A study conducted by the Daytona State College found that eTextbooks may not provide the enormous savings that were widely predicted. Over the course of four semesters, the study compared two college courses (ENC1101 and ECO2013) with four different methods of textbook distribution: print purchase, print rental, eTextbook rental, and eTextbook rental with an e-reader device.

According to their data, the study indicated that students saved the most money by renting printed textbooks. Traditional print textbook purchases were the most expensive option for students in both of the courses. The eTextbook rentals helped some students save money, but others barely saw any benefit. For example, in the college course ENC1101, students were able to save over $40 by using eTextbook rentals. The findings from ECO2013 were starkly different, with students saving a mere $1. The eTextbook renters were further disappointed with the inability to sell their electronic books back to recoup some of the cost, compared to their traditional textbook counterparts.  However, the study’s authors indicated that “publisher pricing decisions” attributed to the lackluster savings for eTextbook rentals.

The study also revealed several obstacles in the way of eTextbook rentals. Students with low computing skills felt intimidated by electronic books, and in some cases it led to professors spending class time to give tutorials. Even the more technologically advanced students found eTextbooks to be more inconvenient and time-consuming than traditional print textbooks. Other obstacles became apparent through technical limitations. If there were too many students accessing their eTextbooks at one time, the classroom wireless network would become overwhelmed and prevent consistent access to publishers’ websites. Despite having nearly half of the study participants express discontent with eTextbooks in some way, most clarified that they would still be willing to rent eTextbooks if the price was around $35 or lower.

If you would like to read about the study, you can visit:
http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Quarterly/EDUCAUSEQuarterlyMagazineVolum/AStudyofFourTextbookDistributi/242784

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