Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

An Assessment of College Students' Attitudes towards Using an Online E-Textbook

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

An Assessment of College Students' Attitudes towards Using an Online E-Textbook

Article excerpt


Many college students are facing high textbook costs in addition to rising tuition. With textbook prices adding to the stress on college students' budgets, professors and students seek ways to lower textbook costs. Some instructors use previous editions of texts so that used textbooks can still be purchased even when the publisher has released another new edition. Others make their own texts or skip using textbooks all together. Students now more commonly select e-textbooks as a way to reduce spending. Are e-textbooks a viable replacement for textbooks in undergraduate college-level classes? Are students readily adapting to the e-textbooks? How would students describe their experience with e-textbooks? Can professors confidently recommend e-textbooks to their students? This assessment indicates that the undergraduate students surveyed want to be able to freely choose between print and e-textbooks. While many students like using an e-textbook, faculty are encouraged to inform students of the benefits and limitations of e-textbooks.

Unlike most e-books such as novels, which are purchased and downloaded, e-textbooks have been primarily web-based books designed for use while online. (One e-textbook supplier has only recently made e-textbooks accessible offline when a student creates an Offline Bookshelf.) Students use laptops and other e-readers for reading their e-textbooks (Young, 2009). Some students chose an e-textbook so they can buy a digital version of the text at a lower price than the print copy while also saving space in their book bags (Lyman, 2008. E-textbooks typically cost about half as much as a new print textbook, although e-textbooks cannot be sold back at the end of the course (Young, 2009).

The publishers of textbooks clearly see some interest in e-textbooks. Publishers are now providing more e-textbooks, as digital replicas of the print versions, mainly through the Course-Smart Company ( CourseSmart was founded by and is supported by five higher education textbook publishers: Pearson, Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill Education, John Wiley & Sons Inc., and the Bedford, Freeman, Worth Publishing Group. CourseSmart provides an e-textbook format on a common platform with a common location for reviewing and purchasing e-textbooks (Lyman, 2008). In 2010, there were over 12,000 e-textbooks available, and now they offer over 90% of textbooks in use today (CourseSmart, 2013). Given the widespread availability of e-textbooks, this assessment can help faculty and students be prepared for a potential shift away from print textbooks to e-textbooks.

This assessment asks students in a public speaking course at a public university about their use of and opinions of an e-textbook, "A Speaker's Guidebook" (O'Hair, Stewart, & Rubenstein, 2009) used in the introduction to public speaking course to understand student attitudes toward using an e-textbook. Faculty can benefit from knowing the attitudes undergraduate students shared in this survey towards the e-textbook so that they can better inform their own students about the benefits and pitfalls of e-textbooks. The next section will summarize previous research exploring the challenges of online reading and summaries of students' views on e-textbooks as reported in other surveys.

Review of the Literature

Students' use of E-textbooks

Buzzetto-More, Sweat-Guy, and Elobaid (2007) describe the digital media of e-textbooks as a learning object that includes features such as hyperlinks, multimedia features, and search ability, and they report that in 2007 many students had never used e-books. For those students who have used e-books, Li, Poe, Potter, Quigley, and Wilson (2011) report students' search tasks are quite efficient using e-books, and e-books are accessible virtually immediately online. E-textbooks can also make quick work of copying and pasting text for students (Li et al. …

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