With the advent of popular e-readers such as Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad, book lovers and publishers alike are changing and shaping the way books and information are accessed by the public. We’ve heard about of the plight of traditional books, magazines, and newspapers for several years, but reports of their death may be greatly exaggerated.
Book publishers and newspaper companies are increasingly tailoring their material to be easily accessible and readable across a host of new media platforms. One feature of this new landscape which has seemed to go unnoticed, however, is the expansion of digital alternatives to paper-and-binding college textbooks. Many of the largest publishing companies are developing or have already developed electronic editions of their most widely used textbooks and offer these editions at a fraction of the cost of the hard copy. Both Apple and Amazon are quickly realizing the potential for selling e-books to college students and are carrying an ever-increasing selection of online textbooks.
The price of textbooks is an age-old gripe of college students, and rightly so. The price of textbooks has risen at twice the rate of inflation over the past decade with no discernible added benefit for the students or professors using the books. The cost of textbooks is behind only tuition and housing as a percentage of college expenses; students routinely shell out several hundred dollars a semester for textbooks, most of which barely get used in class. So it’s no wonder that students are being prudent in choosing the cheapest way to get the required course material.
The price of an iPad or Kindle may appear steep for a college student, but this is usually ameliorated by the money saved over a couple of semesters (I use these devices as examples only because they’re currently the most popular – you may well find a better deal for another e-reader). Digital textbooks can even be purchased in individual chapters, eliminating the need to buy a whole book when only a few dozen pages are needed for your class. Aside from Apple and Amazon’s in-house textbook selection, an array of new websites are popping up to compete with the big publishing houses and offer e-books that can be read across many different platforms.
Another benefit of e-books is the potential for integration of graphics, images, video, and social media into the textbook’s material. Simply offering the same material found in the hardback won’t cut it with today’s students or professors – highly technical subjects like math or physics can be thoroughly enhanced with the use of dynamic graphics within the e-book’s “pages.” Portability is also a reason these devices appeal to college students; the days of hauling around twenty pounds worth of books end when all the material needed is on one device.
Before making the transition to e-textbooks, check the policy of your school and professors concerning the use of electronics in the classroom. Some professors fully embrace the use of the newest technology while others (usually of an older generation) may see your iPad or Kindle as a distraction in class. Also, make sure the edition of your electronic textbook is the correct one, especially if the class calls for the latest version.
Digital textbooks will continue to grow in popularity and will likely become a fixture in many college classrooms. Shop around to see if the investment in an e-reader is something which could help you ease the high price of traditional college textbooks.