Tag Archives: digital textbooks

iPad Textbooks Need Professor Endorsement

College_Marketing_iPadWill the new iPad from Apple revolutionize textbooks, or is it nothing more than a slow laptop with a hefty price point?

The tablet PC might be the proverbial nail in the textbook coffin. Angst over textbooks has been in the air on college campuses for decades, and e-readers and alternative delivery options have started building momentum (just look at Chegg). It appears that with the release of the iPad, textbook publishers aren’t going to sit this one out.  McGraw-Hill, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, among others, have all indicated that their textbooks will be available on the device in the near future. The Kindle DX has already been tested with the college crowd. Kindle can’t claim victory yet, but I’m sure it has gained some valuable student feedback from which to build.

The iPad’s price will put it slightly out of reach for young consumers for awhile yet, but as the device becomes more prevalent, students will likely be migrating to the iPad or other brands that follow.  The real question is: Will textbook publishers still be gouging students with their e-book versions? The convenience of having textbooks in digital form is just one selling point, but if publishers and Apple think that point alone will sell readers and e-textbooks, they should think again. It does appear that textbook prices will drop when offered digitally, so the savings could very well pay for one’s initial investment in the iPad. Nevertheless, price is the primary pain point for students that should be addressed.  Students will also demand other features such as ala carte downloading of chapters and review sections with the ability to print and highlight text.

So, who has the upper hand here? Actually, professors do, and that’s because students have to buy the books they assign for class. And because professors are not typically early adopters of new technology, it may be awhile before students do their back-to-school book buying on iTunes.  Maybe once students get a taste of this technology, they will step up and demand that their textbooks be on these devices at prices they can afford. After all, they have already pushed textbook rentals into reality and made it a viable business model to boot.

Say goodbye to the traditional textbook

I remember donating plasma to help pay for my college textbooks. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t come close to covering it these days. According to U.S. PIRG, students spend an average of $900 a year on textbooks. Students are tired of being strong-armed at the bookstore, and plenty of companies are helping to do something about it. The unnecessary rise in costs for textbooks and the traditionally slow- moving textbook industry are being tested by alternative models for textbook distribution and consumption. No one is totally sure what method will stick, but the ones that do are likely to make wheel barrows full of money and relieve a lot of pressure for students and parents.

Here are some companies that are experimenting with new ways to deliver textbook and other educational content and helping to lower the cost of higher education:


Chegg www.chegg.com – Allows students to rent their book for class at a discount of more that 50% and have it delivered to their door. Students can rent books for the semester and ship them back for free when they are done. There is also an option for students to extend their rental period or buy the book should they choose to do so. Oh, and Chegg plants a tree for every book rented.

CourseSmart www.coursesmart.com Offers digital versions of traditional textbooks from some of the major publishers in the industry such as: McGraw Hill, Pearson, and Wiley. These materials are viewable online or can be downloaded. The book prices are reduced significantly from the printed versions found in the campus bookstore. Students using this service tout the joy of not having to lug around heavy books for class anymore.

Textbook Media www.textbookmedia.com – Works directly with publishers and authors to offer their textbooks and study guides online through a web-based book reader. The books are adopted by professors and assigned to their students for the semester. The books are offered free to students through sponsorships (think PBS underwriting) from national brands that want to help lower the cost of education. Paid upgrades with no advertising are also available. (In full disclosure, Campus Media works closely with this company to create custom sponsorships for national brands.)

Aplia www.aplia.com A software brand owned by one of the country’s largest textbook publishers (Cengage) has put its money behind engaging students through online homework assignments, problem sets, tutorials, and interactive market experiences to complement textbook content. Paid access (about $60) to these online exercises provides instant feedback to the student and professors to better understand what is resonating with students and what isn’t. The real-world applications help students deepen their understanding of concepts covered in the textbook.

Flat World Knowledge www.flatworldknowledge.com An open-source textbook provider that provides online textbooks in a reader to students free of charge. Professors are able to customize the book by rearranging chapters, removing or adding text, and other customization. Students pay for premium PDF upgrades for printing, audio files and interactive web quizzes. Earlier this year, Flat World Knowledge received $8 million in Series A funding to help grow its offerings.

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