As costs of textbooks rise, e-books emerge as more affordable alternative

For many college students, the price of textbooks proves to be a burden, adding hundreds of dollars per semester to education costs. But some University professors and faculty members are looking into a more affordable option: electronic textbooks, or e-books.

The price of college textbooks has risen 102 percent since December 2001, according to an article published Sept. 7 by Bloomberg L.P. The increasing trend has led to the emergence of cheaper methods of sharing information.

E-books allow students to access class texts over the Internet. Some have unique capabilities like the inclusion of video or the ability to highlight text in the book. Dr. Angharad Valdivia, department head of Media and Cinema Studies, said they are significantly cheaper than regular textbooks, running at an average cost of $20 to $30.

For Valdivia, it was preferable to create an e-book rather than putting together a course packet that was less cohesive.

“There are a lot of positives to the e-book,” she said. “It’s available digitally, it’s cheaper than any book that we would be able to choose, and one of the most wonderful things about it is that it (can be retooled) for students with visual or tactile challenges.”

Valdivia said many students need for alterations to be made to a textbook, such as larger text, for them to be able to read it.

“That’s really wonderful for a University that’s committed to students who have any kind of physical challenges to be equal participants in the classroom,” she said.

Valdivia said she plans to visit classes throughout the semester to receive feedback on this new form of communicating information to students. She said she has already heard positive feedback from parents of students enrolled in her course about the affordability of the e-book.

“I guess if there was any negative thing about using the e-book, it would be that I had to write it,” she said. “It took over my life for like six months … writing a book is a lot of work.”

E-books are available to any University student through the University Library. The Library purchases scholarly texts from academic publishers that are generally used as additional study materials for a variety of classes.

“We’ve been buying more and more e-books, mostly because our users are wanting an option that’s more flexible, where you don’t have to come to the library,” said Jenny Taylor, assistant professor of Digital Resources and reference librarian.

Taylor said e-books had more limitations in the past. Some e-books only allowed one user to access them at a time and others needed an Internet connection to access the text.

“We were kind of slow to move into the e-book realm because we wanted to make sure they were available to many students on campus,” she said. “They’ve been a part of libraries for probably ten years or so … In the last few years, our University feels like we can really purchase them and offer them to students.”

When students are on campus, the library’s e-books can recognize the IP address of a student’s computer, therefore allowing him or her to access any of the materials. When a student is off campus, he or she needs to log in with a NetID and a password.

Taylor said she believes many classes will implement e-books in years to come.

“We’re moving that way slowly, but there are still a lot of issues to be worked out,” she said.

Brittany can be reached at [email protected]