New digital textbook options allow students to save

Apple Inc. announced Thursday that a new application, iBooks 2, is now available for iPad users and gives students the option of purchasing their books digitally or onto their tablet.

Chegg, a textbook rental website, launched its own eTextbook reader on Wednesday.

Major publishers such as McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt worked with Apple to bring their textbooks to the digital age, according to an Apple news release on Thursday.

“The direction Apple is moving in is a good one,” said Malcolm Brown, director of a nonprofit learning initiative called EDUCAUSE. “I think this has potential to really evolve the book in a direction it needs to go in.”

Students could already purchase electronic or digital textbooks online through Amazon and download them onto an iPad. The selection was limited, however.

According to Apple’s statement, the majority of the books are priced at $14.99 or less.

Anthropology senior Michael Marcanti said he prefers to purchase his books digitally after buying his Kindle.

It’s a much cheaper route compared to renting or buying, which can be costly, he said. He bought one e-book for $15, and said it was twice that price to rent it and double the rental price to purchase.

“I saved a lot of money just by doing the e-books,” Marcanti said.

Marcanti said he would like to see more textbooks go digital, but understands that not everyone has access to a tablet or e-reader.

Apple also introduced iBooks Author Thursday, an application that allows anyone to produce a textbook of their own and have them uploaded onto the iBookstore, according to the release.

Chegg’s eTextbook readers are stored through the Cloud, so they can be accessed on any computing device such as a tablet or laptop, Chegg’s Communications manager Angela Pontarolo said.

“Our eTextbook reader is really an innovative product that expands Chegg’s position as the market leader and really showcases and helps students save time, save money and get smarter,” she said.

Brown said it’s difficult to compare original textbooks to digital textbooks right now because the rise in use of digital textbooks is still in its early stages.

“It’s hard to know just in the longer term how valuable this will prove to be. There’s a lot of execution that Apple needs to happen,” Brown said. “(We) will have to see how the commercial versus non-commercial textbook question plays out in the coming months.”

Chegg has ordered about 40,000 digital textbooks for its e-reader. The focus is getting the most digital copies possible that are relevant to students, Chegg Product Leader Brent Tworetzkyi said.

The product also features a new function that lets all readers and peers of the same textbook share highlighted notes.

“We’re keeping within the textbook environment so students can stay right within their environment, not be distracted by anything and virtually be all right there,” Pontarolo said.

 

Reach the reporter at sraymund@asu.edu