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OPLIN 4cast #428: Digital vs. print textbooks

Posted in 4cast

textbooksThere are conflicting signals coming of out colleges lately in regard to digital textbooks. Are they the wave of the future or are print textbooks better? There’s a considerable amount of money at stake here (I think we all know how crazy-expensive college textbooks can be), and textbook companies by and large seem to be placing their bets on digital and getting out of the print business. Students, on the other hand, don’t seem to be convinced, with a couple of studies indicating that they prefer print.

  • Should college textbooks go digital? (TechCocktail | Scott Huntington)  “In this digital age, we carry around much of the world’s collective knowledge and history in our pockets. So why are college students asked to pay thousands of dollars for heavy doorstops that are technologically on par with something out of the Bronze Age? This is especially true in fields like science and economics where the information is changing so often that books can be out-of-date before they even hit the shelves.”
  • The death of textbooks? (The Atlantic | Terrance F. Ross)  “Nostalgia aside, it may come as a relief to many, then, that textbooks are becoming anachronistic. Digital in-class learning materials, like software that adapts to the ways in which individual students acquire information, and other forms of virtual education content are becoming more effective and intelligent. College-affordability advocates and others hope this growth could result in the normalization of less costly or even free materials down the road.”
  • Why Chegg is abandoning a business worth over $200 million a year (Fast Company | Ainsley O’Connell)  “Over the next 18 months Chegg will liquidate its print inventory and refocus on its digital products, including self-guided homework help and on-demand tutoring. Students will continue to rent through Chegg’s platform, with the company taking a 20% take on the print textbooks and relying on Ingram to manage operations. The new strategy will widen the scope of Chegg’s digital operations in order to better serve student needs at a time when other companies in the higher education and professional training markets are looking to do the same.”
  • Students reject digital textbooks (Shinyshiny | Diane Shipley)  “Given how heavy textbooks can be, you’d think ebooks would be a huge bonus of being at university now, as opposed to ten years ago. And not only do they weigh less, you can buy or borrow them instantly instead of having to schlepp to the university bookshop or library, search within them easily, and highlight and make notes without being accused of defacing anything. So you’d think students would be all over digital textbooks. But they’re not.”

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