Technology dominates many student activities, and it could start to steal the show from textbook publishers.
Follett stores saw a 300-percent increase in CafeScribe digital textbook sales this past fall, and the company anticipates continued growth throughout this academic year, said Chad Nale, University Bookstore manager.
The Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook are two popular choices in the eReader, or electronic reader, market. Many students may consider the long-term financial benefits and detriments of switching to digital learning.
CafeScribe digital textbooks provide up-front savings of 40 to 60 percent compared to new textbooks without the need to return any items to the bookstore, Nale said.
While both physical and digital textbooks have the option to rent, the new and used textbook market may be the best option for students who prefer to get cash back at the end of the semester.
Regardless of which medium a student chooses, budgetary expenses are usually a top priority.
“Whether you are saving at the beginning of the semester or the end, students are happy to have choices to help stay within a tight budget,” he said.
The switch to eReaders for learning can be partly attributed to the advanced study tools available with many devices.
Students are able to study smarter by using tools that enable the searching, sorting and summarizing of text, Nale said. They can also create a snap summary, which condenses any highlighted material, bookmarks and notes into a study guide, he said.
Robin Warne, assistant professor in zoology, said eReaders could potentially provide more distractions in the classroom and while studying because of their Wi-Fi ability, but students are ultimately hurting themselves if they’re getting distracted.
If the students are being distracted, they’re only going to hurt themselves.
On-campus Wi-Fi could be a beneficial tool for staying up to date with emails, assignments and social networking, but eReader limitations may hurt their chances with the college population.
William Welling, a worker for systems tech support at Morris Library, said one must have a registered account in order to access the Virtual Private Network, or VPN, on campus. Accounts are reserved for students and staff only.
“Most eReaders can’t connect to the SIU network because they lack a VPN client, which allows a device to log on to the VPN,” he said.
Morris Library offers a small eBooks collection through online databases, and there are about a dozen commercial websites that offer free rentals via Wi-Fi, said Cassie Wagner, web development librarian.
Benefits to investing in this device may fade if access to the university’s VPN through an eReader is not possible.
The digital availability of required texts may also be a limiting factor.
“Availability is necessary to move forward with the transition to digital—students are not going to go out of their way if there is not a digital alternative readily available,” Nale said.
Digital textbooks are still a small piece of the current market with about 15,000 higher education titles currently available on CafeScribe.com, he said.
For now, physical textbooks remain in the game. Some teachers and students even vouch for the benefits of learning from the flesh.
“Our minds, when we learn, have a very special memory for that learning,” said Warne. “Having that textbook, it’s easier for your mind to have a physical location for the learning.”
“I have a Kindle but I go to the bookstore to rent my books, because it’s cheaper and less confusing than Amazon.com,” said Audrey Lamb, a senior from Princeton, Ken., studying cinema and photography.
Randy Johnson, general manager of 710 Bookstore, said while technology works to harness the textbook market, for the moment, eReaders are much more viable for novels.