Education publishers are trying to use algorithms to evolve the textbook.
Education publishers are trying to use algorithms to evolve the textbook. - 

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.

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Follow Eve Troeh at @evetroeh