Monday, January 12, 2009

Digital Textbooks Move Forward

The Kansas City Star reports that Northwest Missouri State University students start their spring semester classes will be participating in a pilot electronic textbook program which began last semester with four classes and about 200 students. This spring, about 4,000 of the school’s 6,500 students will use electronic textbooks.
Northwest’s plan to eventually eliminate all bound textbooks makes it a leader in the change to digital textbooks. However, they state that they can only go as fast as publishers make the digital copy available and not all students are as comfortable with the electronic textbooks so students who want a traditional textbook could still get one.

Currently the university spends about $800,000 to maintain a student rental inventory of some 50,000 to 80,000 textbooks. A textbook-free campus would save the university about $400,000 a year.

This again raises the question of rental versus purchase and in a WiFi campus or permanently connected environment the need to download. Think of the information and feedback publishers would have available if they could see the text books student usage, annotations and bookmarks. There are many opportunities that digital brings over and above just replicating the physical copy and the challenge to many is to establish a strategy that is capable of evolving and not just following the rest.


Anonymous said...

I just wrote a post about the "true" affordability of a local community college where the cost of books was almost equal to tuition.
A university president from Birmingham had some interesting things to say in the comments.

Anonymous said...

Digital textbooks have been around for several years. In my opinion, they haven't obtained critical mass in the college textbook market because:

1) There's no such thing as a used digital textbook/eBook
2) There's no such thing as eBook buyback
3) You have to have access to a computer/laptop to read it (sorry, kindle)
4) Subscription-based/Web-based eBook reading is still in its infancy and publishers issues with DRM make this model one used only on-campus in controlled settings

eBooks still have a way to go. I'd be curious to see how this University's full embrace of the all digital format moves forward after several years.

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