educationtechnews.comTextbooks headed for ash heap of history?

Textbooks headed for ash heap of history?

November 5, 2010 by Jake Simms
Posted in: In this week's e-newsletter, Latest News & Views, Tech Trends

From 1978 through 2010, what increased in price more: a) houses b) college textbooks or c) the overall inflation rate?

If you answered (b), go to the head of the class.

Over the last 30 years, educational books rose in price at twice the price of inflation (6.7% to 3.3%) — just one reason that students and their families say college is more and more unaffordable these days.

Now the Chronicle of Higher Education predicts more schools will fast-track electronic readers for four-year students, eliminating the need for print textbooks.

The Chronicle says colleges will charge students a “course-materials” fee that would cover all electronic books (or e-books) that professors require. Students would save well over half the money that’s now spent on textbooks.

That’s because an e-book costs between $25 to $30 to produce versus $150 to $300(!) to make a print textbook. Ordering e-book downloads in bulk would save a bundle.

Then colleges could negotiate better rates with publishers. Eventually the used-book market would dry up and the incentive for illegally downloading texts would likely decrease too.

Time for a change

The e-book revolution may arrive sooner than you think. Reason: Some college leaders are as fed up with overpriced textbooks as students.

“When students pay more for new textbooks than tuition in a year, then something’s wrong,” says Rand Spiwak, executive vice president at Daytona State College. “Our game plan is to bring the cost of textbooks down by 75 to 80 percent.”

What’s your take — are e-readers the smarter choice? Share your opinion below.

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  • Teresa Johnson

    I like the idea of electronic text books. They could be updated in ‘real time’ and never become obsolete. No more worrying about different editions and ISBN.

  • Shannon Field

    Although I’ve always made e-books available as an option for my students, I hadn’t actually “used” an e-textbook until this semester in my graduate program. The iPad makes it a breeeze to read, and the Kindle highlight and notes tool provides a terrific online document with links back to the specific sections of the book. I traveled pretty light this week, with no print textbooks to lug around at the airport. I’m getting pretty spoiled with this resource!

  • Katrina Worley

    I’ve been reading ebooks rather than print for my casual reading (mostly novels) for years, but it’s really only been since the iPad that electronic textbooks have really been a viable option for me. I now get most of my exam copies from the major publishers in ebook form on my iPad through CourseSmart, and one of the smaller presses made their text available to me as an e-pub file. Rather than carrying around 4-5 textbooks and a laptop, I can carry one iPad (the fact that I can connect the iPad to the overhead projector to show films and slides is a bonus), and the iPad shows all of the diagrams, pictures, and charts in full color. More and more of my students are asking about e-texts for the same reasons. They like the idea of having their books with them at all times just on the chance they might need it, but aren’t so happy about lugging around huge bags of back-breaking paper if they don’t.

  • Marie

    Many of the e-books that I have seen are either bound to the computer that they are installed on or have are considered a rental with an expiration date. If the books are in a portable archivable format, e-books are acceptable, but otherwise I’m not convinced that it is a great idea, especially for core courses.

  • Steve

    With “regular” books I haven’t seen that the promised savings on production costs are passed on to the reader by publishers, so I remain to be convinced that it will be much better with textbooks. I don’t find that the lower cost readers (Kindle, etc.) are very well suited to textbooks (unlike novels), and of course the iPad is somewhat more expensive, which needs to be factored into the cost. You also can’t sell a second-hand electronic textbook!

  • Doug Cole

    I went to grad school between 2002 and 2004. While in the midst of my studies, the curriculum I was in transitioned completely from textbooks to e-books. I prefer the printed page, but had no difficulty with cogniton. And, at four-hundred per semseter hour, the price break provided by e-books was very welcome!! You can read an e-book on your PC or laptop, it does not require an i-Pad or Kindle….Now, if we could just keep capitalism out of the equation!

  • Steve S.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that e-textbooks have a limited lifetime. If this is the case, it makes it difficult to refer back to a text from a previous course for review, etc. Plus, when I have tried to use an e-book it seemed to restrict me to a much more linear reading, whereas with a print book I can easily skip from a chapter introduction to the summary and then back into the middle of the chapter to review and study.

  • Veronica

    I haven’t used textbooks for years. They are large, cumbersome, expensive, and include much more material than is required for the course. I have ordered individual paperback books for my classes, thereby avoiding the exorbitant costs. Students also are more willing to mark up their paperbacks and more likely to add them to their private collections; thus, they are more serious about what they study.

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