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Strategies for Digital Reading

As textbook publishers, universities and your Instructors struggle to keep the costs of textbooks and down, many are turning to etexts as the most affordable option. And students have shown themselves to be willing to select digital texts when they are the cheapest option. But ebooks may not be for everyone and every situation.

etext or print?  A few things to consider:

Are you easily distracted by the need to respond immediately to texts, check your social media accounts and email multiple times an hour? 

If so, you're going to need to exercise some restraint or stick with print texts. Frequent interruptions disrupt your concentration. reduce your comprehension and extend your reading time.

Is this a book you will need to keep? 

Most etexts are rented, though some now offer the option to buy.  Of course if your etext is an open education resource (free) you'll always be able to access it. 

Do you do most of your reading at home, or do you need to fit a lot of your reading into work breaks, while on public transportation or between classes?

ebooks are highly portable, you can have all your books available wherever and whenever you need them.   

What type of device do you own?

There is evidence that print may be the least tiring, followed by tablets or ereaders.  Laptops are best for short periods, perhaps because it is less comfortable to hold them for long periods. Backlit screens can be more tiring, though many devices now allow you to control the brightness of the device.  If you're reading primarily on a backlit screen, try to do your reading during daylight hours when you can minimize the impact.  Break your reading up into 20-30 minute periods with short breaks in between to rest your eyes. 

How difficult is the content? 

There is some research that indicates learning from etextbooks takes longer and requires more effort to reach the same level of understanding, Some of this may be due to distractions, and some of it may be due to the way people tend to read on electronic devices, picking out a line then skimming down the page a few lines and picking out another.  This is not an effective method for studying because idetails get lost, causing you to have to reread sections for understanding.  When content is difficult, you'll be most efficient if you use an ereader that allows for highlighting, commenting, searching and exporting. 

Do you have a reliable internet connection? 

If that can be a problem, be sure that your ebook is downloadable.  Most open education textbooks are available in PDF and ePUB formats for offline reading.  Publishers typically allow you to download at least a limited number of pages for offline reading.  If you're reading an ebook from the CSUSM library, it may be downloadable.  But more than half of the ebook collection is from the ProQuest ebrary database, which allows you to  download the entire book for offline reading once you sign up for a free ebrary account.  

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Reading on electronic devices

In this video, Diego Bonilla of the CA Open Education Resource Council offers guidance
on effective reading strategies for online devices.

Reading more effectively and efficiently

In this series of videos the Coolege Geek offers advice on how to read your textbooks more efficiently and incorporate active learning strategies designed to help you get the most out of your reading time.