Could those days of standing in an endless line at the campus bookstore with a semester's worth of textbooks soon become a thing of the past? With the steady rise of e-readers and e-textbooks, students may soon be downloading their books more often than lugging them home from the bookstore.
Joel Hughes, associate professor of psychology at Kent State University-Main Campus, incorporates e-textbooks into his psychology curriculum.
"I teach a distance learning psychology course where I give my students an option of either purchasing the print textbook or the e-textbook," Hughes said. "The e-textbooks make more options available, and some are lower in cost for students. They make getting the book very convenient."
Jade Roth, vice president of digital strategy at Barnes and Noble College Booksellers Inc., said there has been a significant growth in e-textbooks in the past two years.
"We have been experiencing double-digit increases in sales of e-textbooks, but print textbooks still make up the majority of what we sell," Roth said.
Rose Guerrieri, library director at the Kent State University at Trumbull, said that e-books are more efficient and becoming more popular than print books.
"It's nice to carry an e-reader around than a backpack full of books," Guerrieri said. "In some cases, they are less expensive. Print books might have visual cues, but with e-books one can search for a topic, and it will search through every word in the book with a full text search."
Hughes said that e-textbooks embody useable features that are ideal for learning.
"There are many potential features that have yet to be exploited such as embedded videos and demonstrations, etc.," he said. "I don't think the science of learning has caught up with the technical capabilities, so right now most e-texts are a mere replica of a printed text. As the field develops, the e-texts will become less like printed books and more like multi-layered information delivery devices, using all the possible features."
Jeffrey Trimble, interim head information services, technical services and system librarian at William F. Maag Library at Youngstown State University, said the William F. Maag Library is examining the issue of e-textbooks on campus.
"We are looking at purchasing e-textbooks through the OhioLink consortium, which negotiates with publishers and vendors to implement an e-textbook program," Trimble said.
"The state of e-books is very liquid and everything is changing by leaps and bounds," he said. "I own a Kindle Fire, and, five years ago, I did not think I would love technology. In the fall of 2011, I was one of the first buyers of the Kindle Fire."
However, Trimble said that there are still some advantages print books have over e-textbooks.
"Electronic books aren't the panacea people think they are," Trimble said. "We all think they are convenient, but we cannot do certain things in e-textbooks that can be done in print textbooks. It is difficult to circle the text or make notes on the pages for reference or studying for a test."
Students seem to have mixed feelings on e-textbooks.
Trevon Wright, of Akron, a computer science student at YSU, said he was given the choice in a class either to download the e-textbook or purchase the print textbook.
"I prefer print textbooks," he said. "A lot of people I knew that used the e-textbook had technical difficulties, where it wouldn't start up. I don't carry around my laptop a lot. If I used the e-textbook I would have to bring my laptop to class every day."
Mike Bestic, of Boardman, a mechanical engineering major at YSU, agrees that there are advantages and disadvantages of e-textbooks.
"I just don't like e-textbooks," he said. "On a computer, I can't flip through the pages as I would with a print textbook. I learn much better through flipping through the pages. It hurts my eyes staring at the computer for a long period of time. However, the nice thing about e-textbooks are that students do not have to carry books around, and they cost less."
Trimble feels optimistic about the revolution of e-textbooks and e-books.
"It is exciting to see this technology develop so fast," he said. "Within five to 10 years, we may see advances in technology in libraries. Libraries will not be able to get rid of print books right away. However, they will store millions of print books until they are all reproduced in digital format."
Hughes said that e-textbooks are not taking over print textbooks as of today, but this trend will change in the future.
"When costs come down and acceptance of e-readers improves, adoption of e-texts will increase," Hughes said.