The promise of cost-cutting electronic textbooks is far from becoming reality. Although they are usually cheaper than their paper counterparts, they also have serious restrictions attached to them, the most important one being an expiry date.
Indiana University announced a couple of weeks ago that they successfully negotiated an agreement with leading e-text publishers to cut costs and increase access for students.
Under the new terms, the publishers will provide students substantial cost savings, the ability to access digital or printed hard copies, and uninterrupted access to all of their e-texts while they’re students at IU.
The downside is that students are now forced to accept a digital materials fee.
In return for giving substantial discounts and reduced e-text restrictions, the publishers will gain a guaranteed e-text fee from each student who is enrolled in a course section that adopts a particular digital textbook. IU students will be informed before registering for classes whether a particular section will use digital materials and charge a fee.
So students can no longer wing it by borrowing a friend’s book, going to the library, etc. They have to pay the fee to take the class. I can see how such a deal might appeal to publishers, who can anticipate the revenue from adoption for resources that are digital (i.e. infinitely scalable). I can also see a benefit to the instructor who can now safely assume that every student has access to the course materials as soon as class begins.
In addition to the deal with publishers, IU also adopted Courseload, a text annotation platform that integrates in Sakai.
The e-textbook application will allow students to tag the digital content, perform searches, collaborate as a study group, and view multimedia on any computer or mobile device. Additionally, faculty who opt to use the software will have the ability to integrate notes, links, and annotations on students’ e-texts.
Do you think we could envision something like this for UD? How could this happen, and would would need to get on board?