Free digital textbooks surge in popularity

Boundless offers students digital textbooks with reputable content—free of charge.

As college textbook prices continue to climb, a free alternative to traditional textbooks has gathered steam—and its provider claims that students at more than half of U.S. colleges are taking advantage.

Publicly launched this past August, Boundless produces digital textbooks consisting of reliable, open-licensed online content to match students’ reading material in at least 18 subject areas. Boundless primarily uses academic material from reputable sources such as open educational libraries, government resources, and other free learning sites.

Experts in multiple academic fields review gathered content and organize it into digital textbook selections that are structured based on a student’s needs. Students enter their assigned textbook title into Boundless’ website, and it locates comparable material for free, supplementing the text with visual graphics.…Read More

Pearson invests in Barnes & Noble’s Nook

Major technology companies have looked for inroads into the digital textbook industry.

Pearson, the U.K. publisher and education company, is buying a 5-percent stake in Barnes & Noble’s Nook eReader as technology companies seek new inroads into the potentially lucrative business of digital textbooks for schools.

Pearson PLC will pay $89.5 million cash for a 5-percent stake in Nook Media LLC, which includes the bookseller’s eReader and tablets, its digital bookstore, and its 674 stores serving U.S. colleges. Barnes & Noble will hold 78.2 percent of the business and Microsoft will have about 16.8 percent, the company said Dec. 28.

Major technology companies have looked for inroads into the digital textbook industry, seeing tablets like the iPad and the Nook as replacements for the dozens of books that students must lug to and from school each day.…Read More

The 10 most popular eCN stories of the year

Here’s a list of the 10 most popular stories we’ve published in the last year.

Recently, we published a special “year in review” digital edition in which we recapped what we thought were the 10 biggest higher-education technology stories of 2012, and analyzed what these stories might mean for colleges and universities in 2013 and beyond.

(You can access this special digital publication by clicking here.)

Now, we’ve assembled a list of the 10 most popular stories we’ve published in the last year, as measured by the number of page views each received. If you missed any of them before, here’s your chance to read them now, simply by clicking on each headline.…Read More

Colleges taking a team approach to eTextbooks

Six in 10 students said in a recent survey that they forgo buying required books because textbooks are too pricey.

Reining in exorbitant textbook costs is no longer a campus-by-campus venture: A unified approach, powered by EDUCAUSE and the Internet2 consortium’s NET+ cloud-based collaborative purchasing program, could make low-cost electronic textbooks available now, ed-tech leaders hope.

Colleges experimenting with digital textbooks can take months—sometimes years—to negotiate with publishers before their school’s modest eBook program is introduced to students now paying upwards of $1,100 a year for books.

This fall, campus technology leaders will closely track the results of an expansive eTextbook pilot program ranging across 28 campuses, creating what many in higher education believe could be a model for quickly bringing low-cost textbook options to students who, in some cases, have stopped buying required texts because they cannot afford the books.…Read More

Community colleges take a closer look at eBooks

Digital books could save students hundreds every semester.

Major universities aren’t the only schools testing the eBook market. Tarrant County College (TCC) in Texas is the latest small campus to study whether a shift to digital textbooks will lessen the financial burden on students while allowing them to rely on tools that make learning more interactive.

The college district’s move to explore the advantages of digital textbooks comes as more higher education institutions and students turn to this medium for their lessons. Students would carry their textbooks on a portable eBook reader, Apple iPad, or laptop computer instead of their backpacks.

A shift to digital, an idea that first formed with input from TCC faculty, also comes amid continuing increases in tuition.…Read More

Apple iBooks 2 license agreement gets icy reception in higher education

A blogger who tracks Apple products called the iBooks 2 license agreement 'Apple at its worst.'

Advocates for open-license textbooks in higher education, while largely unhappy with Apple’s new iBooks 2 platform, say the technology behemoth has done a favor for their movement: Apple’s pricey, limiting approach to digital textbooks is in stark contrast to the textbook model that aims for low-cost or free college texts.

iBooks 2, announced to great fanfare during a flashy Jan. 19 press conference in New York City, offers iBooks Author software that enables instructors and others to create and publish their own interactive digital textbooks in the Apple iBooks Bookstore. Some campus technology leaders hailed the new iBooks platform as a revolution in digital publishing.

Others took a close look at the iBooks 2 licensing agreement’s fine print and called it “crazy evil,” “mind-bogglingly greedy,” and “deliberate sabotage” of the open, industry-leading standard known as EPUB.…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

Textbooks are coming to students’ Facebook news feeds

Seven in 10 students say they would be likely to use a Facebok app that might improve their grades.

In between commenting on photos, posting videos, and updating statuses, college students will be able to read textbooks, study with classmates, and post questions on Facebook after a California-based digital textbook company released its eBooks to the world’s most popular social network.

Kno, an educational software company that grabbed the attention of campus technologists in July with the release of a controversial eBook survey, announced Aug. 10 that it would make more than 100,000 digital textbooks readable via Facebook.

Read more about Facebook in higher education……Read More

‘Sex vs. Textbooks’ survey doesn’t jibe with student preferences

Textbooks can weigh more than 20 pounds.

One in four college students said in a recent survey that they’d give up sex for a year if it meant never again having to carry textbooks around campus, but majorities of students in other opinion polls show a reluctance to give up on traditional texts and switch entirely to electronic books.

Kno Inc., a California-based educational software company, released a survey July 27 that has grabbed the attention of educators and students alike—and not so much because the survey shows that lugging heavy books from the dorm to the lecture hall and back isn’t fun, but because of what, exactly, young adults would sacrifice to rid their lives of their 800-page biology text.

Read more about textbooks in higher education……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