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Latest Attempt to Hawk E-Textbooks: Make Them Easier for Professors to Use

It has been hard to get most professors excited about e-textbooks, but publishers continue to try new ways to sell them on the format. The latest strategy seems to make the e-textbooks even easier for professors to use, by integrating them more tightly into the course-management systems they are already familiar with.

Today Blackboard announced deals with a major textbook publisher— McGraw Hill—and two college bookstore chains—Barnes & Noble College Booksellers and Follett Higher Education Group—to sell textbooks through the tech company’s course-management system and to tie online assignments from the e-texts directly into existing online gradebooks.

And earlier this week, CourseSmart, which distributes electronic editions of books by major textbook publishers, announced a new feature that better links its e-textbooks with the leading course-management systems.

CourseSmart calls its new service the “Faculty Instant Access program,” and it works with the open-source Moodle and Sakai systems, as well as commercial systems including Desire2Learn and Blackboard. So far only 10 colleges have been authorized to test the program, which the company hopes to roll out more widely in the future.

Under its new agreement with Blackboard, McGraw Hill’s series of online textbooks, called Connect, will link seamlessly with the course-management system. “We think the easier we make it to use Connect, the more likely it is that people will use it,” said Mary Skafidas, vice president for communication and marketing for McGraw-Hill Education, in an interview.

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