I can’t count the number of times my parents and grandparents used to say to me as a kid “well when I was growing up we didn’t have xyz.” That really used to annoy me in my teenage years and I used to love to roll my eyes when they said that. Now that I’m older though, it really amazes me how many things can change in our lifetimes. It’s no wonder parents say the things they do.
Just the other day I was writing about how the publishing industry is changing and how literary agents like David Fugate believe “In the entire history of the written word, there has never been a better time to be a writer.” It’s exciting to see how the influence of technology is directly impacting such a vast industry. With the explosion of tablets like the iPad, smartphones, and travel friendly laptops, we are getting more and more hooked on digital books and ditching paper ones.
The Backpack Burden
Technology is everywhere and I for one am totally addicted to my gadgets. Even though I love reading paper bound books and magazines, my obsessive minimalism habits are driving my purchasing habits away from traditional books because they are a pain to lug around. Plus I think I’ve given away roughly 50-60 books in the last twelve months in favor of more empty space on my shelves. The world of books that we’ve known since we were kids is going to be entirely different in the next few decades and I think that’s cool!
The expanding area of digital publishing that I’m the most pumped about is eTextbooks. I never had a car during high school or college and I had to lug my super heavy backpack everywhere. It sucked. I was a total nerd and took a lot of classes, which meant I had tons of 2 lb textbooks weighing me down and even though I sold almost all of my books, it was almost insulting how little money I got back.
Laptops And Tablets Are The New Norm
I was fortunate enough to have a laptop during college but I didn’t take it with me to class. For one, the battery wouldn’t have lasted more than one class, and electrical outlets in the lecture halls were few and far between. My old laptop was also a lot heavier than my textbooks so it was easier to take notes in class on loose leaf paper or in thin spirals notebooks.
Fortunately more and more colleges and universities are device friendly now and have classrooms equipped with wifi and electrical outlets for each seat, and thus can accommodate a class full of laptops and tablets. It’s no longer weird to bring a laptop to class (it was really rare when I was in college), and with tons of textbooks available for purchase in electronic format, it’s also much more convenient to take notes digitally instead of on paper now.
Where Can You Get eTextbooks?
One website that offers a wide assortment of eTextbooks is eCampus.com. You can find books on calculus, physics, business, health, entrepreneurship, engineering etc. etc. And if the ones you need for your classes aren’t available in eTextbook format, you can always purchase a new print version or search for used copies too. You can even sell your old textbooks through their website and get some cash back.
Or if you already know you don’t want to keep your textbooks after you’re done with the semester and want to avoid the selling process, you can sign up for their textbook rental service and have the books delivered to you with free return shipping for when you’re done.
What Are Some Features of eTextbooks?
- They don’t weigh a thing!
- The pages and content are the exact same as the print version
- You can search for text or phrases (boy do I wish I had this feature when I was in school!)
- Copy and paste text functionality
- Highlight text just like you can in emails and Word docs
- Take legible digital notes without sloppy handwriting (another big one I wish I had)
- Print pages if needed
- You can read them on mobile devices
- Saves trees!!
Are eTextbooks Cheaper Than Printed Ones?
One thing to be aware of with eTextbooks is they are generally available for a limited subscription period after you buy them. So unlike printed textbooks, you won’t have access to the content for years down the road. But honestly, you’re probably never going to reopen your textbooks after your final exams so don’t let the time limit worry you! I know I didn’t miss my textbooks one bit after exams. 🙂
Here’s an example of eCampus’s pricing based on format for N. Gregory Mankiw’s Principles of Macroeconomics textbook at the time of writing this post:
New Textbook $194.35
Used Textbook $129.56
eTextbook $121.19 (180 day subscription)
Rent Textbook $62.26 (1 semester, due back June 1)
As you can see, renting is the cheapest way to go, but it also means you have to lug around the physical book when you want to study at the library or go to class. Plus you have to take the time to mail it back when you’re done and can’t scribble all over the margins with pen or highlighter. Buying New is totally ridiculous IMO and definitely not worth the money. If you’re still buying new textbooks, please go smack some sense into yourself. Lastly, the eTextbook falls in the mid range and is definitely the way I’d go if I needed this book for class.
Untemplaters, have you ever purchased eTextbooks? For those of you like me who didn’t have that luxury, would you happily go digital if you went back to school now? Any of you actually prefer print over eTextbooks?
Zachary Carper says
By chance do you know how many trees are saved a year by putting college textbooks into the E form?
I know it has been a long time since anyone replied, but hopefully.
I agree that the limited access after the semester isn’t a hindrance to eTextbooks. I can’t remember a time I went back to a book three weeks after the semester ended!
“Well in my day we didn’t have the option” – well, maybe with some of the books on a laptop. I like to think that if I was in school today I would take full advantage of eTextbooks. I took my notes in a notebook (how archaic) because writing it down seemed to help with recall later, even if I didn’t scan my notebooks ever again.
Anecdotally, does that same effect happen with an eTextbook? If you mark it up… do you remember what you wrote later or do you have to review it?
Financial Samurai says
Love the pic, and love the idea.
I wish there was such stuff when I was growing up 20 years ago! Bags would be so much lighter, and research would be so much easier.
Thanks Sam! I took that pic at a Borders bookstore that was closing last year. I went to try and get a book or two on sale but the whole store had been cleaned out already. It was nuts!
Edward Antrobus says
Actually, that’s the EXACT textbook I bought as an ebook in my final semester of college. Would have gotten more, but it was the only one available. Didn’t expect the Solid State Physics textbook to be available, but was disappointed that the Intro Stat wasn’t either.
My advice when buying an e-textbook: shop around. Treat it just like you (should) a physical textbook purchase, of searching multiple outlets for the best price. IIRC, I paid more like $110 for mine.
On the topic of prices, that’s just something that the entire publishing industry needs to wake up to. Generally speaking, 25% of the cost of publishing a book is printing costs. So ebooks should be about 25% cheaper. But they aren’t…yet.
As far as e-textbooks, the textbook industry is just starting to wake up to the possibility. One reason they haven’t made the inroads that fiction publishers have into ebooks is their stubborn insistence of delivering only pdf files instead of true ebook files. A pdf on a 5″ screen isn’t really a pleasant experience. Hmm, I think I smell a blog post coming on.
While it’s certainly not their intent, the pdf files do have their advantages – those can be shared between students, to help defray the high costs for the information. Similar to sharing a physical book, except easier.
That is so funny you had that exact textbook! I was browsing through their business section and just happened to find that one to use as an example. 🙂
I’ve had my Kindle for about a year now and love it. Though I didn’t buy any “official” textbooks (Finance, Accounting, Chemistry, etc) I was able to get a few required books and always have them with me. They were fabulous and so convenient! Even if they weren’t a whole lot cheaper, being able to buy them in class and have them available minutes later was amazing!
That’s neat you were able to buy some of your books while you were sitting in class! I love ways like that how we can be efficient and get things done from anywhere we have a signal. 🙂 If I ever move somewhere that doesn’t have an enormous collection of books at the public library or go back to school I’m definitely going to save up and get a kindle or ipad.
Buying books in class helped for two different reasons – I could buy them as soon as the teacher specified which book so that I didn’t forget – and for the class that I did forget, I was able to make up for it in moments. 😀
I managed to win my Kindle in a raffle, otherwise I would have never gotten one. However, the software on the computer might be a good way to start. The majority of the books on my kindle were free.
Definitely liking the idea of an eTextbook, but I don’t understand why I can’t keep it forever and ever if I wanted to. Seems completely odd. Remembering the weight of my backpack in high school and college still gives me back spasms. The one benefit to that heavy pack was the amount of exercise I got. I went to a small private school where you could only park by the dorms. Lugging that thing around definitely kept me shape. I’m a huge fan of eBooks. I take my kindle pretty much everywhere. If I decide to go back to school, I’m definitely going to be in the market for a tablet and eBooks.
Yeah carrying our backpacks around WAS a work out!! That’s cool you have a kindle. I don’t own one or tablet now but I see people with them everywhere and they look so fun and convenient. I like that most eTextbooks work with smartphones!
I forgot to add my guess is they put a subscription period on the eTextbooks to prevent people from passing around copies to different people. It’s a good motivator to pass classes on the firt try while the subscription is still active. 🙂
I like the concept, but I do wish the prices would come down.
Yeah they are still not cheap so many students may have to use continue to use the rental program with physical copies to keep their costs down. Hopefully the bigger the eTextbook market gets the more the prices will drop.