The Future of Textbooks in a Digitized World

James Proctor

In January 2011, California start-up company Kno, Inc. announced upcoming beta testing of single and two-screen e-book readers specifically designed for use with electronic textbooks. The devices, consisting of 14-inch screens, replicate the size and appearance of a standard hard-copy textbook and allow users to apply “traditional” study techniques such as highlighting and margin notes. Kno intends to commence selling both products in early 2011.

E-books are not without drawbacks, and their lack of accessibility for the blind has already been the subject of a lawsuit against Arizona State University settled last year. However, the recent proliferation of new general-purpose readers, growing public discontent with the textbook industry, and a California law requiring electronic textbooks in all primary and secondary schools by 2020 indicate that the days of a hard-copy textbook being the primary instruction aid are most likely numbered.

Credit: Penarc

The digitization of any creative work raises issues of copyright protection. Although publishers have taken legal action against companies that facilitated illegal copying and distribution of textbooks without permission, most infringing activity has been the product of labor-intensive preparation such as scanning of hard-copy textbooks. As a result, the amount of infringement has not been high enough to be a significant concern to publishers. The digitization of textbooks, however, will likely revolutionize the delivery of textbooks in the same manner that digital music changed the recording industry. Similar to an .mp3 music file, a digital book never deteriorates and costs almost nothing to reproduce and distribute to other users. Without controls on this distribution process, a primary purpose of copyright protection — providing a financial incentive for authors to create original works — will be easily defeated.

The music industry’s resistance to the introduction of digital music is instructive, though not completely applicable, for publishers contemplating the growing popularity of e-books. Similar to the publishing industry, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) was successful in shutting down the most popular peer-to-peer file sharing service provider. However, similar service providers still exist, while others have managed to avoid jurisdiction by locating their domains beyond American jurisdiction. RIAA’s real success in combating copyright infringement came when it started targeting and suing individual consumers, often for astronomical sums of money. The publishing industry, however, is not likely to fare as well in pursuing legal remedies as did the music industry.

Unlike RIAA, however, textbook publishers will not be as likely to slow illegal downloading by taking legal action against individual consumers. RIAA reported in 2004 that the music users it sued had downloaded an average of 800 songs each. A typical student, on the other hand, may use 3-5 textbooks a semester, some of which may not be downloaded. Such low-volume lawsuits would probably not deter other students to a degree that would make the publishers’ considerable investment in legal costs worthwhile.

So how should the textbook industry deal with the advent of digitization? The best answer may be to embrace the technology and develop business models that would ensure continued profitability. The newspaper industry’s slow reaction to the advent of internet-based news services still threatens its existence, but newspapers are starting to take action to remain viable by streamlining operations (most notably, by singling up publications in most metropolitan areas), concentrating on local features and news, and introducing websites featuring advertising space. In similar fashion, publishers should improve their processes in order to successfully implement an e-book operation. For example, electronic publishing should enable publishers to eliminate distribution overhead and some production costs. Authors could collaborate on open source textbook projects in order to reduce costs and improve textbook quality. Advertising could be built into each publication. In addition, technology could be used to make electronic books non-transferable by adding copy protection or charging the user a per-use fee.

In sum, the ability of publishers to embrace digital technology early by implementing effective business models may enable them to profit from the growth of e-books rather than be victimized by it.

94 thoughts on “The Future of Textbooks in a Digitized World

  1. …but what would become of the ubiquitous “textbook buy-back day” at the campus bookstore?

    😉

    Textbook digitization is certainly going to change a lot of models and practices.

    Interesting perspective … thank you for sharing!

    • That’s a good point. Once books are digital, it’s unclear whether the Uniform Commercial Code would apply. This matters because the U.C.C., which governs the sale of “goods” (defined as “all things movable”), might allow buyers of used e-books to obtain good title from merchants, even if the original possessor did not have good title. In plain English–you are correct; e-books could have a dramatic effect on the market for used books and the ability to loan books to others. Here’s an interesting article if you want the gory legal details.

      • Speaking as a devil’s advocate, the used book market exists because new books are so expensive. Perhaps digitizing books will drive down prices to the point where I won’t need to trek to the bookstore to get $7 for my $150 book, or hassle with selling my book online.

        The issue of sharing books, to me, is more problematic. This is where the per-use fee might come into play. That sort of scheme may actually become a more equitable means of cost sharing. For example, a lower initial download price could be paid, with a nominal fee charged for each view in order to recoup the difference.

      • Your concept that UCC and first-sale doctrine might apply is pie-in-the-sky dreaming. The trends in courts are definitely against that interpretation on digital assets. In fact, the major publishers are pushing e-textbooks specifically because they can’t be re-sold. In fact, the textbook publishers don’t sell them originally. They “license” them for limited periods of time to one student.

        As a professor who costs out the “total-cost-to-use” before choosing textbooks, I’ll tell these e-texts are in fact more expensive for students. That’s the publishers’ goal.

        I use a text from a small start-up publisher without all the useless overhead of the big pubs – been doing it for 3 years. Students have a choice of $9 online/e-version vs. $32 printed + e-version. Overwhelming, students prefer print. Their grades reflect it too. Print is superior studying medium for textbooks (probably not novels).

  2. I read things on the internet or in digital form all day long for work, but at night when I want to read for pleasure I really enjoy holding a book in my hand. I’m not sure I want my pleasure reading to be done from a digital device with a glare.

    • I always thought the same thing. I finally bought an Amazon Kindle and I love it. It has a static image so there is no glare on the screen. It’s virtually the same for your eyes as a hardback book. Only it’s smaller and can hold over 3,000 titles. I know some of the other e-readers out there have a different type of screen that might have a glare though.

    • I too enjoy the feel, smell, and idea of physical books. However, I think digital ones are the future, so we should embrace them. They’re much more environmentally friendly! I do hope they don’t make real books obsolete, though…

  3. I would not be able to learn well from an e-book. I don’t care how much they allow “highlighting”. One of the advantages (and a big advantage) of paper texts is that you can flip back and forth between pages and look for information. Don’t tell me you can “save” pages to go back to on an electronic book. It’s not the same. I find a similar problem with thesaurases and dictionaries online. As much as I love these online tools, if I don’t know how to spell a word, I can’t look it up. When I have a paper version of a dictionary I can flip through it, looking at words similar to how I think my word is spelled. Also, some of us learn better if we can feel the paper and underline the words. The tactile part of this process is not the same on an electronic device.

    • The same could be said for a lot of other emerging technologies. I used to prefer the way 8-track tapes separated songs (I know I’m dating myself here). The point is that I eventually got used to cassette tapes, and now would be highly upset if I couldn’t have my ipod anymore.

      Accessibility within electronic documents is almost certainly going to improve in the future and, again, people are eventually going to get used to the format (again, think ipod). For those who still need the “tactile part”, though, printing out pages will be a relatively inexpensive option.

      • Well said as I too remember 8 tracks. I home schooled my son using the internet and books only for reading exercises, enjoyment, and story value. Unfortunately, I easily drift off subject when reading text books. I need fun to help spur on my curiosity; text books are so rigidly edited and they generally contain old information by the time their printed and distributed. Just my opinion. BTW, my son was working two grades ahead of his peers with the internet and me as co-teachers.

      • Totally agree with you…it’s all about adapting to the new thing.
        Besides, think of the children being born these days…they learn how to use an iPad before they can say “mum”. Maybe, books as we know today in 20 years are going to be those old things you see at your grandparents house.

    • Janet, you are right on. I’ve been teaching for 3 years (college) using a text available as either e-text or a printed copy. Students and their grades are very clear. For studying and learning purposes, the print is superior.

      Most of the comments you’ve received that suggest you’re simply resistant to new technology, I suspect come from people who only imagine themselves in the situation, but don’t really understand how studying happens, how a textbook is used. Further, most of these folks don’t have any actual research showing e-text is better, they just assume the learning is the same and get excited about the gee-whiz techno aspects.

  4. I remember a cartoon clipping.

    A young boy gets a book as a birthday gift.

    He looks all around it and asks the man who gifted the book – “Where do the batteries go?”

  5. Having been in the university community (teaching, studying, I was even asked to write a digital text for molecular biology), it’s an inevitability. Digitization is coming and there’s nothing to stop it. It’s unfortunate that texts are 1 of the few money-makers left in the book business (have you seen the price of medical texts – $200+ each) but now that the technology is solid enough – there’s no stopping it.

    There will always be those who seek to avoid paying. Back in the day, I knew students who bought texts, used or photocopied the relevant sections and took them back for a full refund. I even know groups of students who took whole courses for each other – if you wonder how so many people have perfect grades – look to their peer-group. Each person registered for 6 classes but actually participated in 4. The other 2 were repeated courses for friends.

    Personally, I love the freedom that comes with a digital copy – no more shlepping 3 or 4 texts and breaking your arms/back. Now you can have every text with you all the time. The flip of this is now the students have no excuse not to provide ‘perfect’ info on every document ‘handed’ in. (Which is also digital.)

    I enjoyed the post – thanks!

    • Of course there’s always people who’ll avoid paying. During my under-grad course a lot of students didn’t even bothered buying and returning books for their units – they’d just photocopy relevant pages from the library copy before each class. But even if it happened before, the advent of e-books will certainly make it easier for people who are thus inclined.

      Has anyone considered how these developments might improve the ability of educational institutions to monitor for plaigarism? A lot of undergrad courses already analyse student assignments against electronic databases, do you think there’s potential for reference books to be intergrated into those databases once they’re in e-book form?

  6. Newspapers have streamlined their operations by removing the content providers (ie. journalists) at the detriment of quality. Is the same going to happen to textbooks?
    Why would an author want to collaborate on an open source textbook project for which they will undoubtedly receive little compensation compared to the current working model? To quote Grace Rubenstein, “Open source content, or material freely contributed and given away…” and “… to earn the “open source” definition, materials must be licensed so that anyone may freely use, modify, and republish them. This status enables material to be collaboratively written online through group-editing software.” So content is to be freely given away with little or no editorial discretion or review (a la Wikipedia). Textbooks contain enough errors and omissions going through a long and lengthy writing, rewriting and editorial review process using the traditional publishing method. A new and open publishing model may lead to further erosion of reliability of textbooks in the future. At what point do we realize the blinking and beeping box connected to a fiber optic network is not the saviour of the world? That time and hard work are still needed in some endeavors no matter how much we’d like the computers to take over and do it for us.
    Furthermore, advertising has no place in the classroom but will inevitably happen, as you such, in the digitization because at the end of the day business is business. Education is secondary to all other concerns.

    • Thank you for replying. You’ve raised some interesting points.

      I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that authors would “undoubtedly receive little competition” for collaborating on an open source textbook project. In theory at least, this wouldn’t seem to be a very difficult problem to overcome. For example, the publisher of an open source textbook could implement a royalty system to provide the incentive to contribute. There may be other solutions as well.

      The issue of quality would probably be resolved through competition. Instructors select the publications they use in their classes, and can eliminate the ones that they discover don’t work for them and their students. In order to sell textbooks over the long term, an author will have to produce a quality product. Reputation is important. To be frank, I don’t see how this differs from “traditional” textbooks: I’ve had good ones and bad ones.

      Enterprising minds will almost certainly find a way to make an business model work for anything that will sell. Just ask a buggy whip maker (if you can find one).

    • Imagine the cost-cutting on textbooks if publishers sold their books near the true costs of producing them. Instead of $180 textbooks from major publishers, we could have $32 print-on-demand books. A few startup publishers are actually doing this, but they get squeezed by the oligopoly.

  7. Digital textbooks kind of makes sense, since they’re forever coming out with new editions that only have tiny little updates (if they were digital, they could probably update it easier without wasting paper printing a whole new batch). Sometimes courses only use parts of textbooks, so they could just sell you the chapter you need. Also, it might be cheaper without all the printing and shipping and storing of brick-sized books.

    STILL, as a student, it seems easier to do it the old way. I don’t want to stare at a screen to read the zillions of pages assigned for reading. I don’t have money to shell out for an e-reader (even if it saves money in the long run). And for highlighting, making notes, and flipping back and forth between pages, I like using actual paper pages.

  8. Great article. I’m going with “embrace” too. Anything to lower the cost of textbooks is of benefit. Not so sure about open-source collaboration, but it might work for some authors.

  9. It just feels like what happened to the music industry is starting to happen to books. I think the textbook industry has ripped off students for way too long now, releasing new editions so students have to pay more. I personally don’t like e-readers, I rather have a solid book in my hands, but if I were to get digital textbooks for a cheaper price? Yes. Because the cost of education in America is rising and lowering the costs of books would help the students tremendously.

  10. If it makes it more affordable in the long run, then I’m on board. There’s no reason why I should pay $300 for a textbook, barely use it, and only be able to re-sell it for a quarter, or less, of the cost. When my books are more than my tuition, there’s a problem.

  11. There’s no point in getting upset about the coming of digital text books by saying that they don’t feel like ‘real’ books or you can’t read flick through them. Doubtless, students of the future will laugh at us now, who spend a minute leafing through a book to find the sentence we want rather than simply finding the exact place with a ‘search’ function. Digital text books will be cost effective and evironmentally sustainable when they arrive. Those publishers who are willing to get involved in this market and what ever technology is used to read digi books will find themselves with a foot in the future.

    When I was at university I never had enough money to buy the books I needed and other poor students had taken them out of the library already, these days students should be able to access all the information they need from their mobile phones.

    Now, as a teacher, the last thing I want my students to do is buy books, even the ones that I write. I would however, like them to read books so an electronic text book works for me.

  12. I would like to see more opportunities to “lease” digital copies of textbooks for a semester, if the fee were low enough. This would really only make sense for the traditional “memorize this” science textbooks, which cost a couple hundred dollars but are little use in the actual profession. For literature, the cost is so much lower, and retaining copies is useful in the field.. whereas my geography textbook was $120 of dead weight on a field study.

  13. I don’t think the issue is that publishers are anti-digitization; the real issue is that readers are still hesitant to make the change. For one thing it is still more expensive to go digital than buy a book. Also it is easier to lend a book then lend an ebook. What if you wanted to give a book away? Will you give your e-reader away? The reasons to go digital aren’t compelling enough yet for the masses. Granted it’s just the beginning of this digital age, but people do not change their habits unless it makes abosulte sense to do so. Call me old fashion but I am not sold yet.?

  14. I like all the ideas for improved e-book operations and copyright protection, except for the ‘pay per use’ idea. If it costs a student money each and every time they want to open their text books, it would only provide an incentive not to do so. Sure, the total cost over time may actually be less than an outright purchase, but I don’t think it would be seen this way…

    Thanks for the interesting post.

    • I agree with you, especially your last point. The problem would definitely be the psychological aspect of having to pay for each use. It seems strange that the same people who don’t mind spending $150 for a book, reading it once, and giving it to a friend would have a problem paying 20 cents to open a file and read it that same one time. But that’s reality. For now.

      • I think this is because we are getting tired of the accumulation of services that contain future fees. We are learning how these things add up, and we’re wary. Almost anything that is paid for just once, and we know we’re done paying for it, is preferable to the unknown fees that can stem from a purchase. Who wants to feel the need to keep track of a growing list of future fees? For me, it’s a lot like a subscription service that wants me to sign up to have their fee automatically deducted from my checking account every month. That only works for those who are lucky enough to have a sure and constant (!) source of disposable income. I don’t, and I don’t personally know any of those people.

  15. I see several people saying that this practice of digitization is environmentally sustainable. Well, a lot of expired hardware landfill litter the terrain of developing nations and e-waste is a huge concern which has little attention. These e-parts that are dumped in landfills, exported to poorer countries where it is salvaged for parts and then buried once the batteries are dead.

    If the the e-readers are going to be like I-Pods and come out with a new version to upgrade to each year as well, it is not going to be that cost-effective. Also the batteries of your e-reder could die in class. You wouldn’t have this issue with a book.

    I am happy that the weight load would be reduced but I do not see it as a solution to the problem…yet.

    • Agreed. I read an article (and I have been searching to find the link) that said one would need to read 20,000 pages of text on an e-reader in order for it to be considered equal to what it takes to create a single book. These e-readers theoretically are environmentally friendly, but – as leading light suggests, when we are done with them, they wind up in dumps, and they are not as easy to decompose. Not to mention, we are a nation forever upgrading our technology, so today’s e-reader won’t be tomorrow’s e-reader.

      As an educator, I am more concerned with the students’ experience with these text books. I can see that e-texts are on the horizon. (In some cases, they are already here.) This past fall, students in my course had the option to purchase the required textbook from HarperCollins as e-text (good for one semester only for $7.99) or buy it as a regular book good for as long as they keep it for $60). Not one student opted for the e-book version.

      I asked students why they did not purchase the e-book version. They reported the fact that the book could only be used on one device being a problem. (It could be viewed on ONE computer or ONE e-reader; they wanted to be able to have greater flexibility; they worried about battery life and having another appliance to charge; they had other concerns, too. Damage, theft. They saw their books as less vulnerable.

      I would love to be able to offer BOTH options in the future and hear how students experience the course. I have seen the future and it is web enhanced. Text books are going that way, too. I can blather on about how I think this is sad, but I know the day is coming. So I will continue to hoard my books — which will one day be antiques.

  16. As a mother of someone who is now out of the school system, I would be concerned about the school district mandating that my child would have to stare at a digital screen for hours on end. Computer use can be harmful to your body and for any entity to basically say you must is ridiculous and should be unlawful. Now, I know when most of us work we are consenting to this but we are adults and if we want to make a living, have no choice, kids do have a choice.

    Another issue: What are we teaching our children really when we and the school districts we choose to put our children in (No, it’s actually not the law that you have your child in any particular school or any brick and mortar school at all) who are doing away with the WRITTEN word not to mention, and I bet this will be the case, sending jobs that were done here in the US to some place across the seas.

    Sheila

  17. Regarding e-textbooks and the blind: that’s an excellent point! However, back when my librarian wife was in grad school, she volunteered as a reader recording audio versions of textbooks for blind students, and giving the technology packed into these e-readers, I don’t see any reason why audio-book functions can’t be added to the e-readers for the benefit of blind students. It doesn’t solve the issue of students who are both blind and deaf, but it’s a start.

    I wanted to comment further on this excellent post, but I found I had so much to say I just wound up writing my own blog post on the subject and linking to your post here. No cross promotion (I’m not bothering with a link here), but I thought you might be curious, and I’d be happy to pass along the link if you’re interested.

    Thanks again for the great post–this was news to me, but I was thrilled to learn it!

  18. I think the digital textbooks should not try to simply imitate the paper ones, and fail at it, but should be a first step in a new direction. And I mean both in terms of a business model and of the idea of a digital textbook itself.

    I often dream about different applications that would help me organize my notes in interesting ways. Maybe with use of semantic technologies so knowledge can be organized and then visualized in different ways (think time-lines, for instance). Knowledge could even be shared online between students who can comment the material and share notes. I imagine especially designed interfaces and infographics that boost learning and comprehension, even 3d models of things. And these technologies could be developed to complement the digital textbooks. Digital textbooks could interact with different online databases and applications, even external to the publisher. There could be collaborations.

    How do publishers make money here? I don’t know, but there are people in the best universities and in the industry studying these things right now, hope they go beyond copy protection and advertising 🙂 I certainly am not an expert… I can think of subscriptions, or developing software platforms and then selling customer support and personalization to companies who need knowledge management and to libraries and to museums, galleries etc…

    I also hope Universities and textbook publishers consider life-long learners when inventing new products.

    Next Friday I’ll be attending a talk by Peter Brantley of the Internet Archive (http://archive.org) on topics including the future of books. Let’s see what visions and insights he comes up with.

  19. Nothing will ever beat the joy of reading a real book. With the obsession to digitize everything, will future historians find any record of our times when all the digitized data has corrupted? The loss of letter writing to text and e-mails is bad enough, let’s not lose our books as well!

  20. These ebook readers will replace paper books, there’s no doubt.
    And that’s a good thing. As technology enables ‘highlighting’ and user created margin notes these will be absolutely revolutionary.
    What they will need also will be cameras to watch the reader’s eyes–some programs already exist to watch the reader’s eye travel over the page and aid with understanding when it detects reader difficulty.
    These ebooks will be helpful in student sharing of ideas–margin notes may be enabled to allow for text specific ‘tweet’ logs. I imagine that good note takers will garner student followings.
    I also foresee that some of these ebooks may be outfitted to report to professors if they have been ‘opened’ and the pages read (scrolled through or if the camera has seen your eyes travel over pages assigned).
    We know that many student’s learning style is not best founded on reading alone to these ereaders and their subsequent generations will be great in having embedded video, interactive educational gaming, and audio.
    Imagine your professor’s recorded lecture being able to be uploaded to the corresponding page in the text…
    Our learning tools need to catch up with our student’s needs and these will provide just one piece of a larger educational picture…but it will be an important piece.
    Ryan

  21. Nice post. Also, congrats on being “freshly pressed!”

    You are spot-on: Publishers need to develop business models that embrace this technology. Fighting it will do no good IMO.

    Incidentally, as an academic librarian I cover this topic on my blog. Just check my sidebar topic category for E-books if you are interested!

  22. Coming from a publishing standpoint, we have to always remember that if we don’t pay for content (print or digital) in some way, it does go away because publishers can’t afford to keep books in existence or create new. Authors also need to be compensated or they will stop writing as well. For every “stolen” e-book — it raises the price of all others because like any product, cost goes down with volume. The lower the number of product being created, the more expensive it is.

  23. I think it’s a good step toward the future, but I personally prefer a good, ol’ fashioned paper book. I do agree that there are many benefits to the e-books as well – like not having to lug a heavy backpack of textbooks around. And possibly the costs of texts will go down because you’re not having to purchase a physical copy. (Well, one can hope!)

  24. As a former English/Journalism student, I kept all of my literature and journalism books. I underlined and highlighted heavily in those tomes, and I still have them, 15 years later.

    Then again, I read so much better on paper, versus on screen. Part of the issue is my half-blind eyes; the other, simple a love of what’s simple and real: paper.

    The same goes for me “watching” my news on video. I’d rather read the article than passively watch a talking head blather on.

    In time, I’m sure I, too, will cross over and read more onscreen than I do on the pulp of trees long gone and processed, but there is something to be said for touching, writing, and reading on paper. It just feels more real to me.

  25. I agree with the many who feel that hradcopies can’t be replaced. I use the internet and e-books often, but when I reeeeally need to knuckle down and study (I am a med student), NOTHING beats my textbook and my highlighter.

    The whole user-per-use-charge also sounds like it could become very costly, and not at all the cheaper alternative to hardcopies.

    The only place an e-textbook could be of use to me is when i travel… one of my clinical textbooks alone weighs 3kg, not at all a good idea for travelling vie plane.

  26. Thanks for the post. This subject interests me as a parent of students formerly in a Texas public school ISD that does not provide books to its students. The teacher would have a copy of a text book in class that she lent to students, but, in Texas, they teach to the TAKS test. What is in the book is only of interest if it happens to support the practice test handouts they teach from. Teachers are allowed to make copies of practice tests and worksheets that they provide to students. They ask parent volunteers to spend hours at copy machines making these copies. Tired of not having a real curriculum, this year one of our kids enrolled in an online public school. All lessons were online and there were no books. This was better than last year, but then we actually moved to a school district that provides TWO copies of books to each student (one for home and one for school). So much better! They also have school issued laptops and some lessons are online. I like the Reader idea, but who will pay for them? Many ISD’s are stuggling just to pay salaries and not every school will have the funds to invest in new technology.

  27. I think we should be careful when it comes to new technology like this. What are the effects on the brain for studying off one or two screens despite not having a glare? We don’t know. How does it effect children developmentally, using eReaders? We don’t know. How will it change us? it’s already been shown that mere internet use is changing the way the brain is wired. Again, before becoming super-progressive, let’s think before we jump. Just because something is new and cost effective doesn’t mean it the best.

    • You really bring up the most important points here. Not everyone learns the same way so enforcing e-texts on students doesn’t actually serve everyone. I am surprised that any school would enforce an initiative to mandate that all their students use e-texts by 2020. That’s just ridiculous!

  28. As usual, good reading. All I can add is that too many education initiatives are driven by the wrong motives or fuel. Rather than supporting creative teachers using sound pedagogy and proven behaviors, executives dictate ‘initiatives’ as reform or curriculum upgrading when all it really is is a product being or ‘system’ being sold. So many new systems are wolves in she eps clothing. I’ve seen too many software packages that require hardware and system upgrades that are no better than cardboard flashcards! People long removed from the classroom reality buy products like textbooks without asking the deeper questions or assessing needs. Etextbooks carry a whole set of new issues many educators AND administrators have not considered.
    I am in favor of etextbooks that change frequently and/ or act only as reference and not daily reading. Save a few trees why not.

  29. Yes , I agree with some of the comments. The glare is too much for relaxing and reading a book before bed. I tried to lower the glare on the computer screen but it was still uncomfortable. Thank you and looking forward to the next post.

  30. I love real books and sometimes I like digital books. I think the world is just going in the ways to save by offering online textbooks.

  31. Thanks for sharing. My only thoughts are how this would work for the early learner. I love the idea for older students.

  32. I like the idea of the lighter digital textbook, but for some reason i don’t think that i’ll be able to work as well with one.

    Thanks for the info.

  33. E books or any other form of digital book can just never take the place of a real book! I’m glad technology is moving along but I still want books around.

    I told my friend back home that I spend a lot of time in the library. She responded, “Why? I haven’t been to one in years!”
    We need the books. . . and the libraries.

  34. Digital content means that every Province /State/school district/college will have the ability to produce a textbook which reflects only the expectations which need to be addressed at each grade level. Each textbook can be updated yearly to reflect the trends, interests etc of the students.
    eBooks mean a certain death to Educational publishers — they are already striving to transform themselves by adding digital content to their offerings. What Publishers can’t do is make their books relevant and interesting to the students (if teachers can edit the texts it will mean that they can direct it to the interests of their class). If the Ministries of Education can update texts – then the instructional tactics in them should also reflect the current philosophies and up to date teaching strategies, rather than generic, lower level thinking — which is what we currently have.
    Digital texts have the potential to help make education relevant for students!

  35. What about the impact on jobs?
    The more digital stuff we have, the less need for transportation jobs, printing and packaging jobs, materials processing jobs etc. Digitisation is essentially fuelling unemployment and collapse of indudstry.

    Books are robust, drop a book and it can be picked up pretty much intact. Drop an e-book reader you need to buy a new one, and propably pay for redownloading all of the titles you had on it as well. Sticky tape won’t make your e-book reader screen readable again.

    It is interesting that you can buy an Amazon Kindle, or download the FREE Ap. Hmmm, buy it, or get it for free?

    There’s also the question of compatibility. Do these different readers use the same file format?

  36. As a graduate student who spends a lot of team reading textbooks, I’m torn with this new technology. Part of me thinks the digital book would be something new and interesting to add to my daily studying. I like how it allows me to highlight the parts that are important. HOWEVER, I am asked to read a lot of articles online and it drives my eyes crazy! I hate reading 10 page articles on the computer. I’d still like to have a text book in my hands that I can smell (yes, I love the smell of books) and mark with post its. I’ll be curious about where this idea goes 🙂

  37. My idea of the future is that all the tables has a digitally interactive surface where the teacher at front has a tablet which has total control to everything else in the class. The teacher goes onto the internet gets up a website and then sets it to appear at every desk surface in the class. A digital keyboard appears for every student and everyone then starts typing as the text appears on the desk, and once finished they lay their book down onto the desk, they select all the text on the desk and drag and drop it into their book saving it saving it in something physically accessable, so then they can work on it at home… Yeah I know, I’m thinking too far ahead.

  38. At 74 and counting, I still prefer the feel of a book in my hands. I have had my Kindle for about 6 months and I love it. But, the Kindle has many uses which I find convenient: Reading tomes in bed, it makes it easier. I read in several languages and I can keep my dictionaries handy without piling up the books. I can carry prayer books, Bibles in several languages, and a biography or two so that when I am caught somewhere waiting I can enjoy many different subjects.

    Having said all of that, electronic books will not replace my “whodunit,” and relaxation reading. Take care, Charlie

  39. More research and critical thinking. Less memorization and regurgitation.
    But, this is a more affordable cost for those burdened with memorization a million pages of “facts” in the sciences, arts and letters and on and on.

    On the other hand, this textbook culture is truly only a U.S. culture.
    No one else uses them.

  40. As a college educator I find it interesting that a major problem with e-readers isn’t addressed. Don’t most of these devices also allow students to access their email and internet? When I allow students to use their textbooks during class or an exam I certainly wouldn’t want them able to head out on the internet or be checking email.

    Will any of these e-readers be readers only and not mini-computers?

  41. I think in the long term it would mean less money spent on textbooks by students which is definitely a bonus (seeing as I’m about to become one myself again)! But at the same time I’m a big fan of ‘the old school’ textbooks and books. Although I love typing up my reports at the end of the day, I always find it easier for me to start writing by hand (Yeah, old school I know). I personally also find it a lot easier when I have paper materials in my hand that I can highlight, scribble on etc… while reading/researching for school/work. Not saying that I have any objections to the e-reader. It would definitely save space, money and the heavy load but… I’m still a fan of holding the real thing in my hands 😉

  42. This is a fascinating article. I look foward to a better future with plenty of digitized textbooks simply because their accessibility should be unlimited! No more waiting in line and out of stocks issues! And the prices should drop because the supply would increase. Plus, there won’t be any materials used to make the books, so there’s another price drop!

  43. I work for a state university; the school’s newspaper recently published an article on how e-book sales are nearly zero. The article stated that reasons for lack of purchases were because e-textbooks:
    – are outrageously expensive, often times even more expensive than the hardback version
    – have an expiration date, so the e-book no longer works after a certain amount of time
    – have DRM so you can’t read the document on multiple readers
    – don’t come in PDF format, for those who wish to read on their computer

    For me, these items are deal-breakers. I’d like to also have a format where an e-book can be read on the computer; I’d rather use my laptop than a specific piece of equipment that I have to buy for reading books. DRM is also a major deal breaker for me because I use lots of different computers throughout the day. It would be nice to have software that will allow you to read the book on your computer, and be able to book mark pages, make highlights, and write notes in the margin. Must also be Linux compatible — should be designed for cross-platform use.

  44. im working in a college library, sometimes I suggest students to try out using e-books but they just show some sort of disinterest about it. One time I suggest it to a professor but he just answered ” I still love using printed book”.

  45. Thanks for all the excellent comments! It’s been very exciting to hear so many interesting new ideas. You have each given us something new and important to consider. We hope you enjoy the rest of the blog and come visit us again soon!

  46. I simply couldn’t go away your site before suggesting that I really enjoyed the usual information a person supply in your guests? Is going to be back often in order to investigate cross-check new posts

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