A growing number of textbook publishers are offering digital editions these days, but a new study by a student group argues that many of those digital editions do not have the features that students want.
The group, the Student Public Interest Research Groups, a collection of independent statewide organizations representing college students, surveyed 500 students from several campuses for the study. They found that students wanted digital textbooks to be more affordable than print versions, to be printable, and to be free from restrictions on how long they can be viewed. But the report said that the electronic textbooks offered by major publishers through CourseSmart, generally cost about the same as printed versions, limited printing to 10 pages per session, and expire after about 180 days. Publishers put such restrictions in place to try to prevent students from giving copies to their friends for free or trading them on pirate Web sites.
The survey showed that students feel strongly about the printed word. About 75 percent of those surveyed said they prefer a printed textbook over an electronic one. And 60 percent said that even if a free digital copy were available, they would still pay for a low-cost print version.
The report calls on professors and colleges to support more “open textbooks” that are offered free online.—Jeffrey R. Young