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Florida college looks to become eBook pioneer

Campus is among the first to commit to slashing textbook costs entirely with electronic alternatives

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iPads will be among to eReader choices for Daytona State College students.

iPads will be among to eReader choices for Daytona State College students.

An all-eTextbook campus won’t just make Florida’s Daytona State College the envy of the education-technology world. The program will also save academic careers cut short when students can’t afford their books, pushing Daytona officials to find an electronic alternative and perhaps serve as a model for higher education.

Daytona State, a 35,000-student institution and a former community college, has been moving toward a “100 percent” eBook campus since 2009, using electronic texts in English, computer science, and economics courses, said Rand Spiwak, Daytona’s chief financial officer and executive vice president.

Daytona’s eBook initiative would allow students to buy electronic texts for about $20 apiece, Spiwak said, and the books would be accessible on any web-enabled eReader. The college would make affordable eReaders available to students or students could read their books on one of the thousands of on-campus computers.

And if students or faculty members still want the traditional hardback textbook, they can print out the eBook’s pages and put them in a three-ring binder.

Daytona State’s goal should be welcome news for cash-strapped students: Officials want to reduce annual textbook costs – now at around $1,100 – by 50 to 80 percent, even after the purchase of an eReader like the Apple iPad.

“When you look at why students withdraw from schools, so many of the responses are textbook related,” Spiwak said, citing a Daytona survey that showed students were taking classes without buying the pricey textbook, or using an older version of the book handed down to them from a friend or family member.

“Those people just got behind and failed,” he said.

As the college’s CFO, Spiwak said, it’s his job to find ways to keep students enrolled. Cutting book costs that can be equal to tuition costs became a “win-win” strategy.

Spiwak said the college has contacted publishers and manufacturers who might provide eReaders for students, and if all goes according to plan, the campus-wide eBook rollout should begin next summer, so campus technologists can work out any “bugs” before students return for the fall 2011 semester.

“We’ve been slow and deliberate because we didn’t have a model to emulate,” he said, adding that Daytona administrators looked for an eBook program model institution for about three months before giving up. “And we know that once this catches on, students are going to demand it.”

Daytona’s eBook program is gaining national attention just six months after a national survey showed digital textbooks may be a ways off from replacing traditional books, especially since online textbook rental services have made hardcover books more affordable in recent years.

Seventy-four percent of students surveyed by the National Association of College Stores (NACS), a nonprofit trade organization representing 3,000 campus retailers, preferred printed textbooks for their college classes.

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3 Responses to Florida college looks to become eBook pioneer

  1. joyzabala

    November 2, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    This is an interesting initiative. I am wondering what plans have been made for accessiblity of the ebooks and readers by students with disabilties. Will be ebooks be in a format that can be read by a variety of assistive technology devices and features that may include screen readers and text-to-speech, etc.

  2. Jamesvasey

    November 3, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Good luck on the $20 price point. The authors will quit writing & you can short all the publishers stock value. This doesn’t even mention the short comings of the universities expected budgets! Why would the universities allow this? Think about all the economic shortcomings. It’s like free anything, the quality won’t be there over time.

  3. bob_kawka

    November 9, 2010 at 10:54 am

    I made the same proposal to the Supt. of Schools for the state of California and to the gov. The Gov. (Arnold) replied that it was bad for big business. The State Superintendent had a visit from the textbook lobby the day before. The Sup. gave me an interview and said he would have his assistant review it and get back to me. (That was over 5 years ago…still waiting)
    I tried to point out to them that the cost savings would be on the cost of actual production. The publisher would still make his normal profit, just eliminate the production costs of printing the text.
    At the time I estimated that public school districts around the country would save 50 to 100 million per year using this process.
    My hats off to Daytona for finally bringing reality to the academic world. I do not have enough time or space to discuss the textbook process and what is really happening in the process of producing most textbooks. Just understand that most authors would not lose their fees using the Daytona process.

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