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The Daily Tar Heel

Students, classrooms slow to adopt e-books at UNC

As Kindles and Nooks are becoming more popular, teachers face the challenges of allowing students to use these modern conveniences while ensuring they stay on task with their electronic devices.

But this might become more difficult as new apps for the iPhone or iPad offer paid subscriptions to e-books, including a new app by Oyster, which allows subscribers to access more than 200,000 books for a monthly fee of less than $10.

Philip Gura, a UNC English professor, said he allows students to use devices in class to access books and materials, but he is careful to monitor them and make sure the students stay on task.

“What you worry about are those people sitting below the middle in the back rows that have their machines up, and you can’t really tell what they are looking at,” Gura said.

“It does sometimes act as a distraction when you are wondering, ‘Is that person with me?,’ particularly if you are talking about something fairly profound and you see a big smile on someone’s face as he is looking at a machine.”

Victoria Ekstrand, a UNC journalism professor, said that part of the key to maintaining order in the classroom is to set ground rules early.

“You have to set the ground rules to that very early in the semester, though, and you have to be really diligent about enforcing that,” Ekstrand said.

She also said that having such devices sometimes helped further discussion as students can look up additional information online.

“It is interesting because essentially what you are paying for is a license to see that material for a window of time, and I think students need to weigh that against possibly owning a permanent copy which they have a right to sale,” she said.

John Gorsuch, director of UNC Student Stores, said the store offers the e-book counterparts of selected textbooks, but sales make up less than 1 percent of total textbook sales.

E-books are often a cheaper option for students, but not all students prefer to use e-books, even if they are offered as an option.

Shana Mobley, a sophomore history major, said that she only wanted use her Kindle for recreational reading and preferred to use print books in class.

“Print books are easier on my eyes, and it is nice to be able to flip through to look for quotes because I find it difficult to search for quotes in an e-book,” she said. “I find something interesting, I can easily mark it, and I don’t have to go through a bunch of button-pressing to get back to it.”

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