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— Students in Decatur High School’s Advanced Placement English class are the first in the district to try new Sony Readers, allowing students to read digital e-books for their class assignments instead of traditional paper books.

Students received their Sony Readers just last week, according to English teacher James Garner. The thin 10-inch-wide devices use secure digital memory cards - like the ones used in cameras and cell phones - capable of holding hundreds and thousands of books, depending on the card’s memory capabilities.

Students can download more than 350,000 books with expired copyrights from Project Gutenberg’s Web site for free, and newer e-books can be bought for less than traditional paper books.

Sony Readers use a new technology called E-Ink which causes their screens to appear paper-like, making them easy and natural to read, according to the companyWeb site,

Unlike most cell phones and laptops, the screens can be read in the brightest of daylight, but they can’t be read in the dark because they don’t emit any light. The screens use very little energy, so batteries last for up to two weeks without having to be recharged.

Students can change the size of the type, and the books can be read vertically or horizontally, Garner said. Sony Readers also play music, so students can actually listen to music while they read.

Many colleges and universities are using the digital reading devices, and some university libraries are experimenting with completely digitizing their libraries, Garner said.

“This is the future,” he said.

Garner’s students were reading Huckleberry Finn during class on Monday. Senior Zoua Lee said she would rather read with the Sony Reader than a traditional book.

“I think I like the e-book better. You don’t have to keep track of the pages,” she said.

Sony Readers also come with a built in dictionary. If students don’t know a word, all they have to do is tap on it with a special pen to get an extensive definition and list of words with similar meanings.

“It’s really convenient. I don’t have to get a dictionary and turn to the page to look up a word,” Lee said.

Garner said he has caught the students reading in the hallways and library and kids in his other classes are asking when they are going to get a one.

By piloting the new technology in the advanced placement English class, school officials are trying to gauge if it would be something that is beneficial for all the students. Right now the e-readers cost about $260 each, Garner said, but with more competition in the industry, those prices could fall quickly.

Even though Garner has been collecting books for his classroom for years, he often has to worry about finding enough copies for

all his students. With ebooks all he has to do is download the books onto the students’ memory cards.

“They are walking around with a library already,” he said.

News, Pages 1 on 11/11/2009

Print Headline: Schools promoting reading with new electronic readers

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