There are dozens of pilot programs taking place in schools across the country analyzing the benefits and drawbacks of replacing bound textbooks with digital e-texts. While there may be benefits to students in cost and reduced backpack bulk, a Wall Street Journal article found that e-books are getting mixed reviews from students. A study at Northwest Missouri State provided 200 students with e-texts on Sony’s eBook reader. Many of the students were won over by the technology, but dozens dropped out of the program finding the e-texts awkward and inconvenient. Northwest Missouri State may not be unique in its students’ reactions to e-texts. One poll showed that as many as 75 percent of college students prefer print to digital texts.
While some students may not be ready for e-texts, the move from paper to bits and bytes may be inevitable. The Kindle has proven that there is a growing market for eBooks. The new larger Kindle DX was designed specifically for the college textbook market. Several competing eBook readers are due out later this year ramping up competition in the market, and bringing down prices. Amazon will be handing out hundreds of its new Kindle DX to college students at seven big Universities this fall in hopes of jump starting the eText market. Meanwhile, textbook publishers are analyzing the market, weighing their options, and developing pricing models. Thousands of textbooks are being formatted for the Kindle, as well as online eBook services like Course Smart. This week Harvard University Press announced that it will publish 1,000 of its books on Scribd – the largest online social publishing company in the world.
While it appears that we are on the cusp of a new era in textbook publishing, some companies are looking ahead and wondering if e-texts will satisfy the needs of the next generation of college students. Today’s grade school and middle school kids are being raised with digital media, Internet video, and gaming in 3d virtual environments, and are likely to find current eBook technologies incredibly uninteresting. So as with so many of today’s big businesses, in order to meet the needs and tastes of a rapidly evolving public, textbook companies are having to become innovative and nimble in order to effectively serve up textbook lessons utilizing the latest technologies.
Check out the links in the show notes for the latest news regarding eBooks and eTextbooks.
- Book Smarts? E-Texts Receive Mixed Reviews From Students [The Wall Street Journal]
- The future of scholarship? Harvard goes digital with Scribd [Ars Technica]
- Publisher Delays E-Book Amid Debate on Pricing [The Wall Street Journal]