E-Textbooks | News
Indiana U Strikes Cost-Cutting Deal with E-Text Publishers
- By Dian Schaffhauser
Indiana University (IU) has negotiated new publisher agreements that are expected to reduce the costs of e-textbooks for students, extend the periods in which they have access to the texts, and give them more flexibility in how they use the digital material. The current set of agreements applies to e-text publishers John Wiley & Sons, Macmillan's Bedford Freeman & Worth Publishing Group, W.W. Norton, and Flat World Knowledge.
Under the new terms, the publishers will provide students substantial cost savings, the ability to access digital or printed hard copies, and uninterrupted access to all of their e-texts while they're students at IU.
The contracts evolved from a formal request for purchase process that followed two years of e-text pilot-testing with students and faculty. In return for giving substantial discounts and reduced e-text restrictions, the publishers will gain a guaranteed e-text fee from each student who is enrolled in a course section that adopts a particular digital textbook. IU students will be informed before registering for classes whether a particular section will use digital materials and charge a fee.
The university said in a statement that it has adopted a similar model in terms of software agreements it has made with Adobe and Microsoft.
Students will be able to choose to access their e-texts in digital and/or print formats, and there will be a print-on-demand option for students who prefer a hardcopy of an e-text to keep after graduation.
The administration expects to draw other publishers into the fold over time, said Brad Wheeler, vice president for information technology at the university and professor in the Kelley School of Business.
"IU's model ensures that students will benefit from the cost-savings and educational possibilities of e-texts and other online materials as their preferences shift to a blend of digital and print," said Wheeler. "e-texts on computers and mobile devices are opening up new opportunities for teaching and learning, and the [university] agreements give faculty new options for lower-cost, high-quality course materials."
As part of the same initiative, the university has selected Indiana-based Courseload to provide the software for students to read and annotate their e-texts. Courseload, which was co-founded by another Kelley School of Business faculty member, IU professor Alan Dennis, provides the ability to work with resources from any source, including proprietary, open source and self-generated materials, as well as media from a university library system. It's available on any device that can use a Web browser.
At IU, Courseload's software integrates directly with the school's Sakai-based learning management system, Oncourse. The e-textbook application will allow students to tag the digital content, perform searches, collaborate as a study group, and view multimedia on any computer or mobile device. Additionally, faculty who opt to use the software will have the ability to integrate notes, links, and annotations on students' e-texts.
The university noted that Courseload has worked closely with its Adaptive Technology and Accessibility Center to ensure that the software is accessible for all students.
The cost savings could be dramatic, Wheeler said. In some cases, the new agreements could knock almost two-thirds off the retail price of a new book or up to half off the cost of current e-texts offerings.
Students are enthusiastic about the announcement. "Current e-text offerings often cost more than used books or rentals, have too many restrictions, and often expire after a limited period of use," said Corey Ariss, undergraduate student president at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. "IU's e-text approach solves many of these problems, and the ability to search and annotate a text is excellent."
Joshua Davis, an IU Bloomington senior from Ohio, participated in the e-text pilot as part of an astronomy course. "Using e-texts was an entirely new experience for me," he said, "but the Courseload software in Oncourse was simple to learn and provided an efficient way for me to keep my notes organized for class. I was able to access my textbook remotely, both online and offline--plus, I didn't have to lug another heavy book around campus. I just purchased my textbooks for fall and spent around $800. I think this transition can't happen soon enough."
Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.