Bookstore launches digital textbook program

A new eTextBooks program offered by the GW Bookstore lets students buy a digital version of a limited number of textbooks and save an average of 40 percent over the hard copies, GW Bookstore manager Bob Blake said last week.

Through the program – which began this semester for about 100 textbooks – a student purchases a digital version of the printed textbook, which retains the pagination, illustrations, color and other features of the print edition, at a heavily reduced price.

“eTextbooks cost less than print textbooks to manufacture and distribute; you’ll pay less in most cases,” Blake said, adding that the eTextBook option offers other benefits that a regular copy of a textbook can not offer, like digital searches through the textbook’s pages.

Access to the program does not expire once the semester is over, and students can access the edition of the book on up to three computers, Blake said.

The new online version of a textbook also comes with a social networking function that allows students to share documents, notes and insights inside the textbook with other students on campus and across other college campuses.

For students who enjoy having a copy of a textbook in their hands but don’t want to pay the premium price, there are textbook rental companies that offer course materials at a fraction of the cost outside of the GW Bookstore.

Both Bookrenter.com and Chegg.com – two leading textbook rental companies – have said they have seen an increase in sales over the past year as result of the rising costs of course materials.

“Our average is up to 75 percent savings and every book is different,” said Laura Sneddon, marketing manager at Bookrenter.com. “You’re going to save more depending on the rental period that you get.”

On average, students spend more than $800 a year on course materials, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Freshman Elizabeth Oyeneyin said she purchased an eTextBook because of the cost savings. By purchasing the online version of the textbook, Oyeneyin said she saved more than $115.

“It was cheap. That’s why I got it. I haven’t looked through it yet. The actual textbook was $216 and the eTextBook was less than $100,” Oyeneyin said. “You can print out and highlight and make your own notebook from it. It’s more convenient.”

Junior Elizabeth Lisowski said she also chose to rent her textbooks.

“I got all of the books I needed with the exception of one math textbook, which I got at the bookstore because it is specific to the GW class,” Lisowski said.

But despite the cost savings, some students are skeptical that the deal is too good to be true.

Freshman Gabrielle Friedman said she decided against renting books when she read she would not be able to highlight or write in any of the books for studying purposes. Friedman also said that online customer reviews of the site, Chegg.com, convinced her to steer clear of the new service.

“[The reviews] said the customer service was awful and if something went wrong with your order, not all of your books came or the wrong book was sent, it was very hard to get someone on the phone to help you,” she said.

The policies outlined on both companies’ Web sites say that they do allow minor highlighting, and Bookrenter.com notes that writing is permitted as long as is it erased. Damages fees are assessed by both sites for excessive damage to a book, and students do have the option of purchasing the book at the end of the rental period.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.