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00 heavy schoolbag.jpgI hope time will prove me wrong, but I think that future mankind – at least in my part of the world – might become physically shorter than their predecessors. I came to this conclusion after carefully observing my first daughter every day.

She’s barely seven and still in her first year of elementary school, but her school bag – which she has to carry on her back everyday – is bigger and heavier than my working backpack. That’s why I always try to help my dearest daughter carry her bag whenever I can.

Burden From Bulks Of Books

I think everybody knows what’s inside: books, tons of them. Competition among schools to stay in business makes them add more and more lessons to the curriculum just to look good (and get bigger income by selling more books). Those businessmen who call themselves educators should’ve known better than thinking that more subjects to learn is equal to better education.

The real equation should be: more subjects means more burden to students, both physically and mentally. And bigger burden also equal to lesser ability to concentrate on the studying.

Changing the school curriculum is not an easy job and require years of persistence. It’s an almost impossible job for an ordinary person like us. But lessening the weight of the books is very doable. Electronic books are no alien to people with a computer.

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Imagine students (and teachers) with no physical books. They carry all their books in digital format inside one single electronic device. It will surely lighten up the weight – literally. And as a bonus, their books can contain much more than just mere text and pictures.

The Possible Chosen Device & Format

The thing is, reading books in electronic format is not as comfortable as reading the printed pages. Yet.

There are already gadgets built to replace printed books. Laptops are also common alternatives to e-book readers. But the one that I think would change the rules of the game is Apple’s soon-to-be-released iPad.

While this “oversized iPod Touch” is not up to par to common notebooks (because it’s not intended to be a notebook replacement), it is a very capable e-book reader. Apple even goes as far as collaborating with major book and newspaper publishers and creating their own e-book store. They have also given the name “iBook” to this digital format electronic book.

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Even though iPad is said to be capable of opening several standard ebook formats from simple text to Adobe’s PDF, Apple adopted the free and open source ePub as the format of their iBooks.

Looking at what Apple has done to iPods, digital music and movie distribution, even the worst result would still be a huge success. We might see students with light and stylish iPads in their schoolbag, with all of their textbooks inside it in the iBook/ePub format.

Creating Your Own iBooks

Being an open source format, ePub books are already widely available on the net. But you can also create your own electronic books in ePub format. Here are two free multiplatform tools to create iBooks – a.k.a: ePub books.

  1. eCub: A lightweight ePub publisher to create iBooks available for Windows, Mac, Linux, FreeBSD and Solaris platform. Some of the features are:
    • creates unencrypted ePub files from text or XHTML files;
    • allows editing of the text or XHTML files with a simple internal editor or designated external editors;
    • helps to create a simple cover design image;
    • optionally creates title, content and cover pages;
    • can be run from the command line as part of a build script;
    • can convert the book content to audio files (WAV or MP3).

    create ibook

  2. Sigil: Describes itself as a WYSIWYG ebook editor. Available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Some of the features are:
    • WYSIWYG editing;
    • Multiple Views: Book View, Code View and Split View;
    • Metadata editor with full support for all possible metadata entries (more than 200) with full descriptions for each;
    • Table Of Contents editor;
    • Multi-level TOC support;
    • Currently imports TXT, HTML and ePub files; more will be added with time;
    • Currently exports ePub and SGF (Sigil native format); more will be added with time.

If you like eBooks, you might want to check out our other ebook articles: The Best 6 Sites to Get Free Ebooks The Best 6 Sites to Get Free Ebooks The Best 6 Sites to Get Free Ebooks Read More , How To Convert Scanned Pages Into eReader eBook Format How To Convert Scanned Pages Into eReader eBook Format How To Convert Scanned Pages Into eReader eBook Format Read More , Calibre – Mighty eBook Management Software (Multi-OS) Calibre - Mighty eBook Management Software Calibre - Mighty eBook Management Software Read More and How To Download Books From Google Books How To Download Books From Google Books How To Download Books From Google Books Read More ,

Do you prefer to read books in digital format or traditional paper-printed format? Do you know other alternatives to free multiplatform ePub publishers for creating iBooks? Share using the comment below.

Image credit: bébétoujoursbrewbooks, and Apple

  1. Joe Breunig
    April 7, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    I'm still a bit concerned about converting my book into an electronic format. It seems to me that allowing an electronic copy of your book to "float around" on different devices, such as Kindle, allows for the possibility of some site (that's legally allowed for downloading) can be hacked and increase the likelihood of having one's book pirated. To date, I've not seen (or been told) regarding measures that protect's one's intellectual rights.

    • Jeffry Thurana
      April 7, 2010 at 4:25 pm

      Hi Joe, great point here.

      Piracy was, is, and always will be the problem for any material with intellectual rights. It happens not only in the digital world but also in the real world. The basic concept is: if something can be pirated, it will be pirated. The only way to prevent people from pirating your works is never to release them at all.

      Most of the people I know choose not to waste energy worrying and chasing down pirates and use the energy to create more great pieces instead. Some of them even utilize the piracy as medium to further promote their works (by inserting links, etc.)

      Please don't get me wrong. I hate piracy and pirates as much as everybody does. But I personally don't want to waste my time and energy on them.

      I believe that the majority of people out there are honest, and they respect intellectual property. If your works are good, people will open their wallet and buy.

      Just my two cents.

  2. Frank Lowney
    March 7, 2010 at 6:24 am

    Of course the commercial textbook publishers will add DRM to their ePub offerings or ignore ePub altogether in favor of the textbook as application. In K-12, they will entice system-wide adoption of their titles with subsidies or outright grants of iPad devices for each and every student. Profits will soar, the bug publishers will get bigger and small publishers will go belly-up.

    The other, less likely, scenario is that parents and teachers will use tools such as Sigil and eCub to write textbooks for K-12 and use the money saved to buy iPad devices for students and provide incentives for parents and teachers to create even more learning materials in digital formats.

    You may ask, "What about textbook copyrights?" As it turns out, there's not much that is copyrightable in a textbook. You cannot copyright a fact. You cannot copyright an idea. You can only copyright the unique expression of an idea. So of all the attempts at telling the story of Hannibal crossing the alps, what parts are unique?

  3. Marcelle
    March 3, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    I so relate to this story. My 11 and 15 year old daughters have backpacks bigger than the troops in IRAQ. Recently the 11 year has started to complain of lower back pain from her backpack. I hope we somehow to get to this digital age before they both go to college. BTW, I am buying the IPAD the day it comes out! Great piece. I might even try my hand at creating an e-book per your instructions.

    • Jeffry Thurana
      April 7, 2010 at 4:32 pm

      Well, the gadget is out. Have you got yours? :) Sadly, it's not available yet in my part of the world. (And when it's available, I don't know whether the final price will be reasonable enough for everybody to buy). Keep my fingers crossed!

  4. Aaron
    March 3, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    I enjoyed this article and have a story of my own. I am religious and have my scriptures on my iPhone (along with a boatload of other books). The scriptures I have let you sort by book, chapter and verse as well as letting you annotate and bookmark areas. My book reader (Stanza) only allows bookmarks and searching.

    Until the entire class or school or whatever switches over to an eBook, it will be frustrating for the digitally inclined. When someone calls out a scripture, they will also say the page number, and as there are no page numbers in my scriptures app, it is harder to find. Change that over to a school where the teacher says "open to page ...". Like I said, if everyone switches, it will be great.

    Also, textbooks aren't read like novels (for the most part). They are references and are used as such. A regular eBook reader wouldn't work. A new application and formatting would need to be devised for quick reference.

    I think all of this can and SHOULD be done, I just thought I would add my experiences and opinion.

    Thanks again for the great article!

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