College students have more options for affordable textbooks than ever. Gone are the days when the only plan was to pack university bookstores at the beginning of the semester, paying whatever ransom — ur, price — that was listed for required reading.
One affordable emerging trend is the use of e-books, or digital versions of textbooks that look exactly like the print version but can be downloaded to desktops, laptops and tablets.
Available from most major textbook publishers, but not many smaller university presses, the e-book can cost as little as half as much as the print version, with older editions providing deeper discounts. Students pay for a subscription, which is available for 180 days for single-semester classes or for 360 days for two-semester classes, according to Renee Wilson, book division manager at the Auraria Campus Bookstore in Denver.
The cost-effectiveness of e-textbooks varies significantly — and some data shows that the technology allows individual college students to save, but school districts that invest in e-books for their own students likely won't experience similar benefits.
A recent survey by the online textbook retailer eCampus.com reveals that students also enjoy the instant access and portability of downloadable books in addition to the lower price.
Montgomery also cites such e-book advantages as the added tech-driven functions that are not available with physical textbooks, including the ability to search, cut and paste sections of text, and the addition of interactive quizzes and tests.
Some students who have tried e-books find a variety of reasons to stick with the traditional physical copies.
Matthew Montgomery of eCampus .com acknowledges that the subscription model is one of the biggest complaints he hears from customers. He also lists the lack of financial return that students can get from traditional textbook buyback at the end of each semester.
But as technology use in the classroom continues to grow, Montgomery expects e-books to play a more significant role in future college textbook sales. "We do see (them) taking over the college textbook market once kindergartners are learning via e-text and those students have made it to college," he said.
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