E-textbooks and Academia

While one would think that e-textbooks would catch on with today’s students, this is clearly not the case. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently posted an article about how the president of Northwest Missouri State University guided his institution into exploring e-textbooks through trials with interesting results: many of the students preferred the print cohorts over their electronic partners. Students even asked to trade their e-book reader for the print version. And there were 6 things that Northwest Missouri State University learned from this situation:

1. The device and software used to display the text and images are very important. If one can’t read, had difficulty with, or doesn’t like the ebook resource, then people will not use it. The institution mentioned above surveyed the students who used the e-books and “nearly 40 percent of the participants surveyed in March agreed that ‘I study less because the e-textbook makes studying more difficult.'” This is opposed to the 17 percent that said the ebook made studying easier.
2. There is a learning curve involved with the new technology; as with anything new, one needs to learn how to use it.
3. The faculty teaching the courses are very interested in this technology (at least at this institution).
4. The technology has batteries, which becomes a problem for students with back to back classes or for those who forget to recharge it overnight. A student stated that her laptop battery only lasts 1 1/2 hours, and that “it’s harder to take your computer everywhere than a book, I think, because you have to carry the power cord and all.”
5. Laptops can display color, while e-readers only do black and white. This is a problem for science or medical books that have graphs, tables, & illustrations in color (they are represented in shades of gray that blend together).
6. Consider how this technology will affect the physical environment in creating & disposing of a book opposed to technology that continues to use electricity.

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About repplinger

John has served as a Reference Librarian at Willamette University since 2002. He is the liaison to the Science Departments, and is responsible for maintaining the collections related to the life & physical sciences. His research interests range over the entire spectrum of libraries and information sciences, but includes: - Google and its influence on information & society - The Internet's influence on information seeking & sharing behaviors - Trends of scholarly communication - Electronic learning environments - Traditional pedagogy - GIS use in academic libraries

Posted on June 11, 2009, in Education, Technology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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