Nov 3, 2010

High Schools and Colleges Experiment with E-Textbooks

According to the results of a survey conducted by the National Association of College Stores, the vast majority of college students say they prefer printed textbooks over electronic versions.

The survey found no change from last year in student views relative to e-texts, despite several efforts to introduce electronic books to undergrads in the past year. Seventy-six percent of students indicated they would pick a printed book over an e-text, all things being equal and if the choice were left entirely up to them.

Why electronic texts? They’re cheaper to produce, making bulk purchase more feasible. The Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that by “ordering books by the hundreds or thousands, colleges can negotiate a much better rate than students were able to get on their own, even for used books.”

Virginia State University’s business school recently made a bulk deal with Flat World Knowledge, one of several e-textbook publishers. “For our accounting books senior year, there’s nothing under $250,” said Mirta Martin dean of the business school in an interview with The Chronicle. “What the students were saying is, ‘We don’t have the money to purchase these books.’”

About 13 percent of the students surveyed said they had purchased an e-book in the past three months, mostly because a digital edition was required by their professors. Only 8 percent, however, actually owned an e-reader device such as Kindle or Sony Reader.

Digital textbooks are also making inroads into high school classrooms. A California initiative hopes to replace many high school science and math texts with free, “open source” digital versions. California spends approximately $400 million per year on textbooks, according to the California Open Source Textbook Project.

In Virginia, four school divisions—Arlington County, Henry County, Newport News and Pulaski County—are participating in the Virginia Department of Education’s “Beyond Textbooks” initiative, which is exploring the potential of wireless technology and digital textbooks. Because the average lifespan of a K-12 text is two to three years, the idea of a cheaper alternative has some appeal.

This year, 9th grade students at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington will leave their history textbooks on the shelf and log on to “World History: Volume 1” e-textbook. And AP Biology students enrolled in Virtual Virginia, VDOE’s online learning program, are experimenting with an electronic version of their text using iPads.

Nevertheless, college students responding to the trend express some resistance. “Students can rent textbooks from the bookstore for about half the retail price AND write in them!”

No comments:

Post a Comment