Guide to Using Free Apps to Support Higher Order Thinking Skills
Feb 24, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Well I'm going to pass this along anyways, despite having utterly failed to be able to read it. It's an eBook on supporting higher order thinking skills, and it's abvailable through iTunes. Maybe you'll have more luck - but I doubt it, unless you're using that magical combination of an iTunes account on your computer plus an iPad or iPod, or are using some additional eBook reader like Calibre. Which, frankly, makes no sense at all to me - why can't I read my downloaded book in (expletive deleted) iTunes? Now I don't know what sort of higher order skills Flashcardlet will develop, and frankly, by now, I don't care. I don't see why the World Wide Web, which works perfectly well, can't be used for these new-fangled applications like 'books'. Total: 2087
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Re: Guide to Using Free Apps to Support Higher Order Thinking Skills

Yes, eBooks are the only media in the iTunes Store (including iTunes U) that cannot be experienced in the iTunes.app. This is a very serious deficiency and clearly out of step with the rest of the iTunes Store. Inconsistency violates the most basic principle of good UI design so this is quite unusual for Apple which is so often lauded for good UI design.

Although the book is free, it has Apple's FairPlay DRM applied to it so reading it in some other eReader isn't an option either. I tried opening it in Adobe Digital Editions and Sigil but got nowhere. Opening it in BBEdit, I could see the encryption (scrambled content).

Reading "Using iTunes Producer 2.3 for Books," I note that the application of DRM is a publisher/self-publishing author decision. Reading the book on an iPad 2, I see a Creative Commons (by-nc-nd) license assertion. I suppose that the ND and DRM decision fit together but what about the BY-NC assertions? This seem to be contradicted by the DRM decision.

Skimming through the eBook, I could find no iBooks-specific features such as fixed layout, read aloud or tables (such as OU frequently uses). In other words, had the DRM not been applied, this eBook could have been read on a wide variety of eReaders. At the end, there is a link to Ms. Johnson's book "Mind Your Xs and Ys" which can be purchased in the iBookstore for $16.99.
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Re: Guide to Using Free Apps to Support Higher Order Thinking Skills

"I don't see why the World Wide Web, which works perfectly well, can't be used for these new-fangled applications like 'books'."

A good and fair question. I don't have a definitive answer yet but here are a few ideas that come immediately to mind:

1) An ePub document can be described as a web site in a box. eBooks and web pages/sites have a lot in common. One difference is that an eBook, once published with an ISBN number, is fixed (new editions require a new ISBN). As a fixed resource, it can be evaluated, found worthy or not and thereby become a known entity. Web sites on the other hand, are difficult to assess in any lasting way and they can disappear entirely.

2) Although the web is nearly ubiquitous these days, it isn't 100% -- not even for the most privileged. There are times and places where the web simply isn't accessible. An eBook, on the other hand, can be stored on a mobile device and accessed when there is no network available. New HTML 5 web apps such as Ibis Reader can even store the app and the eBook on a mobile device or laptop (local storage). Thus, you could characterize an eBook as a web site that is network independant.



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