Some tout digital media as the answer to reducing the cost of print textbooks, but students aren’t all that thrilled with the available e-book alternatives. Joanna Cabot, a senior writer for TeleRead, has an idea.
In a recent column, she suggested that the current textbook models should be replaced with a pay-for-access model where students are charged a fee to use digital content from the college’s or university’s library database.
“It’s almost like Kindle Unlimited for academic articles, in a way,” she wrote. “In the Kindle Unlimited model, I can access every byte of the available library, as much as I want to, while I am paying.” Cabot is currently taking a course which uses library materials instead of a textbook.
In this model, course materials would be replaced by articles available through a library’s subscription service. Instructors list suggested readings on the syllabus with a reference code that is pasted into the search bar to access a PDF of the article. The library database can also be used to research information by subject or keyword, as long as the student paid the subscription fee.
“I think this is a surprisingly elegant model,” Cabot continued. “Now that I’m doing my ‘work’ on a proper computer instead of a tablet, it doesn’t bother me to have multiple browser tabs open. It’s easy to fire up the course message board, open a second tab, and load the library database. I like not having to buy a paper textbook and not having to be ripped off by an overpriced and DRM-hobbled digital effort to copy one. I feel that we are getting more current information by not limiting ourselves to one book source, and since these are not free articles we’re using—the university pays for its various subscriptions—nobody is getting cheated out of their fair due here.”