I wanted to write in response to your recent article on e-books.
While in certain circumstances e-books can provide great features to students, in many cases I think they are more of a hinderance than a help. I think it depends on the style of the teacher and what you will be doing with your text book.
For example, I am currently taking a foreign language, and we use an e-book in that class. Obviously, the class itself is not a lecture; it is very interactive, and the Pearson e-book itself is more or less a reference.
Where it really helps is with online exercises. Using the online activities is great; if I type in a wrong answer, it will instantly tell me it’s wrong and then provide additional information to give me the chance to figure out for myself what I did wrong. If I continue to incorrectly answer the question or complete the phrase, it will eventually explain to me in detail what I should have been doing as opposed to what I have been doing.
It’s great; instantaneous feedback really helps improve my language skills. However, that’s not really anything great about the e-book, and more about the online exercises.
I think the Pearson e-books themselves are not worth paying for, for several reasons:
1.) They are incredibly expensive, and they are not permanent. You are paying a lot of money for something you only have access to for a few semesters and unlike hardcopy textbooks you can’t sell them back or even hang on to them for future reference, so it’s a completely lost investment.
If they were significantly cheaper, maybe they would be worth it, but they cost about the same amount as textbooks a lot of the time, so where is the savings?
2.) Pearson is so concerned with infringement that doing anything with the e-book is time consuming and impractical. Sure, there is an option to highlight the e-book, but have you ever tried it? Highlighting with a mouse is not as easy as highlighting a hardcopy book. If you could use the shift button and arrow keys on a PC to highlight text that way, that would be great, but Pearson won’t allow you to do that in fear you’ll copy and paste large portions of text. Why should they care? You paid for access to it.
Which brings on the next portion: I had a Pearson e-text for a science class which had a lot of diagrams and photos, sometimes I wanted to print several pages which sounds easy enough. Wrong.
The Pearson e-text requires you to print each page individually, so there is no easy way to print an entire chapter.
I like to write in my text books, so if I could print out each chapter of the e-text, that wouldn’t be so bad. But again, Pearson has made this difficult at best, not to mention most of the diagrams do not come out if you print them in black and white, requiring me to spend more money to print color photos. That’s just another expense on top of the ridiculously expensive e-text that I can’t keep and I can’t sell back.
3.) I like to read on the go. I spend a lot of time on campus and kill time between classes by reading for the previous or upcoming lecture. Unless I’ve got a laptop, I can’t do that unless I want to hunt for a desktop in the library.
I would much rather drop my bag next to a chair somewhere, pull out my text book and read anywhere that is convenient when I have the time. College is all about time management, and the Pearson e-text can really disrupt that.
The only situation in which I think an e-text book might be necessary is if, in the case of my science class, the professor uses chapters from several different books and instead of making you buy two or three text books, combines the relevent chapters into one e-text. I get that in this case, it actually is saving a significant amount of money, but again, if I can’t easily highlight it or write in notes or even print materials…. what good are they? I’d rather have the hardcopy.
I think that Pearson is marketing their savings in production costs as saving money for students, which really does not appear to be the case. Their biggest gain is students now have to buy from them and can’t buy used books second hand.
They’re stripping me of the ability to purchase a $20 edition of a used text book, and instead have to buy a $90 e-text. Their bottom line is getting me to pay full price for new material and if they can’t get me to pay for a $120 text book, they’ll produce an e-text at a much lower cost, charge only slightly less, and force me to buy that.