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Proximity of Equations, Text, and Figures in Civil Engineering E-Textbooks

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Information Tools and Techniques for Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Engineering Libraries

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1008.1 - 23.1008.9



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Paper Authors

author page

Paul Richards Brigham Young University

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Proximity of Equations, Text, and Figures in Civil Engineering E-Textbooks Abstract Engineering textbooks typically include text, figures, and equations that are used in combination tocommunicate ideas. In printed engineering textbooks, the spreads (facing pages) are designed so thatpertinent text, figures, and equations are in proximity and the reader can easily consider themsimultaneously. With the emergence of popular note-pad sized e-readers such as the iPad and Kindle,publishers have been quick to offer electronic versions of their printed textbooks – either PDF orflowable-text versions. In these electronic versions the proximity of text, equations, and figures is altered,as compared to the printed originals. On notepad-sized devices, PDF versions of a textbook can only beviewed half-a-spread at a time (at normal scale). Flowable-text versions of textbooks often alter theproximity of equations and figures such that accompanying text may not be considered simultaneously. The alteration of the proximity of text, figures, and equations in current electronic versions oftextbooks may negatively impact student learning. This paper begins with a review of the currentstandard of practice in the development of e-textbooks and the economic and political forces thatencourage widespread adoption. It then describes a study on proximity in civil engineering textbooks thatis part of a larger study to investigate the impact of using electronic textbooks on notepad sized devices inengineering courses. Four printed civil engineering textbooks were used in the study: one undergraduatemechanics book and three different steel design textbooks. In each book all of the references in the text tofigures and equations were found and the proximity of the figures and equations to the references werequantified (adjacent, same page, same spread, or number of page turns away). Data was analyzed toevaluate typical proximities and variability between texts. Electronic versions of the texts were thenevaluated and proximities calculated. The loss in proximity between the printed and electronic versions ispresented and discussed.

Richards, P. (2013, June), Proximity of Equations, Text, and Figures in Civil Engineering E-Textbooks Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22393

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