Sorry Alberta, I’m keeping my 10 pound textbook

Advanced Education Minister’s biggest opposition to ebook depository may be students themselves


In the digital age we live in where print mediums are being rapidly replaced by their digital counterparts, a surprising amount of skepticism continues to surround the electronic textbook.

That doesn’t mean the e-textbook doesn’t have it’s supporters. Alberta’s advanced education minister Doug Horner  recently announced his desire to launch an online book depository for Alberta students, with the hopes that it could cut the costs of textbooks for students in half.

Horner told the Edmonton Journal that the students would have access to textbooks written in Alberta, in addition to commonly used first-year textbooks used at a variety of institutions. “Because isn’t the objective to help the student achieve, as opposed to paying a stipend to whoever wrote a book?” Horner said.

While this could be a groundbreaking development for Alberta post secondary education, Horner may have some serious obstacles to overcome. Perhaps his biggest? Convincing students to give up their cherished 10 pound paper textbooks.

One of the most significant factors in the failure of electronic textbooks to take over the education world has been the reluctance of students to make the switch. Despite often costing a fraction of what a new textbook costs, (the New York Times pointed out that e-textbooks are usually more expensive than a used textbook, but less expensive than a rental or new textbook) they continue to be a hard sell to students. “The screen won’t go blank,” Faton Begolli, a sophomore from Boston, told the Times. “There can’t be a virus. It wouldn’t be the same without books. They’ve defined ‘academia’ for a thousand years.”

Other students told the Times that eBooks can strain your eyes, and it’s easy to get distracted if you’re reading a textbook on your computer.

A study conducted by OnCampus Research in October found that students have been reluctant to catch on to e-readers, seemingly for these very reasons. According to a press release issued by the National Association of College Stores, the study found approximately 92 percent of students surveyed said that they do not own an e-reader, and only 13 percent had bought an eBook over the past three months. Some students explained in the comment section of the survey that they would never buy a digital textbook, and prefer having a physical copy that they can highlight and write notes on.

This hasn’t stopped companies from trying to sway students to a digital option. Amazon launched the Kindle DX last year, which has a larger screen better suited to reading textbook material, along with a pilot project with seven colleges and universities in the United States to find out how to make the device appealing for campus users.

Barnes and Noble College Booksellers has also tried to hook students on their e-textbook software, NOOKstudy, by giving away “College Kick Start Kits”, with ramen noodle recipes, tips for how to deal with college roommates, and access to several classics such as Dante’s “Inferno”.

Not all students are vehemently opposed to the e-textbook, and some educators have thrown their support behind the e-textbook option as well. Anne Jordan, professor emeritus at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, said in University Affairs magazine that she had an excellent experience teaching using an e-textbook that she wrote for one of her graduate courses, explaining that it allowed her to integrate multi-media platforms into her course, including videos and drag and drop exercises.

“It’s a completely different way of teaching from lecturing and having people go and do readings and write reports,” she said. “The interactivity makes it a much more personal learning experience”

Chris Martin, a student at McMaster University, told University Affairs that he saw the electronic textbook as a way students could be more eco-friendly, and thought the multifaceted structure of the electronic textbook could facilitate more diverse ways of teaching.

I’ll admit that I like writing in the margins of my textbooks as much as the next student, but it seems like a small convenience compared to the prospect of not having to lug around a massive book that I paid $200 for. That being said, I predict that many of my fellow students won’t be ready to let go of them anytime soon.


Sorry Alberta, I’m keeping my 10 pound textbook

  1. eBook is useful to some tech savy stundent , but to the majority it is just a waste. I tradition paper book can be taken anywhere, does not require power supply, cables and more. Tradition book is not easily destroyed, it can be sold back at the end of the semester, can be highlighted to save important information for later review and more. At oklahoma state, we have designed a textbook price comparison search engine that compare textbook prices across the internet to find the cheapest deals on new, used, eBooks, international ed, rental and more.

  2. The problem with ebooks is NOT the technology. It is easy to read them on an ebook or tablet and only marginally harder on the eyes on a notebook or PC. The problem is with the way the proprietors are crippling the product to eliminate features that allow students to easily copy and paste,to limit access to competing vendors. They also maintain high price points that are not justified because of the restrictions and because of the huge savings they have in not printing and the elimination of distribution costs. The license restrictions, where you no longer “buy” a book but rather “rent” it for a limited time is also another way that the vendors reduce the value of an ebook.

  3. its just easier to use a hard copy textbook rather than digital textbooks. until they make the necessary improvements, this trend will continue in the foreseeable future. http://www.mycollegetextbooks.com is the place i use to find cheap textbooks.

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