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.

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.

Follow Eve Troeh at @evetroeh