E-textbooks can save cash, space
Published: Sunday, February 27, 2011
Updated: Sunday, February 27, 2011 18:02
One of the biggest trends of today is the convergence of technology with education.
We've all seen people reading books or web articles on their Kindles, iPads and smart phones but very rarely do we see students reading textbooks on these devices.
Last week, the Future published an article detailing UCF's plan to transition to electronic textbooks and we're anxiously awaiting the results.
Every semester we cringe at the bookstore as the cashier rings up our massive mound of textbooks, some of which hardly get opened. It usually puts quite a large dent in our already-empty wallets.
Books aren't cheap to print, so when you cut out the cost of paper and ink, electronic books are naturally less expensive than traditional books.
For example, The New York Times Best Seller Water for Elephants can be bought as an e-book for Kindle on Amazon for $5. A new paperback version of the same book costs about $8.
Although the savings may not be drastic — printing only accounts for about 10 percent of the total cost to make a book — even a small discount can add up when it comes to purchasing expensive textbooks for an entire semester, not to mention all the trees we'd save.
UCF's plan is for the Student Government Association to team up with the Mixed and Emerging Technology Integration Lab and hopefully launch a pilot course this June and then an initial course in the fall.
The change won't be overnight, however. At first, electronic textbooks will just be offered for certain classes, and then as the program expands more and more courses will hopefully switch to the electronic textbook alternative.
One of the many perks of this development is that the technology will be interactive. So instead of students passively reading and maybe highlighting and jotting down notes, there will be links if a student needs an outside source for a more thorough explanation of a subject or videos to demonstrate certain processes or concepts.
Other functions designed to improve student retention are interactive quizzes and homework assignments, countdowns and reminders for test days, and a function that allows students to make notes and highlight.
When we initially heard about this idea we were a little skeptical about how the e-books would be read and purchased. E-book readers like the Kindle can get pretty expensive and they aren't exactly convenient to carry around.
There will be a free app for smart phones called UCF Digital Press that students can use to purchase and download the electronic textbooks, or students can simply use their laptops.
Most students already carry around their laptops and cell phones with them on campus, so essentially the app would reduce the amount of materials they carry around and make it less likely to forget any texts at home.
The big change we hope to see from this transition is students actually using their textbooks. Far too often have we shoveled out $50 or more for a textbook we never even remove from the plastic wrap.
Reading a textbook isn't exactly what we'd classify as thrilling, which is why many students don't even bother. For many subjects it can be tedious, confusing and downright boring. An e-book version of these textbooks can offer interactivity to break the monotony.
We're hoping the interactive design of these electronic books will do a better job of captivating the reader than the traditional text format of textbooks.
Come next fall we hope to see the success of the electronic textbook program because we feel it could help students genuinely learn the material, while at the same time saving them a few bucks.