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Students can research books on their iPods.... But will they?

November 18, 2009 |  6:31 pm
Questia
Questia Library Plus iPhone app. Credit: Questia

We'll spare you the obvious "there's an app for that" joke. But you can get a library's worth of books on your phone.

Questia, an online research portal for students, announced its application today for reading books, articles and periodicals on an iPhone or iPod Touch.

The app costs 99 cents for 5,000 public-domain books and a week of unlimited access. After that, users can buy a two-week subscription for $9.99.

There are so many things wrong with this we don't know where to start.

For one, students don't like to buy things. Especially digital things. Many strapped-for-cash college kids aren't buying songs at a dollar a pop. Why would they buy books they can find free in their university library or on Google Books?

But you get the convenience of reading and browsing on your iPod, right?

C'mon, have you ever tried reading anything substantial on that tiny screen? The Kindle app is great, but we can't get through a chapter without our eyes bursting into flames.

Two universities recently rejected the Kindle DX device as a replacement for textbooks, in part because it lacks features like advanced notation and text-to-speech. (Considering that the alternative is a paper book, their issues are kind of absurd, but that's for a different discussion.)

If they didn't like the Kindle, imagine what they'll think of a device that's about a quarter of the size.

The Questia app is a decent implementation of a very niche idea. If you're planning to actually do research with dozens of sources, you'll be better off with more fully featured alternatives, which includes Google's academic offerings and Questia's own desktop-friendly site.

-- Mark Milian
twitter.com/markmilian

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