The Coming of Age of E-Textbooks?

I’m not as familiar with what’s going on with e-textbooks, but there seems to have been a lot of exciting developments recently.

One thing I often hear about e-textbooks is that, despite the expectation that young people, particularly college students, would be the first to eagerly adopt all things digital, most students don’t like e-textbooks as much as physical books. The main reason is that there is no good way yet to take notes or highlight, though some college students have also told me it’s too expensive to buy a tablet, and they prefer renting textbooks via websites when possible.

But, things are changing, and there is now more of a push for students to use e-textbooks. Last September California Governor Jerry Brown signed a proposal for California to fund 50 open source digital textbooks, as well as establish a California Digital Open Source Library to host them. What’s especially exciting about this initiative is that all the textbooks will be licensed under Creative Commons, meaning out-of-state professors will be able to assign the textbooks for their classes, and the trend may quickly catch on.

On the other hand, the Twenty Million Minds Foundation has been backing open-sourced e-textbooks for some time, and have found that many professors are reluctant to assign their books to their classes because they are not well known. So now the Foundation has decided to sells its books on Chegg, an online textbook retailer. Now all the books will be available for a small fee, and profits will go towards Chegg, whose e-reader has extra features that allow readers to take notes, highlight, look up definitions, and print notes.

In the future things like Project Blue Sky might become the new norm. Project Blue Sky is a Pearson project that lets professor mix their own works and books with free content online. Or maybe “Smartbooks” will be the new thing. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, McGraw Hill Education demoed the “Smartbook”–which uses adaptive learning technology to tailor content to a specific students’ needs.

It all sounds very exciting and promising, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see how everything works out.


2 Replies to “The Coming of Age of E-Textbooks?”

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