Personanondata: Where are all the e-Textbook Users?

“I’ve been as guilty as anyone, speculating about the demise of print in the classroom. But a combination of institutional resistance, vested interest and simple disinterest have ultimately conspired to position digital textbooks on the slow train to never.  In fact, in a recent survey conducted by Campus Computing on behalf of the National Association of College Stores (NACS), “never” was the answer over 24% of respondents gave when asked when content in the classroom will be primarily digital.

Surveying faculty and students on the adoption of and/or readiness for academic digital content has become a competitive sport, resulting in regular reports presented by associations, trade groups and retailers.   You don’t need to look at many of these to spot the themes consistent to all:  Students prefer print, textbook cost is an issue and faculty isn’t inclined to experiment.”

Source: Personanondata: Where are all the e-Textbook Users?

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One thought on “Personanondata: Where are all the e-Textbook Users?

  1. There are several issues:

    1. The the textbook available as an eText?

    Many are not

    2. Is it in a form you can read on your preferred device?

    A textbook will almost certainly be issued as a PDF. General purpose mobile devices with eBooks viewed by apps can have apps that view PDFs. Dedicated eBook viewers like the Kindle may not include PDF viewing ability.

    3. Assuming you can read a PDF, can you do so well on your device?

    Textbooks issued as PDFs will be fixed format. It’s possible to create PDFs that reflow to fit the device screen, but textbooks won’t, and you wouldn’t want them to. Textbooks are normally multi-column with formatting reflow would make hash of. Sideways scrolling is painful. And textbook publishers will not maintain two separate formats to address this. PDF is the format provided to printers from which to make plates, and issuing the text as an eBook is essentially providing a minor variant of what is provided to the printer. The costs are too great to maintain a separate format in single column intended for mobile devices.

    4. You can’t easily mark it up, and you can’t resell it. There is an active secondary market for paper text books, with marked up copies with key stuff a particular professor will test on highlighted, and such things in demand by other students who will take that class under that teacher. Students can recoup some of their costs by reselling used copies.

    Amazon tried the academic market with the Kindle DX, that had a larger than normal screen to address the issues above and bundled the needed Adobe software to display PDFs. It was tested at places like PACE University in NY, and results were mixed. Many students decided they preferred printed texts.

    Relative lack of success of textbooks in electronic form is not a particular surprise.

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