UL students look at e-textbooks. Part one of a three-part series.

College life can be hectic and stressful, not to mention expensive. What if there was a way to drastically cut the cost of textbooks?

A study done by the University of California cumulated that the average student spends around $848 per year on textbooks. These expensive prices have not only occurred in California, but across campuses in the U.S. These prices have taken a toll on the average student, and have made many people consider alternative methods.

In recent years, a concept of textbooks being offered online has emerged. These books are also referred to as e-textbooks. They are available to students online and can be easily downloaded in seconds. Many companies such as DigitalOwl are in the digital textbook market.

Matt Gomez, a digital market manager for DigitalOwl believes that classrooms across the U.S. are ready for this transition. He states that many schools have heard about the e-textbooks and have eagerly contacted the company.

In the article called “The Future of Textbooks: Ebooks in the Classroom”, author Wendy J. Woustra finds that everyone should be educated about this new trend.

“Perhaps the slow response to publishers to digitalize textbooks is a blessing,” said Woustra. She believes that educators need to examine the benefits and cost of these types of books before using them in their classrooms.

The drastic price-cut isn’t the only advantage that e-textbooks offer. In the article “Digital Textbook Gaining Favor” author Dan Macasi mentioned many features that these books offer compared to printed versions.

“What sets them apart is their use of “rich media” or embedded video clips, audio tracks, and hyperlinks,” noted Macasi. These are all great tools that could help a student grasp the reading in other ways than just text. Since one is already on the computer by using the digital books, looking up key words and other information is more convenient. These options also offer visual and hands on activities that would do nothing but help the learning process. Woustra’s article also mentioned how Gomez believes e-textbooks will solve the out of date problems with many books.

“Some of the history textbooks in the Florida school system don’t even mention the Clinton administration, that’s how old they are. Digital textbooks can be updated on the fly with information on what happened in legislature two weeks ago,” Gomez replied. The digital books are able to update straight from the Internet, which could certainly save on the constant purchasing of new hard-copy books. As the years go by, the world is turning more digital and so are the learning habits of young children and students. DigitalOwl also recognizes this and uses this to publish and create books to work with this evolution.

“Students are early adapters,” Gomez said. “They’re still not going to want to do their homework, but when textbooks are interactive, when they can play with them like Nintendo, perhaps it will make learning a more enjoyable experience.” This might encourage students to interact with school work and get them to their fullest learning potential that an out-dated printed copy can’t offer.

With the growing trends come concern that e-textbooks might include come errors and disadvantages. Author Gale Holl wrote the article “Digital Textbooks May Not Be Cheaper Report Finds,” in which he explains some disadvantages to the e-textbooks. He mentions that even though online digital textbooks are usually 50 percent the price of printed versions, that some students have better options.

“Researchers find that since students can re-sell printed books, the price is roughly the same, and that expiration dates on the e-texts make them less viable alternative for some students,” Holl explained. His article also features Frank Lyman who is the executive vice president of CouseSmart. CourseSmart is another company that publishes online textbooks. Lyman explains that not all bookstores pay 50 percent for used books. This would make the option of an e-textbook a better choice for those students.

Recent economic struggles have taken a toll on all Americans including students. E-textbooks have been created to ease the rising prices of textbooks. They have also broke boundaries by offering learning tools and research to all students with different learning methods. The opinions on the new e-textbooks craze vary according to several details and facts. The only thing certain is that the U.S. is progressing in a digital age and options such as e-textbooks are becoming available. The choice of whether or not to use them is the concerning question and will be answered with time, research and experience.

Next week:  Part two of the series.

This article was submitted by UL students Andrea Babin, Daniel Suarez, Garrett Johnson, Hall Davis, and Ben Melancon. 

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