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Thursday, August 21, 2008

e-textbooks in the news

I was combing through some news stories this morning on eTextbooks. CafeScribe and CourseSmart still appear to be getting the bulk of the press, with some references to VitalSource as well. With the start of the semester approaching and the invariable mass of news stories about the high cost of textbooks it will be interesting to see how much e-textbooks appear among the headlines this year. I don't think e-textbooks are quite there yet, but they certainly are getting closer.

Anyway, here are a couple sample news stories on this topic that appeared recently. The first one, to my surprise, actually quoted an earlier posting in this blog:

Technology Turns the Page for Ink-on-Paper Textbooks. An interesting piece in this story appeared near the end in a section explaining why one student was opposed to digital textbooks -- because the classroom had poor WiFi connectivity, leading few students to bring laptops to class. I have heard a couple similar comments in other contexts, but this was the first news piece that I recall mentioning something about classroom preparedness for laptops.

Free digital texts begin to challenge costly college textbooks in California. This piece reflects another trend in the e-textbook media: open source textbooks -- digital textbooks made available for free. Given the emotional charge on this topic, I thought this article from the LA Times did a good job providing coverage of the topic with a fairly realistic and balanced perspective. The article cites appropriate figures that put some reality around where e-book, let alone open source e-books, currently sit in the textbook market, while still providing evidence for how there are early signs of a change or shift. I liked the listing about 2/3rds of the way through the piece of the many different open source initiatives, some of which have been around for quite some time. Actually, there is an response piece to this article in another blog that provides a perhaps less balanced, but still interesting perspective.

Textbook Torrents Makes Long Awaited Comeback. Finally, in the third strong of stories we see illegal free. Textbook Torrents is apparently back in action after only a month, and will be taking steps to increase user privacy (like no longer tracking IP addresses), and improve redundancy to ensure availability.

Certainly there will be other e-textbook related stories, but I expect the storylines within the above three articles may be often repeated. Another theme around e-book readers may be in there too, but I am preparing a separate post on that topic.

1 comment:

dan said...

I'm a big fan of etextbooks, who isn't, but as a student, I think you have to look at the whole picture to get the cheapest prices, afterall, most of us are poor. HA.

You can also rent your books, find free books at googlebooks, and yes torrents. But when the free options don't work out, I suggest using a comparison textbook shopping bot to find the cheapest price. I just used www.textbookspy.com to find the cheapest prices for textbooks across several companies, including rental books.

stay classy america.