University library strives to help students reduce textbook costs

By Emily Sokolik

With some textbooks totaling over $100 each, a trip to a campus bookstore may leave students emptying their pockets every school year.

To help alleviate the constant problem of soaring textbook costs, University library staff are looking into the idea of electronic textbooks.

The University library and the Illini Union Bookstore partnered last fall in a pilot program called the Textbook Reserve Project. Under the Project, a selection of textbooks was provided on reserve for students in the Undergraduate Library. While the textbooks could not be checked out, students could save money by reading the textbooks in the library instead of buying their own books.

Karen Schmidt, acting University librarian, said the Textbook Reserve Project was discontinued this year because expanding the program would require more space and a larger staff to accommodate an extended offering of textbooks.

“We wanted to see what would happen, but we found that particular program to be too labor intensive,” said Schmidt.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

Schmidt said the library is now working with a publisher to develop a program that will allow students to access textbooks from their desktops.

“This will significantly alleviate textbook costs for students,” Schmidt said. “The textbook information would be accessible in dorm rooms, in the library and it would enable professors and students to use information in different ways.”

Students will be able to obtain more information than they normally would with traditional textbooks because the electronic textbooks will be interactive.

Schmidt said an anatomy textbook, for example, might show a three-dimensional image of the human body, allowing readers to discover each layer of the body from the skin to the bones, all with the click of a mouse.

Mark Sandler, director of the Center for Library Initiatives at the University, is helping to implement the electronic textbook program and thinks the idea will be successful. However, in an e-mail statement he said there are unanswered questions about the program.

“It seems like e-texts offer a lot of potential advantages, like word or concept searching, as well as the benefit of access from anywhere the student can find a computer,” he said. “Nonetheless, it’s ultimately an empirical question if students will prefer e-texts, if faculty will prefer e-texts and if learning will actually be the same or better than in a print environment.”

Schmidt said the library is still testing out the idea of electronic textbooks but hopes to introduce a program in the spring.

“The selection of textbooks will start with limited offerings in two to three departments,” she said.

Brad Bridges, manager of the Illini Union Bookstore, said, “If it’s flexible for faculty and students and helps reduce costs, I think it’s a great thing.”