Thursday, October 28, 2010

Colleges may require students to buy e-textbooks even though students prefer hardcopy versions

As reported below, students overwhelmingly prefer hardcopy textbooks to electronic copies.  Nicholas Carr, author of "The Shallows:  What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains," makes a compelling argument that hardcopy textbooks promote better learning than their electronic counterparts.  Nevertheless, the Chronicle of Higher Ed is reporting that pressure from college administrators to control costs may result in students being required to purchase e-textbooks as part of an electronic course packet.

For years observers have predicted a coming wave of e-textbooks. But so far it just hasn't happened. One explanation for the delay is that while music fans were eager to try a new, more portable form of entertainment, students tend to be more conservative when choosing required materials for their studies. For a real disruption in the textbook market, students may have to be forced to change.

That's exactly what some companies and college leaders are now proposing. They're saying that e-textbooks should be required reading and that colleges should be the ones charging for them. It is the best way to control skyrocketing costs and may actually save the textbook industry from digital piracy, they claim. Major players like the McGraw-Hill Companies, Pearson, and John Wiley & Sons are getting involved.

You can read more about the reasons behind the big push for e-textbooks here.  And for an interesting historical perspective on the role administrators, rather than teachers (or students, for that matter), have played in the push to introduce technology into the classroom, check out "Teachers and Machines:  The Classroom Use of Technology Since 1920.


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