Could Digital Textbooks be Making Traditional Textbooks Obsolete?
It doesn't take a crystal ball to see that heavy backpacks and the textbooks inside them are becoming endangered species. Popular devices, like the iPad and Kindle, are just two of many slender, lightweight e-reader products on the market today.
Soon, it seems, all textbooks could be replaced by e-books and digital textbooks. But will they?
Let's take a closer look at digital textbooks to separate fact from fiction.
TRUE OR FALSE: Digital textbooks are outselling traditional textbooks.
FALSE: The hype surrounding digital textbooks at many colleges remains just that: hype. "E-textbooks might be the most-talked about and least-used learning tools in traditional higher education," stated an article in USA Today in June of 2010.
Still, some institutions of higher learning are more forward thinking than others.
The University of Phoenix delivers about 90 percent of its course content via e-books and other electronic means, according to David Bickford, the school's vice-president of academic affairs.
TRUE OR FALSE: Students prefer to read on e-book devices like the Kindle.
TRUE AND FALSE: University of Virginia master of business administration (MBA) students took part in a recent Kindle DX pilot program. The popular e-reader, which is sold for just under $500, was provided to the students at no cost in exchange for their feedback.
Students overwhelming preferred the Kindle DX for personal reading, at a 96 percent clip, but most abandoned it when reading their assigned case studies, citing a variety of reasons.
"We will always look at ways of improving the student experience on Kindle," an Amazon spokeswoman told Business Week in response to the pilot program's results. "One day students could read all their schoolbooks on Kindle."
TRUE OR FALSE: The digital textbook revolution will save students big bucks.
TRUE: Prices for tablet readers generally start around $150 and can go as high as $1,000. But as expensive as e-books might seem, it's not uncommon for a college student to spend as much as $200 or $300 on textbooks - for just one course.
The savings aren't just financial when you take into account the trees that will be saved, thanks to the pages that won't be printed. These days, going digital could also mean going green.
In the meantime, digital textbooks are also competing with textbook rentals, which could be half the cost of a new textbook. Bottom line: More options mean more savings.
The digital textbook revolution has just begun.