College Study: E-Books Falling Flat

Students who purchased e-textbooks saved only $1 in some cases when compared with others who bought traditional books, according to a new study.

The two-year study by Daytona State College, funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, evaluated students who bought traditional books, rented print books, rented e-textbooks and purchased e-books.

A few years ago, the introduction of e-books in college bookstores held promise for saving students money and becoming a popular choice among today’s wired students. Instead, they’ve fallen flat — with many students still preferring a paper option.

Students who purchase e-books also forfeit the opportunity to sell back their books at the end of the semester.
Boulder Daily Camera
Monday, January 9, 2012

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One Response to College Study: E-Books Falling Flat

  1. Thanks to Doug for getting something up here. I have been intending to write more about this and will before we meet again.

    Here is the text of the study Doug mentions. It is on Educause:

    As you can see the study has its limits and has quite a bit of nuance. One of my problems with it is that it was begun just as etexts were taking off and no mention in my quick review was made of mobile phones as etext readers. Many of our students are totally converged upon the smartphone and read constantly on them.

    The recommendations in the article are worthwhile:

    “At present, DSC is moving forward with campus-wide e-text adoption, following a leadership transition that included welcoming a new president in August 2011. Though we have not set a timeline for going e-text, through our study we have identified a list of key considerations our institution and others like it will need to address:

    1. Avoid top-down mandates. Institutions that require all instructors to simultaneously go e-text might be courting disaster. An effective approach will encourage, but not require, e-text adoption. Should reluctant faculty members observe demonstrable benefits in the classrooms of colleagues who have switched, they will soon decide to go e-text as well.
    2. Know your technological limits. Investing in infrastructure increases and upgrades prior to going e-text — not during, and not only as needed — will help create student and faculty buy-in by demonstrating a commitment to the project and preventing technology failures.
    3. Help students see the advantages. A sizable number of students who otherwise welcome technological expansion in their lives draw the line at textbooks. Clearly communicating to students how much money they will save and what new educational objectives they might meet will lessen resistance to this major change.
    4. Involve student support services. Faculty are never an institution’s only teachers. Collaborate with IT personnel, writing consultants, learning specialists, supplemental instructors, on-campus tutors, and other support staff in the e-text selection, implementation, and training process to ensure that the assistance students receive campus-wide is both consistent and valuable.
    5. Provide instructional support and training for faculty. Ultimately, faculty will bear the biggest responsibility for making e-text adoption successful. The development and dissemination of best practices for teaching with e-texts should be fully supported at the college, program, and department levels.

    Implementing a new campus-wide solution to the problem of prohibitively expensive textbooks is not without risks. But, as our study has shown, careful planning and piloting can help institutions develop strategies for using e-texts to ensure that this enduring problem troubles students much less in the future.”

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