Wednesday, August 22, 2012

E-textbooks still a hard sell to students.

A few days ago, the New York Times ran a story about how media companies are eagerly developing digital textbooks for school children hoping to capture a big market share in this $3 billion dollar industry. Interestingly, though, among college students e-textbooks continue to be a hard sell.  According to a recent survey of  students attending Cornell, U. Indiana, U Minnesota, UVA and U. Wisconsin, the majority of students find e-textbooks "clumsy" preferring print for school work. Is this just a question of publishers needing to develop a better e-book platform or is paper fundamentally a superior medium for serious reading?  The companies investing in e-textbooks believe it's the former. The Chronicle of Higher Ed has the story:

Several universities have recently tried a new model for delivering textbooks in hopes of saving students money: requiring purchase of e-textbooks and charging students a materials fee to cover the costs. A recent report on some of those pilot projects, however, shows that many students find the e-textbooks “clumsy” and prefer print.

The report is based on a survey conducted this spring of students and faculty at five universities where e-textbook projects were coordinated by Internet2, the high-speed networking group. Students praised the e-books for helping them save money but didn’t like reading on electronic devices. Many of them complained that the e-book platform was hard to navigate. In addition, most professors who responded said that they didn’t use the e-books’ collaborative features, which include the ability to share notes or create links within the text.

. . . .

“With technology, many things change with repeated use,” [a spokesman for the project] said. “People have lots of early first impressions as they experience new things, and then over time you start to see things become more mainstream, as the technology improves and skills and even attitudes toward use improve.”

According to the report, students said e-textbooks “somewhat” became part of their learning routine but didn’t help them interact more with classmates or the professor, largely because most people didn’t use the collaborative features. [The project spokesman] noted that the students of professors who did annotate their e-textbooks reported having a better experience, since “these capabilities make the electronic text much more than just an alternative to a physical book.”

Continue reading here.


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