[Sponsored Ad]
       Advanced Search
 search by genre:
display only ebooks  audiobooks display only ebooks  audiobooks  
  search within genre:

August 2009

The Future of Education: Textbooks vs. eBooks


New ways to cut costs:


 As the 2009 fall season rapidly approaches students, parents, and educational institutions prepare for another academic year while publishers rush to get their books in the bookstores.


The textbook market has one advantage over other markets: students are required to have the books for class. Although the used textbook market has rallied against the new, textbook revisions and additions have made it so new textbooks still get their share of the market.


It is no secret that the average college student spends an arm, a leg, and the promise of their first born child on textbooks each semester. Such expenses (and finding ways to cut them) coupled with new technologies, have opened the door to many publishers looking to cash in on the market.


EBooks and print on demand technology (customized textbooks) have opened the door to a few cost-cutting strategies that are gaining market share as they alleviate the heavy drag on a student’s budget.




Many educational institutions have already tested the usability of this new technology in classrooms, with hopes of offering students a more modern and “hands-on” method for obtaining information.


“Many states, including California, are opting for more modern methods to disseminate information to students, not only save money, but also to increase sustainability efforts,” said IREX Technologies CEO, Kevin Hamilton.


The assumptions: students are a part of the younger generation will respond better with using technology as opposed to print; eBook/readers will be less costly than print textbooks. If these assumptions are correct authors and publishers should consider switching to more techy methods as opposed to the print textbooks.  


The Benefits of eBooks:


EBooks have taken off in the publishing world. They have proven beneficial to authors and readers, and the educational structures hope they will be just as beneficial. What is so useful about an online book as opposed to a print book in schools?


Education has always been about receiving and processing timely information. Wireless technologies have provided a new channel for information sharing and a method to communicate real-time data wherever/whenever. E-reader devices are one of the many resources available to the education community to better the students’ experience with digesting information and the teachers’ ability to provide up-to-date content. With the advent of WiFi-enabled e-readers, this content is easily delivered by Internet.” Said Kevin Hamilton.


According to Maryland high school teacher James Mascia, who teaches 12th grade English, information offered online as opposed to print is a better way for students to learn. “…Students will perform better on…tests on the computer. This was proven as our average test score this year rose a little less than 10%…I believe that the same thinking will bring about a surge in eBooks and textbooks because the students will be more likely to respond to the content they see on the screen than on paper.” 


If students react better to the online content than print, than schools would surely lean toward the method that elicits better test scores. EBooks/readers also have the advantage of being updated more frequently than print textbooks and can be customized to each different class and teacher. Because a huge complaint about textbooks has been that they contain much content that is not taught, an opportunity for a teacher to customize content according to the lesson plan seems favorable.


Textbooks vs. eBooks:


So, what if publishers offered such an option with print textbooks? Perhaps if a teacher was able to tailor the content added and help compose a textbook unique to their needs they would not look for new methods and print textbooks could compete with eBooks/readers. There are publishers, such as Fountainhead Press, who customize every textbook to fit the needs of each classroom. Professors present their students with lab manuals and classroom materials that are going to be taught. In Mr. Smiths Bio Lab, students won’t be told to skip pages 29-100, or chapters 5, 7, 9 and 11. This is a viable way of cutting waste and cost.     


EBooks seem to be beneficial for educational purposes, but to every upside, there is a downside. While eBooks are useful in updating content, the usability for students does not serve as multi-purpose as print textbooks do. Some eBooks/readers don’t offer the option of highlighting or marking text, and even a generation that is technologically enlightened can find the adjustment to all technology use difficult.   


“…There are many hurdles for this technology to jump before it becomes an integral part of the day-to-day lives of students…According to our research, students see benefits from an e-reader’s readability, weight and size, but feel that the battery life and speed of turning pages needs improvement. A larger (10-inch) screen that more closely resembles the size of a textbook is also preferred…(and) the ability to add notes or highlight text is crucial on a device…” said Kevin Hamilton. 


EBook/reader developers are picking up on student feedback and such highlighting, and note-taking features are being implemented in the devices. Maybe like most modern inventions, as the device is perfected the popularity will rise and eBooks will be the demise of print textbooks. 


 “…In many classes, (textbooks) will be supplemented with a great deal of online content. My school has no plans as of this moment to go totally over to eBooks; however, I see that being the future,” said James Mascia.


Should publishers and authors even bother to recreate the way textbooks are offered, or should they simple jump on the bandwagon of electronic books? According to our advisors the future of textbooks is glum and as our society presses forward with technological advances, the old ways will be pushed out by the new, more convenient and cost efficient methods. But would the suggested changes to print textbooks save publishers and authors money as well as students? The cost of textbooks would certainly go down if adjustments were made.     


The Cost of EBooks:


In the 2008- 2009 academic year college students on average spent almost $1,000 in textbook costs. Perhaps the greatest need in this economic hurdle is for a cheaper option than print textbooks and in theory the idea of eBooks/readers is a cheaper route. 


This cost places quite a burden on students each year, so it is not surprising there has been a buzz in the higher education sector regarding the use of e-readers in the classroom, which could ultimately result in the dramatic reduction or even the end of traditional textbooks,” said Kevin Hamilton. 


At this rate students are looking for any way to opt out of purchasing textbooks, making the concept of more eBooks appealing. But just how big are the differences of cost in eBooks vs. print textbooks? According to Professor Josh Smith of the Business department at Bluffton University in Ohio, not that big.


“I think that eBooks have a greater potential to catch on…if the cost decreases and portability/ease of use increases. I've found over the past year even when an eBook version is offered at 50-60% of the hard copy version students are concerned about their ability to use it anywhere and keep notes with it. Additionally since they cannot resell the book students are more likely to buy hardcover and sell at half price to get the same end price… I think the high school market has a higher probability of being the fore-runner (which will eventually push college acceptance) due to the fact that districts could shoulder the cost when they provide the students with books.” 



What the future holds for Textbooks:

Maybe the future of textbooks could be saved if publishers and authors take advantage of the issues being exposed by the more advanced methods. If publishers and authors customize textbooks for teachers and professors based on their individual needs, and cut out the extra pages, the cost of print textbooks could go down, solving the expense problem. After all, why would anyone want to pay for something they won’t use?


If there isn’t a willingness to make the necessary changes to print textbooks, then the adoption of technological methods seems logical. Only time will tell which method will thrive… or should we say survive?    



Did you like this article? Let others know! Add it to:

Digg.com |  Reddit.com |  del.icio.us |  StumbleUpon.com


Back to the Archives


[Sponsored Ads]
Place Your Ad Here

Tell us about yourself

My bookhitch Experience