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Thinking about etexts / ebooks December 1, 2009

Posted by thinkphd in : NCU , trackback

Our NCU Provost Dr. Barnaby B. Barratt, PhD, DHS announced recently: 

In 2010, we will gradually change over to the use of ebooks. This not only seems appropriate to an online University (and will save countless trees), but will also be significantly less expensive for Learners.

I am very concerned about the strategic move to ebooks. Even though I have a Kindle 2 and enjoy ebooks, I often use my printed textbooks referencing several things at the same time. I might put my fingers in several places and compare. With ebooks, I can set up placemarkers, but they don’t stick out the edges for quick searching. I use sticky notes and my books have lots of them sticking out marking pages.

We use etexts at the University of Phoenix, where I am an adjunct. I found that students rarely read the texts! They pay for the “use” of the etexts (less than a paper textbook) but pay, nonetheless. They do not have eternal access to the book, either. When I buy a book at the store, it is mine forever. I can mark in it, read it multiple times, or pass it alone to someone else. Perhaps ebooks are OK for some classes but those in which the texts are used (not just purchased) we really need paper textbooks.

In addition, those of us who live in a rural area with insufficient bandwidth, struggle with downloading ebooks or large files or even watching YouTube. I have a limited amount of bandwidth before HughesNet activates their Fair Access Policy. If the etext file were kept resident on the school website, would we be able to permanently “mark” our copy for easy retrieval of information?

I have a whole bookshelf of textbooks that I have accumulated through the years, and I still refer back to these texts, especially when I prepare lesson plans or write papers or articles. Books are just a part of who I am – and even though I love the new technology of etexts / ebooks, I disagree that they are always appropriate in a classroom environment. The technology is not advanced enough to meet the needs of the serious student.

Books are an investment in learning; the use of etexts is like renting the textbook. I hope that NCU gives the students an opportunity to choose if they want to use etexts or buy the book.

Me? I will buy the book. The one made out of paper.

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Articles:

Do free e-texts reduce sales of print textbooks?

Integrate digital and media literacy as critical elements for education, report says

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