Many industry analysts have pinpointed university faculty as an essential element for college students’ adoption of e-textbooks and digital course materials. Stanford’s recent decision to offer digital versions of university press course materials opens the door for the academic press to create a new lead into student adoption of digital materials.
Stanford University is among several larger universities now offering digital book rentals to create more cost effective solutions for cash-strapped students while also helping to lead the transition into e-textbooks. The digital PDF versions of what universities might normally offer as spiral bound, computer-printed materials are available for a limited subscription period at a discounted price or flat fee. Despite the highly variable cost of an academic press e-book (from $10 to 75% of the cost of the actual textbook), students can gain quick access to needed materials for a portion of the price they would pay for the print version of the book.
Of the larger university publishers offering digital subscriptions, none have admitted to making much of a profit on their e-book subscriptions, however, they are quick to counter that the objective of their entrance into the digital book market is to introduce digital materials to students who are either unable to purchase a print version or are interested another viable option for course reading and studying.
As more universities offer digital course materials for rental, and students become comfortable with digital alternatives to print textbooks, university officials are hoping to pave the way to more widespread digital material adoption.
What is your history with digital course materials? Have you used a digital book from a university press to help you decide whether an e-textbook was right for you?