When you think e-books, does your mind automatically jump to purchasing a novel for an Amazon Kindle or a Barnes & Noble Nook? Mine too. But in case you haven’t noticed, there are so many other uses for e-books (electronic books), which include essentially any book available in an electronic format.
In a collegiate setting, e-books also offer a variety of unique opportunities to today’s technology-savvy students. E-books allow for college students to transport multiple textbooks in one portable device, cutting down on the number of heavy textbooks that students are expected to carry and store. The electronic format enables students to highlight or make comments in the book without marks being permanent, and the ability of e-books to be “searched” allows for students to quickly locate desired information. In addition, e-books offer interactive graphics, charts, diagrams, and internet links to students, enabling them to cater to a variety of learning styles. Some e-books also offer quizzes, flashcards, and other study aids that are typically not included with traditional textbooks. While these benefits have not yet caused a sweeping reform of the textbook industry, The Daily Pennsylvanian reports that their popularity is slowly, but steadily, increasing.
So why haven’t students demanded an influx of e-book options? Critics of the e-book argue though that most e-books aren’t actually cheaper than buying a regular textbook, because there is also the cost of purchasing a Kindle, Nook, iPad, or similar tablet without the ability to sell the book back at the end of the semester. In actuality, it all depends on where you purchase your books. In fact, Amazon has issued a patent to allow users to sell back a “used” e-book, which could help college students save some more money. In another effort to make e-books an affordable alternative to traditional textbooks, a new company, TotalBooX, is allowing e-book users to only pay per page, meaning students wouldn’t have purchase an entire book.
Many people (including students!) are also unaware that if you have an e-reader, you can often borrow books from a library for free. However, libraries are often required to pay a lot of money for e-books and are then restricted on how many times they can lend each e-book out before having to purchase it again. To combat this trend and work towards greater affordability and utilization of e-books, lobbyists and a few publishers are fighting to change the way libraries can lend, working to enable some libraries to purchase e-books at reduced costs with more lends-per-book.
With efforts like this working to make e-books more and more popular, will there be a day when regular books simply become “a thing of the past”? I remember a few years ago, when the last few Harry Potter books were coming out, when fans would eagerly wait in line to be among the first to own such an iconic books. Maybe we are now living in a society were waiting in lines for books won’t be a priority. But with the new technology that has emerged in e-books, there are so many good things that can outweigh the aspect of not having a “real book” in front of you.
What do you think? Are e-books the future? What are some other ways e-textbooks are used?