E-books offer alternatives to traditional textbooks

By Felix Sarver

Textbooks may no longer have to be carried in a backpack but stored in an iPad, Nook or Kindle.

Many digital books can be read on PCs but now publishers have begun adapting them to handheld devices, said Don Turk , manager for the NIU university bookstore , in an e-mail.

“If all textbooks were available in this format the biggest advantage would be you carry a reader, not five books,” Turk said.

Turk said there are probably less than 20 percent of digital textbooks available now. Digital textbook prices are still high but cheaper than new books, Turk said. The price of digital textbooks is about the same as a used book. The university store currently sells access codes for students to gain access to textbooks online.

The effect digital textbooks may have on bookstore revenue will have to be seen, said Jody Boardman , manager of the Village Commons Bookstore . Students still want textbooks they can underline and use. A younger generation may want more change in textbooks in the future, Boardman said.

Some teachers at NIU are using digital textbooks for their own classes.

Assistant Journalism Professor Thomas Oates said in an e-mail he co-authored a digital textbook for a journalism history course as an alternative to the available texts.

The digital format enables textbooks to be easily amended and updated as needed, Oates said. Web content can be linked in chapters and have the option of including audio and video material.

“It can be used in ways that are more interactive than a traditional text allows,” Oates said.

Oates said he and his co-author had concerns about the costs of the textbook. The costs were negotiated with the publisher at the cost of $65, Oates said. Some students may not like the price and some may prefer a traditional textbook, but he hopes students will have an enhanced learning experience with the book.

Some form of textbooks will always be around but as digital textbooks are continually improved, they will eventually surpass regular textbooks, Turk said.