Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Students as Ebook Guinea Pigs

Theoretically, college students are perfect test subjects for the testing of E-books. Afterall, don't they pay thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for the priviledge to read for four years (this is in the US, of course)? There are a number of ongoing projects, including one at Northwest Missouri State University, where last year they issued Sony PRS-505 e-book readers -- which they determined “was not necessarily designed for what we want to do." This spring they are using the new updated Sony reader, the one with a touch screen, and are utilizing CourseSmart, the consortium of five textbook publishers. Elsewhere, the University of Texas is starting a similar experiment with students next Tuesday. In both instances, the school is paying for the e-textbooks, something surely doesn't please either of the school's bookstores.

In Missouri, the administration believes that about 50% of the student body is interseted in e-textbooks. At Texas, the school's bookstore, University Co-op, already has e-textbooks available for hundreds of classes. Numbers don't lie: In the 2008 fall semester, the Co-op sold e-textbooks for 198 different courses which were taken by a total of nearly 15,000 students. The total number of e-textbooks sold: 55.

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