December 24, 2008

E-book readers and faculty workflow

I agree with novelist Charlie Stress (hat tip): electronic book readers are enormously useful for people who have to read enormous amounts of text. Stress's context is the group of acquisition editors ("slushpile" readers) he knows, but it is also true for faculty. I bought a Sony PRS-505 earlier this year in hopes of becoming more efficient as an editor, and that's finally happening now that I have the right tools and habits to fit with it. In the past week or so, I've been able to make decisions and send off e-mails on a bunch of manuscripts by going to a quiet location with the following:

  • The reader stuffed with manuscripts and reviewer compilations
  • A printed sheet with a bunch of prompts for me to guide my thinking and take notes on
  • A clipboard with separate compartments for the sheets of paper and pens
  • My reading glasses
No internet, no distraction. On occasion, statistical tables are difficult to read without a printout or a full computer screen, but I'm getting used to the formatting. If I'm very lucky, I can read, think about, and prepare notes for e-mails on 4 or 5 manuscripts. But it also gives me a greater chance to get some work done when I only have a few minutes.

A similar process works for reading student work of some types. I am a teacher who often writes far more comments than other people tell me are commonly read/absorbed by students. That's fine with me, but I turn student work back more quickly if I first read through a batch without commenting (and then insert comments in the files the next time I have a few hours with a computer). 

I haven't been successful yet with the reader and published journal articles (often downloadable via PDFs). But it will work with nontechnical papers I sometimes download. I suspect that if I commuted by train, I'd do a lot more work this way. But I drive, so much of my commuting time is spent with podcasts rather than electronic texts.

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Posted in EPAA on December 24, 2008 4:59 PM |