Welcome to The CITE -- a blog on Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education, created by Mark Nelson and now part of the Publications Department of the National Association of College Stores. CITE is a pun with multiple meanings - referring to cite as in citation, something people reference; site as in location, website, or place people go to; and sight as in foresight or looking ahead to what is coming. Comments, discussion, feedback and ideas are welcome.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Textbooks to Tablets, Students Seek Used

A funny thing happened when an instructor at Calhoun Community College in Alabama allowed his summer-term students to choose between buying traditional textbooks or buying e-books for a tablet, which they’d also have to acquire on their own. All of the students, according to the Decatur Daily, went the digital route.

That belies the conventional wisdom that says college students prefer printed textbooks because paper pages are easier for flipping around and making notations. It should be noted, all things were not equal with the students’ options in this situation. The e-books, complete with supplemental materials, cost $100 for the term while the traditional texts would have run $300-$400, depending on new or used, if purchased from the campus bookstore.

However, the need to buy or borrow a tablet should have tipped at least a few students toward choosing print. The expense of computer hardware, so say the experts, is a hardship on some students—even more so at community colleges—and therefore poses a significant barrier to more widespread student use of digital course materials.

Instead, instructor Scott Throneberry told the paper, his students shopped for used devices online. Five students snapped up previously owned tablets for around $50 each on eBay.

For decades, college students have sought out used print textbooks to save money. Now it appears they may switch to scooping up used devices for the same purpose.

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