The Big Deal about eTextbooks



Are you on board with the online textbook wave of the future? Right now, etextbooks have generated the same kind of enthusiasm as the Amazon Kindle – it sounds cool, but some people aren’t so sure about going paperless just yet. So we took a look at the etextbooks available online. What we found were some major advantages over traditional books.


eTextbook Go Light


Buying textbooks each semester is a hallowed college tradition, but not a fun one. In the old days, you scoured the campus bookstore for titles, found half of them sold out or unavailable, then waited an hour in line waiting to check out. Today the process runs smoother with the availability of textbooks online. Both Chegg and eCampus sell new and used discounted books through their websites.


A company called CourseSmart simplifies textbook buying one step further. Instead of waiting 3-5 days for your book to arrive in the mail, you simply download the text onto your computer, instantly. CourseSmart only charges about 50% of the normal price of a textbook, and a license allows you to view the book for a certain amount of months.


At first, we were a little put off by the idea of a wireless textbook. Isn’t it weird to read a book online? Then we realized we do most of our daily reading online anyway. In addition, nobody really reads a textbook the same way you read a regular book. With a textbook, you skim and highlight for important information. You jump around a lot and use just the pages you need. Thought of this way, we started to see the true power of etextbooks.


Online textbooks give you the ability to search, highlight and take notes. Need the formula for Planck's constant? Just type it in to find it in seconds. This is a huge advantage over traditional textbooks. In this way, etextbooks behave more like the way we really use information today. We search, share and file. Etextbooks help us do that more efficiently.


There are other advantages too. Ever wish you had your textbook with you at the airport? But who wants to lug thirty pounds of dead weight around over Christmas break? With online textbooks, you can carry every book you need on your laptop everywhere you go. How about taking notes in class? Now you can take notes on your laptop and place them directly into the relevant section of your book. After that you can print it all off to share with your study group.


CourseSmart also emphasizes that etextbooks help the environment. Online books save trees and cut down on CO2 emissions by reducing transportation and production costs.


The truth is that someday paperless books will be the rule, rather than the exception. Right now, the new technology feels a little weird, but in time, the textbook manufactures should make the process smoother. Our hope is that online books will also drive down prices, the same way iTunes helped lower the price of music.


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