College students aren’t wild about e-book readers, reports the Wall Street Journal. Pilot projects have returned “mixed reviews.”
Since e-books aren’t printed and don’t need to be sold through physical distributors, they should theoretically be less expensive than regular books and can save students and schools money. What’s more, e-textbooks are environmentally friendly, can lighten backpacks and keep learning materials current.
But . . . digital reading comes with drawbacks, including an expensive starting price for e-book readers and surprisingly high prices for digital textbooks. Also, publishers make e-texts difficult to share and print, and it is unclear how well students will adapt to reading textbooks on a screen, some say. The earliest versions of these devices lack highlighting, note-taking and sharing capabilities, and one leading provider’s e-books expire after several months, meaning they can’t be kept for future reference.
E-readers start at $280; Amazon’s Kindle DX, designed for textbooks, is a pricey $489. Publishers, trying to protect their print book sales, are charging nearly as much for e-books.
For example, Human Reproductive Biology, a textbook from Elsevier BV’s Academic Press, costs $65 for the Kindle edition, $66 from Sony’s e-book store, and $49 for a 180-day subscription on e-textbook seller CourseSmart.com. A printed edition costs about $72 from various retailers.
Prices may come down in time, both for the readers and the books, but right now the e-option isn’t a great deal.
A survey by Student Public Interest Research Group panned e-books: 75% of college students said they prefer print books.
Project Tomorrow surveyed younger students on “what elements they found most important in digital textbooks.”
Many said they wanted interactive features like videos and quizzes. No dedicated e-readers have these attributes.
The proposal to put “a Kindle in every backpack” seems premature.