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Will e-books replace college textbooks?

Sarah Pfledderer / Lantern photographer

Traditional textbooks could quickly become a thing of the past.

Apple Inc., recently announced the company will be joining Amazon and Barnes & Noble as a major player in the electronic textbook business.

The technology powerhouse has made deals with textbook companies to sell electronic copies of books for grades K-12 for $14.99 or less.

Some students spend hundreds of dollars each quarter on textbooks alone, and e-books are advertised as a cheaper alternative to hard copy versions.

“It’s the kind of thing OSU has the resources to take advantage of and develop really innovative, engaging material with,” said Scott Lissner, Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator at Ohio State.

Ken Petri, the director of the Web Accessibility Center at OSU, said he thinks digital textbooks will eventually be the norm at OSU.

“I think it’s totally, 100 percent, completely inevitable,” he said.

Vendors boast of savings of more than 50 to 60 percent on e-books, and some Ohio State students are cashing in on the deals.

“The book for my biology class cost like $200, which I decided was just too much to spend, so I ended up getting it online for free,” said Brittany Hopkins, a third-year in animal science.

According to Undergraduate Admissions and First Year Experience predictions, the average student will spend $1,317 on textbooks every year, which some students find unacceptable.

“I think it’s a little ridiculous to spend that much on textbooks, especially because in some classes you won’t even talk about them or use them,” said Nick Rettig, a second-year in agribusiness and applied economics.

Rettig said he sees the financial advantage of using electronic textbooks.

“As a college student, you don’t have a lot of money floating around. Anything that is cheaper should be considered,” Rettig said.

Wayne Carlson, vice provost for undergraduate studies and dean for undergraduate education at OSU, said he is thinks e-readers are the future.

“I see this as a real future,” he said. “I see this as a real way for the university to achieve its goals of making materials more available, more timely, more affordable and impacting students’ learning.”

Along with their savings, some students enjoy the convenience that e-books provide.

“I like it because I can search for something and it will show me chapters and sections the word I’m looking for is in. It’s easier to find what I need, and I don’t have to carry a heavy book around,” Hopkins said.

Despite their growing popularity, some students prefer hard copy books.

“I prefer to be able to touch and flip the pages, it’s a psychological thing,” said Carolina Alvarez, a first-year in animal sciences.

Vatsal Patel, a third-year in pharmaceutical sciences, had opposite feelings. He said he prefers digital textbooks because he does not want to carry “tons of books” or have to read from a “big textbook.” He said reading with an iPad is easier because of its light weight.

Lissner said he does not see any huge changes in student textbook use in the short run, but does see a lot of potential for the new digital textbook service in the long run.

“I would guess … we’re a good five or six years from e-books truly being the norm,” he said. “I don’t think it will develop across the board. I think it will hit some disciplines faster than others because of the nature of changing information and style of information, where it might make more sense in some place than others.”

While Barnes & Noble sells e-textbooks for its Nook tablet, smaller campus bookstores don’t have that advantage.

Bookstores like UBX Book Exchange on 15th Avenue revolve around the textbook business, and the growing popularity of e-books and online retailers has taken a toll on profits.

Andrew Gordon, general manager of UBX Book Exchange, said he thinks there are benefits that outweigh the extra cost that comes with using a traditional textbook.

“There is functionality missing in e-books. With e-books, after a certain amount of time, your license expires and you can’t use the book anymore,” Gordon said.

Instead of expiring after a set time, the owner has total control of a hard copy book once it’s in their possession, Gordon said.

“You can sell it or you can hold onto it,” Gordon said.

Publishers and e-reader producers are expecting e-book popularity to skyrocket in the coming years, but there are some students who don’t think they can be convinced to go digital with their reading.

“If I can have a book in hand,” Alvarez said. “I’d rather not use e-books.”

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