With back to school season starting to show its summer-stealing flare, students around the world are prepping for a new semester in the start of a new school year. At this time, students will work to secure the best prices on their higher ed and private school textbooks, but many can expect to pay nearly $1000US for a semester’s worth of texts.
But only a handful of years ago, students were promised a better way. They were promised that digital textbooks would replace print, and that those ebooks would not only be filled with far more content than dead trees could provide, but that they would do so at a fraction of the cost.
Unfortunately, that (still) hasn’t proven to be the case.
Digital textbooks are still not as widespread as most educators and students would have hoped, and publishers are still searching for the right middle ground when it comes to funding a well-researched title authored by experts in their fields, and producing a volume at a price that schools and students can afford.
Fortunately, the headway seems to be coming in individual titles. Students at Jacksonville State University, for example, had the option to buy not only an ebook of their English 101 texts, but it also came with the famous add-ons that industry experts have promised: practice tests, extra insights, and more in-depth lecture notes. All of that content was available for almost half the cost of a new hardcover print edition, and for around thirty dollars less than a new softcover print edition, neither of which included additional bonus material.
But now for the very sobering news: it’s not the content creators, the publishers, or even the educational institutions who are reluctantly allowing e-textbooks in their midst. It’s the students. According to a report released earlier this year, students are equally reluctant to rely on digital when given the choice as any stereotypical crusty old professor. Why? The answer may be surprisingly responsible.
Students seem to crave the look and feel of a print edition, choosing to opt for the heft of a “real” book over digital, even when the ebook edition comes with bonus content. With so many students investing for the long haul in their educations through ten years’ worth (or more) of student loans, they’re not taking any chances with content that isn’t familiar and that doesn’t come with proven results.
In order for the educational industry to make the full switch to digital, a harsh transition has to take place, one that doesn’t offer students the choice between paper and pixels. Like so many people in previous generations who disparage anything they didn’t have “back in their day,” 21st century students may have to be brought kicking and screaming into the digital age.