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The following blog post was written for WonderGroup on August 19th and ruffled a few feathers. Read the comments here at the original posting site

With the majority of college students returning back to campus over the next few weeks, campus bookstores are rubbing their greedy little hands together, waiting for their helpless prey to file in and spend hundreds upon hundreds of dollars each on textbooks. (Of course the smart thing to do is wait a few weeks until you are 100% sure you HAVE to buy the book– many books from my first few years of college were deemed useless by the end of the semester.)

Josh Catone wrote a blog on Mashable called “Digital Textbooks: 3 Reasons Students Aren’t Ready.” No offense Josh, but you look at least 32… so I decided to put my recently-graduated-from-college two cents into this story.

Catone points out some of the good things about digital textbooks: they’re potentially cheaper, they’re better for the environment, they weigh less, they can be updated more easily and they’re more easily searched. I agree x 5. Moving on to Catone’s “3 Reasons Students Aren’t Ready:”

Cost Savings Must be Greater

In theory, digital textbooks should be cheaper as costs associated with physically printing, binding, warehousing and shipping the books are eliminated. In practice, the cost savings are minuscule. Look at what Catone found: “Human Biology” published by Pearson costs about $50 used and $80 news. The digital version costs $70 (which is only a 12.5% savings for those of you who are scared of math like me) AND the electronic version is automatically deleted after 180 days. This last part leads to Catone’s second point:

Questions of Ownership

So let me get this straight… I paid $70 for a digital version of my textbooks and I can’t even keep them past 180 days? At least with a new or used tangible copy of the book I can keep it as reference, sell it back from some money or donate it to one of the numerous causes, like Books for Africa, that take educational materials over to those would otherwise have no educational material at all!

A Standard Format is Needed

There is no standard format for digital textbooks yet, potentially limiting students on which required course they can buy based on the compatibility with their reader or software. It would be a huge bummer to invest in a Kindle DX or an Apple Tablet only to find that one of your five course books can be viewed on it.

So if it won’t save me much money, I don’t get to keep it, sell it back or donate it to a good cause AND I might not be able to view it– on top of having to ALSO buy a reader to view these digital textbooks– why in the world would I buy these? To be trendy? No thanks, give me the real thing please.

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