Students not buying into digital textbooks

Even though much of the world has gone digital, students still prefer the printed textbook, a sociology professor said.

Keith Whitworth, instructor of sociology, said e-textbooks – textbooks that can be accessed electronically through a computer, PDA or e-book reader – deprive students of the hands-on experience provided by the printed version.

“The major disadvantage of e-textbooks is that it doesn’t provide the tactile experience where you can touch the book, flip the pages and highlight,” Whitworth said. “Even though we are in a techno-media type of society, students still prefer the written, printed textbook.”

Whitworth said students are using printed books because they used them before college.

“Through elementary, junior high and high school, students were provided printed textbooks,” he said. “What will have to happen before we see a transition of student preference to e-textbooks will be for them to go through the socialization process. That has not occurred yet.”

Aside from the text, e-textbooks enable instant access to links, audio and video components, which makes this medium more interactive than its printed counterpart, Whitworth said. E-textbooks seem to be the cheaper alternative, but the price difference is not as significant as one might think, he said.

“The cost savings are not substantially lower in order to induce students to purchase an electronic textbook,” he said. “Publishers still have to make money. If they will also transition to e-texts, the cost difference won’t be substantial.”

Frank Lyman, CourseSmart executive vice-president for marketing, said the average cost difference between the printed text and the e-textbook is 55 percent, but it is up to the publishers to determine the cost of both mediums.

CourseSmart, a company that provides e-textbooks of the most popular textbooks, is affiliated with about 100 bookstores and eight major textbook publishers such as Pearson Education, McGraw-Hill Higher Education, Cengage Learning and Houghton Mifflin.

Lyman said the company now has 4,430 textbook titles in electronic form as compared to the beginning of August when they had about 1,000 titles.

Lindsay Brown, director of corporate communications for publisher Cengage Learning, said the cost of e-textbooks depends on the title and if students would like to purchase by chapter.

“Cengage Learning’s e-textbooks cost, on average, is 50 to 65 percent of the cost of the full color, printed edition,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Individual chapters are also available for as low as $1.99 via”

Llisa Lewis, the general manager of the TCU bookstore said demand is low for e-textbooks among TCU students. There is no price difference between the printed textbooks and the e-textbooks sold at the TCU bookstore because the online book is downloaded from the publisher’s Web site.

But Victor Hernandez, textbook manager at Southern Methodist University, said e-textbooks sold at SMU are about 55 percent cheaper than the printed version. However, students cannot sell the access codes back at the end of the year, he said. Demand for e-textbooks is lower than demand for print textbooks, he said.

Lyman said e-textbooks could be purchased online or with an access code from the bookstore.

Some TCU students preferred the printed version because of easy reference.

Laura Schnitzius, a freshman pre-major, said although two of her classes had online versions of the textbook she preferred the printed textbook because it is more convenient.

“You can carry a textbook and you can flip back and forth through the pages when you have to answer the questions in the book,” she said.

However, Hiroaki Mitsuhashi, a junior economics major, said e-textbooks are handy for language classes.

“I prefer having both,” he said. “But in Spanish or any language, we have to listen to conversations so I prefer the online textbook. But in other classes like math, I wouldn’t go for the online textbooks.”

Mitsuhashi also said that online textbooks have more information because of immediate access to the Internet.

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