Understanding the eTextbook war—and how to prepare

The debate continues to rage over print versus eBook, but the future is fairly clear

eBook-etextbook-studentsNumerous reports by various vendors continue to confuse the public: Students hate eBooks; students love eBooks! Some campuses have spearheaded the eTextbook initiative, while some say the technology isn’t there yet. It may seem like a storm best waited out, but, just like with most disruptive technology, that’s incorrect: eBooks are coming, and eTextbooks are the future.

There are two major reasons why eTextbooks on campuses are getting a shady rep: 1) Confusion over the potential of the technology; and 2) The feeling that there’s nothing that can be done at the moment to help implement a technology that’s not perfect.

In terms of the confusion aspect, let’s be clear: eBooks are not laser discs. eBooks are the digital technology that can be used on any device (laptop, computer, phone, tablet, eReader). Saying that eBooks will never take off is like saying long live the tape cassette. But one fact is clear: printed texts are video rental stores, and one day (it may take some decades) those doors will shutter.

Another barrier to adoption is not students, as some may think. Instead, it’s campus administration that’s willing to wait things out until more functionality is available, not knowing that there are practical steps that can be taken now to future-proof the campus for the eventual move to all-eTextbooks, reducing costs for students in the process.

(Next page: Pros and cons)

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