Microsoft takes aim at college textbooks

With Microsoft's $300 million investment, the two companies are teaming up to create a subsidiary for Barnes & Noble's eBook and college textbook businesses.

Books and bits united April 30 as Microsoft provided an infusion of money to help Barnes & Noble compete with top electronic bookseller Amazon. In exchange, Microsoft gets a long-desired foothold in the business of eBooks and college textbooks.

With Microsoft Corp.’s $300 million investment, the two companies are teaming up to create a subsidiary for Barnes & Noble’s eBook and college textbook businesses. Microsoft is taking a 17.6 percent stake in the venture.

The agreement underscores the importance of electronic bookstores as traditional booksellers and technology companies jockey for position in the increasingly competitive market. While no definitive numbers exist, eBooks are believed to account for some 20 percent of book sales in the U.S.…Read More

Odessa College expands reach, accessibility through its online program

Odessa College's online program includes free online textbooks.

As colleges feel the pressure to help more students complete their degrees, a growing number have launched online programs to better meet students’ needs. In just its first year, Texas’ Odessa College is becoming a model for other schools to look at as they consider their own online programs.

Odessa College’s innovative online program, OC Global, aims to capitalize on student resources and reach new heights after its first year.

Corey Davis, executive direction for OC Global, said he has been overall pleased with the program this year but hopes to expand on the ease of technology available to students and improve on the layouts for students.…Read More

Technology helps personalize the college experience for SOCCD students

SOCCD officials say they won't cut back on technology services during a budget crunch.

California’s South Orange County Community College District is a leader in ed-tech innovation, with custom-developed applications that help students register for courses, buy textbooks, and find the courses that are right for them. SOCCD is working with state officials to distribute these tools to the nearly 3 million students in the state’s community college system.

For these reasons and more, we’ve chosen SOCCD as our “eCampus of the Month” for March. Here, Dr. Robert Bramucci, vice chancellor for technology and learning services, describes SOCCD’s ed-tech initiatives and its keys to success.

(Editor’s note: To nominate your college or university for this award, and to read about past award winners, go to http://ecampusnews.eschoolmedia.com/ecampus-of-the-month.)…Read More

Free textbooks coming for five intro college courses

Many students say they go without textbooks, even when they're required.

College students in five of the most-attended courses in U.S. higher education soon will have free peer-reviewed textbooks available to them as a Rice University-based program looks to save students $90 million in book costs over the next five years.

OpenStax College, a textbook initiative funded by myriad nonprofits including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced Feb. 7 that books for introductory courses in physics and sociology would be freely available to students everywhere, not just on select campuses.

Unlike most open-platform texts—meaning the work is not copyrighted and available to reprint at no cost—the OpenStax College books are peer-reviewed, eliminating a stubborn impediment for professors and instructors who haven’t adopted open textbooks because they hadn’t been vetted like books from major publishing companies.…Read More

eBook pilot could save college students a ‘huge amount of money’

The eTextbook pilot program will cost $20,000.

The University of Wisconsin (UW) Madison campus and five other major universities announced plans this week to try buying electronic textbooks in bulk, an experiment that officials say could help rein in burdensome textbook costs and bring eTextbooks into the mainstream.

The university will try it on a small scale at first, in five courses involving about 600 students at the start of the school’s spring semester.

At UW-Madison, students will spend an average of about $1,140 on books and supplies this year, up from $680 in 2001-02.…Read More

College students go without textbooks as prices rise

UC Riverside tuition and fees have risen by $2,000 since last year.

Six in 10 students at the University of California, Riverside said they forgo purchasing recommended class supplies—including textbooks—because they’re strapped for cash.

The findings from UC Riverside, a campus of 20,000 students, reflect results of similar surveys conducted by the Student Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), an organization that has pushed for open online textbook programs that could slash book costs to a fraction of the $1,000 student spend today.

And while 60 percent of respondents to the UC Riverside survey said they “skipped buying [schools supplies] entirely,” two-thirds of students said they postponed buying textbooks and other supplies, leaving them without necessary class material in the first weeks of a course.…Read More

The textbook alternative that could save students $700 per year

Only three out of 10 students say they would rent all their books.
Only three out of 10 students say they would rent all their books.

College textbooks available for free online or sold in print for low cost could slash students’ annual textbook bill from $900 to $184, according to a survey of students from 10 campuses released this fall.

The Student Public Interest Research Group survey, “A Cover to Cover Solution,” which included answers from more than 1,400 students last spring and summer, claims that books with open licenses could cut rising college textbook costs by up to 80 percent, yet remain profitable for publishers who have long battled the open-textbook movement.

Six in 10 students said they would be willing to buy low-cost paper copies of an open textbook, the group explains, as three-quarters of student respondents preferred printed books over digital textbooks—which is similar to findings from other surveys conducted in higher education.…Read More

Are textbooks a ‘scam’? Students think so

Renting textbooks can save thousands over a four-year college career, industry experts say.
Renting textbooks can save thousands over a four-year college career, industry experts say.

Buying pricey textbooks has never been a back-to-school highlight for college students, but according to a survey released Aug. 12, students rank textbooks among their leading wastes of money and the “biggest scam” in higher education.

Disdain for the costliness of textbooks was just one of the many financial worries revealed in a survey of college students conducted by online textbook rental company BookRenter, which launched in 2008 and serves about 5,000 college campuses with a library of 3 million textbooks.

The survey results echo a sentiment expressed by many student activists in recent years as textbook prices have soared and web-based book rental web sites have attracted millions of customers with texts often marked down by more than half the retail cost.…Read More

Students send texts for cheap textbooks

More than 20,000 students have texted their textbook requests this year.
More than 20,000 students have texted their textbook requests this year.

College students reeling from textbook sticker shock in their campus’s bookstore can send a text message to a popular book rental company to see if they can save serious cash every semester.

Online textbook rental companies, which allow students to rent books for a semester, often for a fraction of the retail cost, have seen consistent growth in the past three years, industry experts say—and one company, Chegg, now invites text-message inquiries to help students check availability and rent from the company’s repository of 4.2 million books.

College students still can check availability and prices on Chegg’s web site, but they also can scour Chegg’s book options by texting a textbook ISBN or title to a designated number. The student will receive a responding text with a link to Chegg’s mobile web site, accessible on popular mobile devices like the iPhone and BlackBerry.…Read More