Grossmont College does a particularly great job of charting the basic pros and cons associated with printed books versus eBooks:
Grossmont also notes that it’s mainly cost that’s pushing students to eTextbooks, since, as the College Board recently reported, the average college student typically spends $1,200 a year of course textbooks.
And while there are many websites for helping students find less expensive printed books, like Campus Books, Chegg, and Cheap Textbooks, the price of an eTextbook can be anywhere from 10 percent to 50 percent cheaper.
But is a 10 percent discount enough?
According to an Internet2 report in 2012, students reported that eBooks were not quite there yet in terms of usability, visual presentation and navigation tools. Based on results from a pilot program, students reported problems with readability, complained of eyestrain, and said the eBooks were not fully compatible with all mobile devices. They also noted that navigation features meant to enhance learning, like zoom, highlighting and annotation, don’t function well.
But that was two years ago…has anything changed?
For starters, the price of tablets and iPads, as well as eReaders has dropped, making initial investments in devices more affordable.
Also, the functionality of both eReaders [think: Kindle Fire] and eTextbooks have improved. In a recent Daily Beast report, a shift is occurring in more and more students using devices with ease as K-12 curriculum and family households begin to further implement the technology.
Mirroring this shift, a recent survey by the Pearson Foundation found that 63 percent of college students and 69 percent of high school students believe that traditional textbooks will be phased out in the next five years. Slightly more than half of college students also said they preferred reading digital textbooks over printed ones for class.
“Instead of carrying around a bunch of books, you have one device with everything on it,” said Clayton Brown, a 23-year-old student currently taking biology classes at Liberty University in Va. “It’s just much more efficient.”
“If his professor asks students to follow along in the textbook, he taps his iPad, opens a digital copy and quickly lands at the right place without thumbing through any pages,” writes the the Daily Beast. “He also uses the digital textbook’s added tools like flash cards and an online journal that keeps track of the material he’s highlighted.”
And prices are also continuing to drop: Instead of more than $200 for a used textbook at the campus bookstore, Brown paid $80 for his digital copy from Kno, an education software start-up.
There are also steps that college administration and faculty can take to ease successful implementation of eBooks, with the first step being: know how to use them.
(Next page: Steps to take for implementation)