ETextbooks widely used, but banned in some classes

Mario Banuelos is one of the many students attempting to cut costs
and save time by utilizing the Madden Library to borrow an eTextbook.
Stephen Keleher / The Collegian

A recent study indicates that students are on board with eTextbooks and welcome them into their courses. CourseSmart surveyed more than 500 college students and found that students are completely dependent on technologies — eReaders, smartphones, laptops and more — to get through their daily college routine. Of the students surveyed, 98 percent own a digital device and 85 percent reported that technology saves them time when studying — an average of two hours per day.

Another study by textbook publisher Pearson showed that tablet ownership among college students and high school seniors has risen drastically in the last year. Ownership has tripled among college students — at 25 percent versus 7 percent in 2011 — and quadrupled among high school seniors, 17 percent versus 4 percent in 2011.

The survey reveals that more students are reading digital books, and that the majority of college students (63 percent) and high school seniors (69 percent) believe that tablets will effectively replace textbooks within the next five years.

But in 2012 at Fresno State, not everybody is necessarily on board. Ignacio Gonzales, a fifth-year Spanish major with a focus on pre-med, has had his Barnes & Noble Nook for two months now, but has not used it for eTextbooks as much as he thought he would.

“I was looking for a cheaper way to get my books,” Gonzales said. “I had assumed that I’d be able to get my books a lot cheaper through the Nook. I was assuming the PDF files would be substantially less expensive than the hard copy but that isn’t always the case.”

Gonzales has resorted to taking photos of his text using his iPhone and transferring them onto his Nook. Other students have come up with a variety of ways to spend little or nothing on textbooks. They use illegal means such as downloading through file sharing sites like BitTorrent or Pirate Bay to grab copies of texts or they just don’t buy textbooks at all.

Many instructors and professors do what they can to help students cut down on textbook costs. Some, like FCC History professor Paul Gilmore, don’t require any textbooks at all. Others put some copies on hold at the Madden Library, and some even allow previous editions to be used or prepare their own course materials and sell them at minimal cost.

Even the California Legislature is weighing in on the cost of textbooks. The legislature is introducing bills to cut the cost of introductory texts to create an open source digital library that would provide free online copies and $20 max for printed ones.

There are many instructors who don’t accept or allow electronic media in the classroom at all.

“I have said, ‘OK, I’m not allowing electronic devices,’” said drama instructor Gregg Dion.

“But now we have the Kindle Fire and iPads,” Dion said. “So now, how do I know that somebody is looking at their text in class and not looking at ESPN or email?”

A student at the Madden Library said she had one of her textbooks on her Kindle, but her instructor did not allow tablets like the Kindle in the classroom.

Whether tablets are embraced or banned can also depend on the class topic. Mathematics, engineering and the sciences appear to favor eTextbook use.

English education major José Ruiz bought his iPad two semesters ago primarily to take advantage of eTextbooks.

“I use it for documents so it saves money to not have to print stuff out and to have it right there,” Ruiz said. “I’ve bought four books for this semester. And I plan to buy more next semester. For one, they’re cheaper and you don’t have to carry them around. You have them in one place.”

Ruiz makes use of the advanced features of eTextbooks, especially the cloud features.

“Yes, I use the cloud,” Ruiz added. “Sometimes if I’m not reading it on the iPad I can read it on my iPod Touch. I have a Kindle app so I can save them on the iPod or even on a computer.”

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