The multi-billion dollar textbook industry is being disrupted by various forces, including publishers, tech start-ups, education non-profits, the government, and university professors. One of the major factors influencing the decisions of these forces is the shift from print textbooks to electronic textbooks.

The switch from print to digital is a slow change, but the number of students and teachers using digital copies of textbooks is growing. Universities around the U.S. have noticed the digital trend and have begun to experiment with digital textbooks and resources, such as the Internet 2/Educause Etextbook Pilot that was conducted in fall 2012 and spring 2013 at the University of South Florida.

Last year, a survey was released by the Pearson Foundation that found 63 percent of college students believing that traditional textbooks will be phased out in the next five years. It also showed that slightly more than half of college students preferred reading digital textbooks over printed textbooks for their courses.

Students have begun to use their tablets and smartphones to access their learning material more than ever before. Students also find the price much more affordable. Instead of paying for an expensive used copy of a textbook at a bookstore, students can often find digital copies for significantly lower prices.

The rising cost of higher education has pushed the state of California to enact legislation to invest $5 million to develop open access college etextbooks. The result will be a collection of cheaper, if not free, digital textbooks created by experts, researches and faculty. Other states, such as Illinois and Virginia are considering similar legislation, and Washington has already made some textbooks available online for free.

Non-profit education organizations are also attempting to alleviate textbook costs for students, such as the Twenty Million Minds Foundation. Its goal is to produce free digital textbooks for introductory college courses. It has already released a free, faculty peer-reviewed statistics book and plan to release five more free digital textbooks by fall 2013.

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