School puts books on shelf

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January 29, 2009

11:22 PM

Northwest Missouri State University is planning on eliminating hard-copy textbooks by partnering with publishers McGraw-Hill and Cengage to provide students with electronic textbooks.

“Publishers don’t have all textbooks online yet,” NMSU President Dean Hubbard said to the News Tribune. “But I would think, as a realistic measure, we could be totally out of the printed textbook business in three years.”
Hubbard told The Brown Daily Herald, Brown University’s student newspaper, that electronic textbooks cost “about 50 percent less than hard-copy texts.”

The university bought electronic textbooks for 500 students in 10 subjects ranging from algebra to music. Additionally, McGraw-Hill is making digital access codes of textbooks for up to 3,000 NMSU students.

The university is also providing laptops for its students so they can access the electronic textbooks and a smaller group will be using Sony E-book Readers. An older model of Sony electronic book readers was tested out in a pilot program last semester involving four classes and approximately 240 students.

“This is a tremendous attention-getter; it’s not as good an attention-holder,” Hubbard said to Wired Campus magazine about the Sony Reader, explaining that laptops would be better because they allow students to highlight, copy and paste text, or take interactive quizzes. They let professors add or remove material to the textbooks. Electronic textbooks also allow for textbooks to get free updates to new editions.

Rod Barr, an agriculture instructor at NMSU, who was part of the pilot program, said the university plans to let students choose between laptops, readers, and ipods.

“Not all students are the same and not all classes use textbooks in the same way,” Barr said to the Post Bulletin.

The University System of Ohio has partnered with CourseSmart to provide students with electronic textbooks, but unlike NMSU, it is not insisting that students switch to electronic books.

“I would like it if we didn’t have textbooks at all anymore,” Mike Jenkins, a sophomore at NMSU, said to Wired Campus. He used electronic textbooks in his history class last fall. “The e-book is so convenient, and you don’t have to carry all those books around.”

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