Some universities require students to use e-textbooks

Aug 16, 2012 By Yasmeen Abutaleb

Students don't seem to want to buy e-textbooks. So some schools are simply forcing them.

While several colleges across the country are pushing , touting them as more efficient and less cumbersome than regular , are reluctant.

E-textbooks still account for only 9 percent of textbook purchases, says Student Monitor, which researches college student behavior.

"How excited can you expect to get about an e-textbook?" Student Monitor President Eric Weil says. "It's not a fashion statement, it's not a status symbol; it has to overcome the advantages that students see (in) a printed textbook."

Typically, students don't save much when opting to buy an e-textbook. For example, an e-textbook costs about $100, while the print version of the same book costs just $15 more.

For University of Wisconsin senior Leslie Epstein, having to buy an e-textbook only added to her expenses. She still found herself printing a copy of her textbooks in the two classes that required an , and said despite the lower of an e-textbook, she'd buy the print version of the text "every time."

"I see what (universities) are doing to make textbooks cheaper and less paper-reliant, but I don't think it'll work in the long run," she says.

But universities are looking to combat that mind-set with programs that urge - or force - students to adapt to the trend.

Indiana University was the first college to pilot a program three years ago by making students buy the e-textbook in selected courses. Five more universities have adopted similar programs: University of California-Berkeley, University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin, University of Virginia and Cornell University.

In Indiana's program, students are charged for the books through their bursar accounts, so they don't have the option of not buying the book. This lets the university negotiate low prices with publishing companies.

An e-textbook through Indiana's program costs about half as much as it would anywhere else, says Nik Osbourne, information technology chief of staff.

IU professor Timothy Baldwin, who used an e-textbook last semester for a management course, says he appreciates some aspects of the book but still longs to hold a book in his hands. He says many of his students felt the same, but he plans to continue using the e-book, anyway.

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Doug_Huffman
3.9 / 5 (7) Aug 16, 2012
Just this AM I wrote at Watt's Up With That,
Doug Huffman says:
August 16, 2012 at 5:19 am

The penultimate benefit of P-Books is that inconvenient truths cannot be easily disappeared. The attempts of previous tyrannies still echo down the corridors of history. See Fahrenheit 451. Use e-communications advisedly with caution and understanding.
Squirrel
4.4 / 5 (7) Aug 16, 2012
Paper and physical ink are better for some tasks--learning is not just about perception but patterns of engagement with a particular place and page.

When the research gets done, I bet it will find the students are not stupid--physical books are superior to ebooks--at least when people face exams
AWaB
5 / 5 (5) Aug 16, 2012
When you're studying difficult topics in physics, math, chemistry, etc., it is often necessary to flip between many different pages while attempting to understand a topic. I often used bits of paper, pencils, erasers, and anything else I could get my hands on while studying. Good luck making that work easily with an eBook. I was surprised to see that there were 'good' schools that are taking such a silly stance on the use of these books!
Caliban
5 / 5 (3) Aug 16, 2012
Not to mention the enormous profitability of textbooks, now made orders of magnitude greater by forced purchase of the e-versions.

I was surprised to see that there were 'good' schools that are taking such a silly stance on the use of these books!


@AWab,

Not surprising, when you consider that the school still gets a cut of the purchase price, and doesn't have to deal with all the physical inventory issues. Then, they can devote all that bookstore space to more profitable retail items: snacks, peripherals, accessories, and athletic wear. Go,(your football team name here)!!!
insignificant_fish
5 / 5 (5) Aug 16, 2012
Still, like all digital media, there is no resale value for these materials. One of the best parts of the physical text was trade, sale or buyback programs that decreased student costs... This trend will undoubtedly lead to the prevalence of piracy and students going to jail for being poor/clever.
DarkHorse66
4 / 5 (4) Aug 17, 2012
Food for thought:I'm not anti-e but;imagine your book falling off the table, or someone stepping on it/being bumped by other hard/sharp objects in your bag. Which one would be more likely to survive...?
A broken/torn book. Pay a technician to fix it(if considered fixable), throw out,buy a new one,...or buy a roll of sticky tape & reconnect the pages.Which option costs less...?
A paper book can last a 100years(even a paperback)if looked after.How long can an ebook in working order last?
Paper-made books need trees to make them.
Ebooks need a whole bunch of electronics & rare-earth metals.
Which is more environmentally friendly?If the trees come from plantations(not natural forests),then no problem.Furthermore, trees sequester carbon.Sure,an ebook might save on paper, but the process to make it, has a larger footprint than making paper.You need electricity to make it work, just like any type of computer. Your battery gets low while you are nowhere near a power point& you are stuffed.DH66
DarkHorse66
4 / 5 (4) Aug 17, 2012
I just reread my previous post. I should clarify; each paragraph is meant as a comparison between an ebook and a traditional book. I'm not anti-technology. Like the rest of you, I deplore and disagree with the scenario when others, for whatever biases or preferences they might have, try to force you to conform to their ideas of how something should be done. Ease of use/convenience for whom??? I don't want to own every last (or latest) electronic gadget under the sun. I also have a right not to be penalised for that. My university seems to have a good mix. Our lecture notes are online. Some lecturers put them all up at the beginning of session. Others will load the latest set a couple of days before the next lecture. Some will even handwrite them via an electronic projector and load them after the lecture (I have one who does that; he's got bad handwriting :s). Some short readings might be online too. But textbooks are REAL paper. Here's a thought: how many of you like to keep...cont
DarkHorse66
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 17, 2012
cont...certain ones as reference books for years after, because they come in handy every so often for work?! We also have subject course notes, or readers that are cheaply bound and printed for each session and nearly every subject. Sometimes a copy will be uploaded onto elearning as well. Yet the lecturers still recommend that we preferentially buy the HARDcopy!!! Unlike those unis in the article, they have actually understood the value of hardcopies. I see many students taking notes or following the lecture note with a computer on their laps, but many do print off a copy as well. Annnyway, best regards, DH66
packrat
3 / 5 (4) Aug 18, 2012
Who makes the pads that are being used as Ebooks? The only one I've seen advertised is Apple Ipads. School contracts were most of Apples business for quite a few years. It looks like it's going to end up their mainstay again. Smart phones and tablets are becoming rather generic looking so Apple is looking for long term business I believe. Anyone know of other companies that sell tablets or pads that are used at schools or colleges? Or companies that make textbooks for the other brands on the market such as Android and Windows? I'm not knocking Apple here as it's a good idea. I wouldn't want to have to use an ebook for studying though for all the reasons already mentioned. Possible bad batteries, dropped and broke, no resale value of textbooks, etc....