Digital textbooks: Students and schools not on same page

For students headed back to school, digital textbooks must seem like they hit the jackpots.  With textbook costs for one semester often exceeding a thousand dollars, buying bits surely has to be less expensive than books, right?

Wrong.  A very interesting article on exposes several hurdles before we can nail the printed book coffin closed. As the article points out, “The benefits of digital textbooks are numerous: they’re potentially cheaper, they’re better for the environment (at least so long as you don’t continually need to upgrade your electronic book reader), they weigh less, they can be updated more easily, and they’re more easily searched.”

So what’s the problem?  While the cost savings would seem to be substantial, the reality is that they are miniscule. In fact, the savings range in the neighborhood of 5 to 15%.  And….digital books are essentially “rented” for the semester, generally 180 days, while print books can be kept forever or sold to next semester’s students to recoup some of the cost down the road.

The next hurdle has to do with the format…or should I say formats.  For the moment, Amazon with its Kindle and Sony are battling it out for market share just like VHS and Beta did years before.  In addition several others including Apple are introducing digital readers in the next few months.  Students therefore may have to own several readers or still purchase print books for some classes.

A year from now, the National Associated of College Stores estimates that digital textbooks could account for 15% of all textbook sales. But for that to happen textbook publishers, ebook reader manufacturers, and schools will have to get on the same page. For the time being, it seems they might be reading out of different books!

Read the full article at Digital Textbooks: 3 Reasons Students Aren’t Ready


Ira S Wolfe