Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Digital textbooks

The Chronicle of Higher Education carried a story on Tuesday about bookstores at ten colleges and universities that have decided to experiment with carrying digital textbooks. They see this as a way of gauging student demand for this technology. Each institution will offer 25 - 30 textbooks electronically from five publishers as well as in paper form. Students will need to visit the bookstore in order to obtain a "key" that can be used to download the electronic copy. The good news is that the electronic copies will sell for 33% less the paper versions. The bad news as
Educause reports is that:
The text cannot be transferred to any other computer, it cannot be printed in its entirety at one time, and it will only be available for five months...
In addition, the book cannot be sold or returned.

I've used electronic copies of books when teaching distance students and they have appreciated not have to wait for a paper copy to arrive. However, it seems stupid that the person only has access to the book for five months! What if the person needs to take an incomplete in the class? What if the person wants to refer to the textbook later on?

We create digital objects to improve access. I think these bookstores and publishers will find that rather than improving access, they are creating a frustrating situation that only improves access for the near-term.

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The article in the Chronicle is only available to subscribers. However, you can find copies of the article through Google that are readily accessible. Just search on:
Digital-textbook pilot project begins this month in 10 college bookstores


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jon said...

school books are so expensive. I agree, We have been looking for school books all night for a new school books class but havent been able to track down used school books that I can afford. Anyway, I enjoyed looking at you school books blog...