For the spring 2013 phase of their ongoing pilot programs with digital course materials, Internet2 and Educause have partnered with CourseSmart to provide e-textbooks and online support through a flat-fee bulk license to participating colleges and universities. As with their other pilots, Internet2 and Educause didn’t carve out any role for campus bookstores in the newest program.
This new phase is designed to “explore innovative business models,” according to the pilot prospectus, while continuing the research into effective usage of online materials in higher education. CourseSmart is an online marketplace where some 40 textbook publishers are able to sell 30,000 digital titles directly to students.
Internet2 is in the process of finalizing pilot agreements with an estimated 20 institutions. The schools will buy CourseSmart’s new Subscription Pack, which allows students to place up to 12 e-textbooks on their digital bookshelf at any given time during the semester through their campus learning management system.
CourseSmart is charging a flat $27,500 for 100 students, $44,000 for 200, and $200 for every additional student. Internet2 is quick to point out in its FAQs that this pricing—and the fact that students will pay nothing—is only for the pilot and isn’t supposed to establish any particular price-point or model for the future.
The fall 2012 e-content pilot is currently in progress with about 25 schools, building off the spring 2012 pilot with just five institutions. As The CITE previously noted, the report from the spring 2012 pilot showed students still preferred to study from print textbooks but would switch to digital materials if the cost was low enough and they could avoid lugging heavy print books.
While the spring 2012 pilot didn’t formally embrace college stores, three of the participating schools (University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cornell University, and University of Minnesota) chose to involve their stores in key roles, such as channeling information to faculty and students, gathering data, and assisting students with online materials. Although the University of Virginia noted in its report that digital textbooks “have long been offered as an alternative to print textbooks (when available) by the University’s Bookstore,” it opted not to include the store in the spring pilot. The fifth school, Indiana University, contracts its store to a management company.
Cornell, Wisconsin, and Virginia are all taking part in the current fall pilot. The final report on that pilot is not expected until early 2013.