Electronic textbook sales at GW rank in the top 20 out of more than 2,000 colleges and universities nationwide using e-textbooks in classrooms, according to an analysis of sales by CourseSmart, an e-Textbook distributor.
The University ranked 19th behind universities like Texas A&M and San Diego State University.
“Students spend a lot of energy looking for creative ways to spend less money on their assigned textbook,” said Frank Lyman, president of CourseSmart. “Mostly they hunt for used books then wait in line at buy-back at the end of the semester to see if they can get anything back.”
E-textbooks, such as those offered by CourseSmart, generally cost half as much as their hardcover alternatives. Although students are not able to resell e-textbooks, the difference in price and easy accessibility has contributed to the increase in Web-based textbooks.
CourseSmart has more than 4,000 textbooks in its database. Publishers and authors receive revenue from every online purchase and offer lower prices to e-textbook companies.
Many departments in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences have been using electronic textbooks for several years.
The Physics Department has been using online sources rather than printed texts in classrooms for over 10 years. Department Chair Cornelius Bennhold said that Web-based systems provide a great advantage to professors as well as students.
“Many of the platforms provide student training that is individualized and adaptive,” Bennhold said. “These Web-based systems can be scaled to many hundreds of students . to a degree that human resources couldn’t allow.”
“E-textbooks are the future of college campuses,” Bennhold said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
Joseph Cordes, associate director of the School of Media and Public Affairs, said he offers the electronic version of textbooks because it is more cost effective. But he noted that the main disadvantage to e-textbooks is the difficulty in having to download and print out pages from an online source.
Lyman said Internet-based textbooks are not a good solution for a student who “is going to keep the book when the class ends. But for most students this is only the case in a handful of the classes they take.”
Economics professor Robert Trost requires that his students use Aplia, an online program that offers e-textbooks, live exercises and interactive homework problems to 800,000 students nationwide. Trost, who has been using Aplia for the past two years, said his students appear to like Aplia and Web-based textbooks better.
“I always tell people that textbooks are the last print-dominated media business,” Lyman said. “I think it’s pretty likely that the change to digital that has happened with newspapers, yellow pages, et cetera, will happen with course materials.”