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Are classrooms prepared for e-textbooks?

For various reasons, digital textbooks have yet to replace the traditional textbook in many classrooms.

Jeremy Hobson: Apple is holding an event in New York today, and analysts are expecting the company to announce it's jumping into the electronic textbook market.

But e-books in the classroom aren't for everyone, as Marketplace's Eve Troeh reports.


Eve Troeh: It's one thing to read "Ulysses" on your Kindle for English Lit, says Jeff Young at the Chronicle of Higher Education. But students tell him it's a much different thing to use an e-reader for Principles of Accounting.

Jeff Young: The tables with all these numbers and fine print. The font was too small. It was a miserable experience.

He says pilot programs around the country have shown students vastly prefer hard-copy textbooks -- to highlight and take notes, above all. But also just to stay on the same page.

Eric Weil: Literally. You're going to say 'Turn to page 159.'

Eric Weil heads the research firm Student Monitor.

Weil: Well, 159 in the printed text isn't necessarily 159 in the e-text.

Because there's no standard platform to convert, format or distribute e-textbooks. Dan Turner at the University of Washington says digital academia won't take off until there is.

Dan Turner: I think we're all waiting for some player to come along that puts together that whole ecosystem.

One player like Apple? The multi-billion-dollar textbook industry will find out tomorrow.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.
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If we allow school districts to use free, open source curriculum the delivery problem will solve itself. The lessons will be on every web device and hard copies can come from any printer.

Curriculum development could became an open and transparent process, although it will still be a catfight. New knowledge and improved teaching would reach students much faster.

Supporting the dinosaur textbook industry isn't worth the future of our kids.

I suspect the "Chronicle of Higher Education" gets their funding from textbook publishers!
We have several books used as texts and the publisher tripled the price in a decade - at one point when we complained about a 7% increase in 2008 as the economy was tanking, they responded by raising the price 25%! We didn't get mad - well we did sorta - we got even. We published our own books that you can get as ebooks or even as a self-study app for only $10. And guess what, we make about as much royalty from selling a $10 ebook as from a $1o0 published text.
As for acceptance, we've found older students (adult education) are first to accept them. The biggest complaint we get from college students is the cost of most ebooks from the traditional textbook publishers is still too high and they can't sell them back at the end of the class like they can with paper books!

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