Google Play, Boundless increase eTextbook options

eTextbooks can be rented from Google Play for as much as 80 percent off the purchase price

Textbook prices over the past decade have increased by more than 80 percent, and some students and faculty have begun turning to alternate, cheaper online means for their class materials.

Forty-seven percent of students recently surveyed by Educause said they wish their instructors used more eTextbooks.

A study conducted earlier this summer by Wakefield Research and CourseSmart determined that more than half of students think they would be more likely to complete required reading if it was available digitally and accessible by a mobile device.

Yet, when students head to campus for the new school year, they’re still usually carrying a backpack full of heavy – and expensive – print textbooks. New initiatives from two very different companies could help change that this semester, allowing students to fit a whole semesters-worth of books in just their pocket.

Google Play, the internet and software behemoth’s digital media store, is now offering up digital textbooks from some of education’s best-known publishers, including Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Macmillan.

“With the Google Play Books app, you have convenient tools at hand to make studying simpler and faster,” Scott Dougall, Google Play’s director of product management, said in a blog post. “You can instantly search within a textbook for a particular word or phrase, bookmark chapters and pages, highlight and annotate key passages and get quick access to dictionaries, translation tools, Wikipedia and Google search.”

See Page 2 for more details on the growing number of eTextbook options for students.

The books can be bought or rented for as much as 80 percent off the purchase price, Dougall said.

Some of the choices are only available to rent. The eTextbooks are kept in the cloud and can be viewed on the internet, an Android tablet, an Android phone, or an iOS device.

While Google Play, primarily a mobile platform, is jumping into the textbook market, a company that specializes in digital textbooks is making a larger push toward mobile.

Boundless Learning uses a process called “alignment” to pull together open content to create a free, digital version of an existing textbook. It’s now expanding its mobile presence by launching premium textbook options with a variety of new features using Boundless Learning Technology.

Two primary components of the new custom textbooks, which will cost $19.99, are what Boundless calls “active recall” and “spaced repetition.”

The digital textbooks frequently summarize information and provide quizzes at important parts of the reading to improve a student’s memorization, the company said. Using an algorithm designed to detect when a student may forget specific points of the material, the eTextbook will provide quizzes and flashcards to help cement the lessons in a student’s memory.

All of the eTextbooks and features can be accessed through Boundless’ new iPhone and iPod Touch apps, which are free.

“Today’s students expect more,” Ariel Diaz, founder and CEO of Boundless, said in an announcment. “They’ve grown up with amazing technology but are burdened with poorly-designed products or ancient technology when they get their education.”

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