A few small concerns about eTextbooks

As everyone who pays attention to these things knows, Apple made a big announcement related to eTextbooks recently. This comes after news that etextbooks may not always save students much money, and some press suggesting that many students still prefer the dead tree variety of books.

The most recent eBook I read. I highly recommend it!

I must admit that the shift to digital textbooks concerns me slightly, but not because I object to the format: I read a lot of ebooks* on my iPhone, via the Kindle and Nook apps.

What concerns me is the decreasing number of options for students when eTextbooks come into the picture.

In a print world, students have lots of options: they can buy books new or used, share books with friends, borrow them from a library (for a few hours or for the semester if they are lucky) and sell them back at the end of the semester for at least a bit of what they paid for them.

But digital textbooks generally have a single price point. And it isn’t always cheaper than the print version. And you can’t share the books with a friend. And you can’t sell them back. Sometimes you don’t even get to keep them.

Certainly, some pricing makes these digital textbooks cheaper, but not always. Faculty have not always paid attention to textbook cost when selecting a book for their classes, and I worry that the more complicated factors involved in eTextbook access will also get overlooked.

So what can we do? Well, we have a textbooks on reserve program at my library where we try to get faculty to donate copies of textbooks to the library. Part of this program is simply talking to faculty about how difficult it can be for some students to purchase all of there textbooks. Perhaps the extension of this program is to help faculty understand all of the options available.

* ebooks? eBooks? Ebooks? e-books?