name, inside a folder entitled with the document name. On a Mac, you will find it in your home folder, in a folder called Calibre Library, then inside a folder entitled with the author’s name. Drag the file onto the eReader drive, and put it into the database – media – books folder.


A note about charts and figures: pictures and many figures will display perfectly without any special attention. However, tables created in Word do not move over very well to the e-reader. It is best to “take a picture” of such a table using a screen shot capture utility, and substitute the picture you’ve just taken for the original table. Do this in step 1, and the document should then convert well.


Podcasts can be loaded and played on some e-readers. Simply move the .mp3 file onto the eReader drive and put it into the database – media – audio folder. You will probably need headphones or speakers to hear, 


Any file can be loaded onto an eReader, just as if it were a flash memory storage drive. Only ebooks and mp3 files can be properly handled by the e-reader, but all other files can at least be stored. This might be a way to distribute to students spreadsheets, powerpoint files, movie files, free utilities and programmes. Depending on the model of e-reader, you may be able to extend storage by adding an inexpensive SD memory card.




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