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e-Textbooks: Better? Cheaper? Obsolete(r)?
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e-Textbooks: Better? Cheaper? Obsolete(r)?


Do students prefer electronic textbooks over print ones? Are e-textbooks cheaper than their print counterparts? Can e-textbooks enhance learning in ways print cannot? The answers, respectively: some …

Do students prefer electronic textbooks over print ones? Are e-textbooks cheaper than their print counterparts? Can e-textbooks enhance learning in ways print cannot? The answers, respectively: some do, sometimes, and maybe someday. Confused? We all are! e-Textbooks are at an awkward stage in their development as they strive with varying degrees of success to provide the functionality, interactivity, and customizability that can drive widespread adoption. The e-textbook landscape is increasingly marked by fragmentation with little consistency in the licensing, pricing, and business models of the e-textbooks currently offered by publishers and platforms. In this session, we’ll attempt to make *some* sense of it all.

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  • 1. Course-based2. Multi-campus, course-based3. Student-based4. IP authenticated, campus-wide access
  • How to transfer the costs to students: any appetite for fees? Build in to tuition? How to implement models that do not require 100% sell-thru?How to ensure we’re getting best possible prices (better than students can directly on their own).Discomfort with the mandatory-ness of many models.
  • Early on in their evolution. Similar to journals circa 1997.Right now students are finding them underwhelming; not meeting their expectations.First step getting them online; next step is making them better.
  • Cheaper: must factor in total cost of ownershipincl buyback, length of access, etc.Cheaper, compared to what: we will never be able to beat the price students get when they share, pirate, skip the book altogether.
  • e-Textbooks are currently only at ~15% of the market… room for lots of growth.Increasing ubiquity of e-Readers, tablets, smartphonesIncreasing quality of e-Readers, tablets, smartphonesStandards get adoptedWe are early in the evolution of e-textbooksStudents will soon arrive at college expecting e-textbooksGraduates will be expected to be e-literatePublishers are motivated to get out of printbecuz of used mkt
  • What problems with paper textbooks can/do e-textbooks can solve?Prof not using book is a common, legitimate, and seemingly easily fixable problem with textbooks in general. Other general complaints: weigh too much (is that a legit complaint?); profs profiting from using their own books (again, is that legit?); poor buyback rates; and of course, high prices.
  • Libraries have managed transitions from print to electronic beforeLibraries know academic publishing and licensingLibraries already manage access to non-textbook e-booksTomorrow’s e-textbooks will resemble today’s library databasesThis is an opportunity for library to (further) integrate in to the curriculumLibraries are well positioned on campus as coordinators and facilitators


  • 1. e-Textbooks: Better? Cheaper? Obsolete(r)? Charles Lyons University at Buffalo Charleston Conference November 9, 2013 Photo by Chris Luckhardt
  • 2. e-Textbooks: Better? Cheaper? Obsolete(r)? WHAT WE’VE BEEN DOING WITH E-TEXTBOOKS @UB
  • 3. Pilots @UB: Buying in Bulk Course based Multi-campus Student based IP authenticated, campus wide Photo:
  • 4. Talk to your bookstore and LMS Admin. Don’t forget accessibility and FERPA. Source:
  • 5. Bulk Buying… Bulky Challenges Transferring costs to students Mandatory nature “Best” price Photo: Better World Books
  • 6. e-Textbooks: Better? Cheaper? Obsolete(r)? WHAT WE’RE LEARNING… GENERALLY
  • 7. This is a bit clunky… Better? Not yet. Source:
  • 8. Cheaper? Sometimes.
  • 9. Obsolete(r)? All things being equal, students still prefer print Source: Chronicle of Higher Ed and Mashable
  • 10. e-Textbooks: Better? Cheaper? Obsolete(r)? WHAT WE’RE LEARNING… MORE SPECIFICALLY
  • 11. Electronic Preference Print Preference
  • 12. Likes: 1 Search 2 Portability 3 Enviro Friendly Dislikes: 1 Navigation 2 Distractions 3 Screen Reading Source: CourseSmart
  • 13. Source: Courseload
  • 14. e-Textbooks: Better? Cheaper? Obsolete(r)? LOOKING AHEAD
  • 15. e-Textbooks: Growth Coming 600259121/in/photolist-efgKUr-ebhTWRe9HYGA-e8E8eW-e8yq9P-e8yqWn-e89JXUe817dx-e7ari2-e6YzpF-e75dgL-e75cR5-e6Biaje5Gogx-e5AbtF-e5Aa4n-e5iho7-e3D5PdEPUB3 adoption e3irjA-e3itof-e2YGAU-e2SS16-e2SS6a-e11aA2Shift content to functionality dZAY9u-dZaJ83-dYRc2J-dYsyP5-dY2UmgdY2CnX-dY8ond-dY8ngh-dY2FZ4-dY2LwzDevice ubiquity dY2BMv-dY8oif-dY2KUM-dY2KMg-dY2G4pdY8epG-dY8fQY-dY2xuT-dY2zqH-dY2BocExperimental business models dXj1jc-dW7Q42-dW7PNx-dW7Tzg-dWdvPmdW7PSi-dWdvEb/ Photo: Erin Watson Photography
  • 16. Buying Books That Aren’t Used
  • 17. Hey, Library… nice textbooks! Roles Available for Libraries Source: Amazon
  • 18. Thanks! Questions? Charles Lyons University at Buffalo Charleston Conference November 9, 2013 Source: Library of Congress