The University of Louisiana is taking part in the introduction of electronic textbooks, and is getting a glimpse of the future of the norm soon to come on college campuses nationwide. Digital textbooks will be used in classrooms, but the main question is when electronic textbook will overtake the old fashioned, paperback textbook.

To read Part I of this article, click here.

The loyalty to the printed textbook by the students has definitely been recognized, but opportunity is still increasing for the electronic textbook. Lauren Melancon states “The teachers should give the option of purchasing an online digital textbook, because the paperback textbooks are more expensive. Also, some students don’t have the financial needs to purchase the paper textbooks.”

With laptops almost found everywhere on college campuses the reason to start electronic textbooks on college campuses seems simple. Also, with textbooks increasing in price every year and prices in laptops decreasing, college students seem to have already have taken this notice and started to look for cheaper alternatives. A student at UL was asked if she owned a laptop and would consider buying a digital textbook replied “Yes, I own a laptop and would consider buying a digital textbook, because prices of textbooks are higher than ever”

Teachers offering digital textbooks to students allow students to have an additional choice, which is about a quarter of the price of the paperback book. When asking college students if their teachers have offered this option to them three out of the four replied “yes”. Also, three out of the four students feel the teachers should give the option of purchasing an online digital textbook. Chris Martinez states “I feel that they don’t have to offer online digital textbooks, but in the near future I could see all teachers offering this option.”

Online digital textbooks have been offered to some students and the ability for some students to save money makes since, but why have most students chosen to stay with paperback textbooks? Most students answered that they were used to their study habits, like to highlight and fold pages, and rather have an actual book to read. Last year, according to the Association of American Publishers, e-textbooks sold by major publishers in the United States added up to $241 million out of a total of $3.5 billion in retailing by major publishers.

Some students feel digital textbooks may be convenient and portable, but for some students a major issue is looking at a screen for extended periods of time. One student explains that he “Typically take 15 credits a semester. Each three credit course has somewhere in the range of 50-100 pages of reading per week. While I would love that reading to be a little cheaper, no way do I want to read up to 500 pages from a computer screen every week. No way!”

If digital textbooks are bought by students will the digital textbook remain digital? Linda Scharp explains “Having worked as a teacher and a textbook editor, it is my experience that most students will print out the electronic files from their e-books, so they don’t have to read online. Somehow no one figures the printing cost into the equation or the subsequent effect on the environment. The winners here may be companies that supply toner, printers, and copiers”

A few UL students were asked how much money they spent purchasing textbooks from the bookstore a semester and the answers ranged from 400 dollars to 800 dollars. Most students felt it was worth spending the money, because it was going toward their degree, and they will also be able to get some of the money back by selling their purchased books back to the bookstores. Some students felt the problem with online digital textbooks is that the digital textbook companies are charging too much. “Why buy the digital version if the price difference is not that great, and the textbooks can be resold online after it has been used?”

Other issues concerning digital textbooks have been related to the availability of a standard hardware to access digital textbooks, but as the student demand increases a common standard for hardware will emerge. Some predict the change in digital textbooks will soon be similar to the change that is occurring in the music industry, but at the moment digital textbooks don’t have a common device used for browsing online textbook such as the likes of iTunes or iPod for listening to music.

Digital Textbooks will be more widely used in the future, but depending on how many digital textbooks are marketed by bookstores and offered by professors will determine the amount of usage.

Next week:  Part III 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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