Friday, August 24, 2012

CHE > Students Find E-Textbooks ‘Clumsy’ and Don’t Use Their Interactive Features

August 22, 2012, 10:49 am / Angela Chen

Several universities have recently tried a new model for delivering textbooks in hopes of saving students money: requiring purchase of e-textbooks and charging students a materials fee to cover the costs. A recent report on some of those pilot projects, however, shows that many students find the e-textbooks “clumsy” and prefer print.

The report is based on a survey conducted this spring of students and faculty at five universities where e-textbook projects were coordinated by Internet2, the high-speed networking group. Students praised the e-books for helping them save money but didn’t like reading on electronic devices. Many of them complained that the e-book platform was hard to navigate. In addition, most professors who responded said that they didn’t use the e-books’ collaborative features, which include the ability to share notes or create links within the text.

The participating universities were Cornell, Indiana University at Bloomington, and the Universities of Minnesota, Virginia, and Wisconsin at Madison. The pilot is the result of a partnership between the institutions, Internet2, McGraw-Hill, and Courseload, an e-book broker. After paying $20,000 each, the participating institutions were provided with the Courseload platform and e-textbooks for up to 1,000 students to use. Each university was individually responsible for training professors and distributing the e-textbooks.

The pilot projects are based on a model pioneered at Indiana University in 2009 by Bradley C. Wheeler, the university’s vice president for information technology. The university buys bulk e-textbooks to distribute to students, who pay a mandatory course-materials fee to cover the costs, with the idea that the university can get a much better rate per book by buying in bulk.

Mr. Wheeler said he still believed in the approach, arguing that complaints about unfamiliarity are normal in any group adopting new technology.


Twenty-four universities—including Dartmouth College, Middlebury College, and Michigan State University—will join the pilot program this fall.

Source and Full Text Available At 


Note: Iowa State University is participating in the Fall pilot program



  1. Or maybe "unfamiliarity" would not be an issue if the ergonomics and usability of e-books were not in fact inferior to print.

    All I know is that every time I ask students in my library workshops whether they prefer to read books in print or online, a strong majority prefer print, whether they are freshman or grad students.

  2. thanks for sharing.


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