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Student reading experience

Two students discuss the reasons they benefit from the introduction of digital texts with access at any time
JOHNJO BRADY: What was really interesting about five years ago, when I first started, was that there was a lot of physical spaces for assistive technology. There was space in the library, a place to photocopy stuff, and that was great. But you had to be there at a specific time, you had to book the room, and obviously I don’t keep regular hours, being an academic. If it’s midnight and you need something, you’ve found a great article on the internet that you want to delve into, you can’t just pop down to the library and get that willy-nilly, whenever you like.
So the digital technology side of it has really became useful in allowing you to access wherever you are, whenever you want to, and however you want to. And that’s really what it’s about, I think. In terms of digital technology and having these kind of systems in place, what I really wanted to get out today was to impress the fact of how easy it is to get this stuff available and free. I can pull out my phone and go on the app store and get one of 12, 15 kind of different magnification software stuff that’s free and easy to use.
It’s not this kind of thing where there’s so much work involved in accessing– there are things like Jaws or whatever that cost 900 pounds– but there are also really easy, simple things everyone could be doing in order to get a little bit more help.
SARAH HEWITT: E-journals, anything online, is what I go for anyway. I can’t remember the last time I actually looked at something that was on paper. And that’s the thing with research papers, as well - if it’s not online and it’s not easily accessible, I probably won’t read it. Anything online is much better. Some of the journals, they actually present them like an e-magazine. So you almost feel like you’re turning the pages and that works really well. And that is very useful if you’re looking at something on a tablet. Because that’s what it’s designed to do. It’s designed to make you feel like you’re reading an electronic journal, and I certainly did a bit of that.
But mostly, I have to say, it was your PDF documents. And as I mentioned before, with the highlighting and the comments that you can add to those as you’re reading, which was incredibly useful.
In this video JohnJo and Sarah talk about what they consider are the most beneficial aspects of using digital texts.
  • JohnJo mentions anytime access and options for free apps.
  • Sarah talks about the way she uses ejournals.
There are many devices that can be used for reading etext from standalone ereaders to a desktop and laptop computer or the smart phone and tablet with built-in or downloadable apps. How well these devices work from a user perspective depends on the application, ease of access to the libraries used to download the content and the file format.
There may be limits to the type of changes that can be made to the text once it has been downloaded. Blind and dyslexic learners are often advised to use apps on tablets as there are many more accessibility options built into the operating systems with screen reading and text to speech. Magnification and limited colour and font changes may also be available.
The dedicated ebook readers tend to offer a better screen experience due to their electronic paper technology (e-ink) that is not so bright as a back lit screen and works better in sunlight. However, these devices are usually linked to a particular format and library such as the Kindle from Amazon or the Kobo from WHSmith, although ePub and PDF formats can be used on both these ereaders.
There are times when etext versions of academic papers are not easy to explore in the way they can be read on paper, but there may be a solution if the right choice has been made.
Don Norman from the Nielsen Norman Group in this YouTube video gives ‘Thumbs up for solving non-linear reading needs’.
You may also be interested in other related resources which can be accessed from the ‘See also’ section at the bottom of this page.
Describe any issues you may have found with reading etexts and whether you have found some useful solutions?

© This work is created by the University of Southampton and licensed under CC-BY 4.0 International Licence. Erasmus + MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership.
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