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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


E-books may soon replace textbooks

While the ubiquity of mobile devices and electronic textbooks continue to grow on college campuses, many say they would rather use the real thing.

On Jan. 19, Apple launched its new iBooks app for their electronic devices. iBooks 2, which Apple calls “the next chapter in learning,” is the first bookstore app to sell electronic textbooks that can be accessed on the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. Currently, only Pearson and McGraw-Hill education textbooks are available for purchase.

Aside from providing instant access to courseware for students, the cost of these app textbooks, which has been set at $14.99 or less, is far lower than that of most hardbound textbooks. As more publishers move to mobile devices, UA faculty and administrators contemplate the effects of this option for students on the college textbook market.

“It’s a huge challenge,” said William Neumann, senior lecturer in management information systems. E-books are cheaper, Neumann said, but they “turn into a pumpkin at the end of the semester.” Though you have equity when you purchase a physical textbook, Neumann said, e-books have “no residual value.”

There’s a “hidden ecosystem behind textbooks,” Neumann said. The reason textbook prices have crept upward is because they now include “collateral material” that makes a teacher’s job easier, he said. Essentially, textbooks now come with their own curriculum.

“There’s always a revenue issue,” Neumann said. He said that is pushing to circumvent publishers. An author who builds a book, Neumann said, can’t separate its chapters.
Unlike textbooks, electronic books allow teachers to customize their courses by choosing what parts of a given book best fit their course — teachers are no longer confined to using an entire text for their course.

“A book is no longer a book,” Neumann said.

Aaron Tesch, an adjunct instructor of psychology, said he is trying to create his own iBook textbooks for his courses.

“I do think hardback textbooks are a thing of the past,” Tesch said. “I’m hoping to make these books extremely cheap and as interactive as possible.”

Tesch said he also believes that introducing cutting-edge technology to the classroom can have a positive effect on education.

“Technology like app textbooks has the potential to make it possible to make large classes more interactive, cheaper and more personalized. However, technology is not a substitute for high quality material,” he said.

Kurtis Durfey, a marketing specialist for the UofA Bookstore, said that although e-books are up and coming, students prefer textbooks they can hold.

“Our research indicates that the vast majority of our current students prefer the physical, tangible textbook,” he said. “We know that middle schools are embracing technology in their curriculum, and we expect that those students will come to college with a greater preference for digital content and technology.”

Durfey said he suspects there will always be mixed feelings about which solution contributes to a more valuable learning experience — digital or physical, or perhaps a varying blend of each.

“Whether or not digital will completely overtake traditional textbooks, we’re just going to need to wait and see if that’s what the students and the faculty really want,” Durfey said.

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