Image from Ace Online Schools.
Digital textbooks are frequently cited as a way to cut the ever-rising costs of higher education. While e-books aren’t necessarily cheaper than their print counterparts (see a price breakdown here) they do have distinct advantages for students, including searchability (who reads the whole textbook?), cutting and pasting options, and convenience (more e-readers and affordable e-textbook options might result in healthier backs for everyone).
On the other hand, The New York Times claims that students prefer print, and that e-books don’t work for pedagogic reading. Mashable counters that students just aren’t ready. The Student PIRGs summarize how to get digital textbooks back on track. JISC negotiates with publishers to provide affordable ebooks for schools, colleges and universities in the UK.
Textbooks are increasingly moving into digital format, but without a strong response from the student body, will the growth continue? The cheapest options remain buying a used copy — something that can’t be done with ebooks — or borrowing a copy from your institutional library (ebooks in libraries are still a sticky issue). For the time being, for practical purposes, textbooks remain squarely in the paper-and-ink department.