Etextbooks, or digital textbooks, are beginning to play a more prominent role in the education industry. There are many reasons why this is happening. One of the main reasons this is happening appears to be due to specific technological trends that are currently rising in popularity. Aside from technological trends and advancements, cultural values and financial stability appear to be determining factors in the rise of popularity of digital textbooks. As a culture, we are learning to value the convenience of digital information and using this additional convenience to increase our productivity. As a culture, we are also collectively learning how to “learn differently” through the use of various technology advancements in the education field, such as the production and utilization of digital textbooks.

eTextbook = Digital Textbook

Simply put, an eTextbook is a completely downloadable, digital version of a standard physical textbook. Essentially, they are electronic textbooks, which explains the abbreviated term used to describe what they are. eTextbooks contain the exact same material as regular physical textbooks, and may even contain additional text, illustrations, tools, and more. Therefore, digital textbooks and etextbooks are the exact same thing. Some companies, publishers, and individuals may refer to eTextbooks as digital textbooks, or vice versa, out of preference.

Rise In Popularity

Perhaps the largest reason why digital textbooks are gaining in popularity comes down to money matters. Digital textbooks are just cheaper for money-strapped students. If a college student can save 50% of the textbook’s cost, why wouldn’t they? Not surprisingly, college students throughout the world are buying digital textbooks just about as fast as they learn of their existence. College students are especially thrilled when they find out about certain companies’ business models. Companies such as Flat World Knowledge actually provide free online textbooks, but they do charge money for the same print versions.

There is clearly an enormous market for eTextbooks, and companies such as CourseSmart and MBS Direct appear to be leading the pack in terms of sheer title availability. While these two companies are busy digitizing the most popular college textbook titles, there is a huge gap out there for some of the more niche-specific and advanced textbook titles and subjects. Some smaller companies appear to be filling this vacuum.

The increased use of mobile devices to digest information appears to be driving the digital textbook revolution forward. Students are demanding fast and easy access to the data that runs their life. It is only natural to assume that students would want and expect the same convenience with their education materials. In fact, as part of an MIT project, students there created The OpenCourseWare Consortium to address this need for easy and convenient access to textbooks. Students at Carnegie Mellon University have started working on a similar solution as well, entitled “The Open Learning Initiative”. Both of these University projects aim to be a part of the much larger, global OER movement. Open educational resources are embraced by thousands of colleges throughout the world.

Along with the increased production and use of mobile devices like tablet computers, e-readers, netbooks, and smartphones, there has been an enormous increase in the use of online courses by universities all over the world. In order for the online course to function effectively, digital content obviously has to be integrated within the program itself. So, it is easy to see that digital textbooks will continue to grow in popularity due to their easy and natural integration within a university’s growing online course requirements.

To go along with their increased use of online courses, colleges are also heavily focused on integrating digital reporting and tracking features for the constantly-changing state and federal education regulations. It appears that the education and textbook industry are going the way of the healthcare industry in the United States. Essentially, these industries are looking to get rid of their “paper trails”. It would make sense that the higher education institutions look at digital textbooks as one of their solutions to decreasing the “paper trails” left with the print textbooks and other printed learning materials currently dominating their institutional and environment.

Institutions may not be left with much of a choice in the matter within the next five years. Sales of digital textbooks are expected to increase at least 80% year after year. They are clearly “the future” of education and they are here to stay. The higher education institutions and textbook publishers will need to figure out the best business model and approach to the impending digital textbooks “revolution”.

Convenient For A Variety Of Reasons

Students love the fact that you can often perform high-speed searches right within the educational material. Searching the material for specific keywords with a click or two is certainly more convenient than wading through hundreds of pages of text to find the answers to your desired questions. Students also appreciate the fact that eTextbooks allow them to access class required educational material instantly online, enabling the added convenience of being able to study their textbook anywhere they are, just by using their computer or e-reader device. This feature can really come in handy during those late night study sessions in dorms or at the campus library. Some of eTextbooks include enhanced features like digital highlighting and digital note-taking. These innovative features can truly increase a student’s productivity dramatically.

Not surprisingly, one of the major complaints of high school and university students throughout the globe is that they are required to carry a large amount of textbooks with them from class to class. As anyone who has been to a college campus can verify, some of these textbooks are extremely large and extremely heavy. It is not a rare sight to see a female student that looks like she weighs 130 pounds carrying around a book-bag that looks like it weighs 230 pounds. Recent scientific studies have also pointed out that many students are experiencing back, shoulder, and neck issues related to the constant stress of lugging around large amounts of heavy textbooks.

eTextbooks Are Environmentally Friendly

eTextbooks are desirable in the various environmentally-conscious organizations and environmentally-friendly communities across the globe. Just imagine how much paper and ultimately how many trees can be saved over time with an increased use of eTextbooks worldwide.

E-Readers And eTextbooks

The important thing to consider with etextbooks is exactly what application or “reader” you might need to use to properly access the educational content. Many eTextbooks can be accessed directly online without the need for any type of extra third-party application. Many etextbooks will be accessible through Adobe Reader or through the VitalSource Bookshelf. Both of these applications should work fine with, and are 100% compatible with, most popular mobile devices and most popular Internet browsers. These applications are also compatible with the popular, portable electronic devices such as iPhone, iPod Touch, and the iPad. Many students are on these devices just as often as, if not more than, their laptop and/or desktop computers.

Barnes & Noble has recently developed their own free reader application for etextbooks: The NOOKstudy. This application allows students to view three textbooks on both the PC and a Mac. NOOKstudy includes several enhanced features to help students study and stay organized while reviewing their digital content.

Where Should I Buy eTextbooks?

There are many places you can find eTextbooks, take a look at CourseSmart, CengageBrain, and eCampus. These three eTextbook providers offer a variety of selections and purchasing models.

Free eTextbooks

Read more about free digital textbooks and browse instantly downloadable selections here: Free eTextbooks.

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