Well…it depends. In this second installment of the #LiberWave blog series, we explore a trend that began to emerge in 2012 where e-books began to replace content traditionally found in print textbooks and whether or not that trend has turned out to be a fad or is here to stay.

With all new kids on the technology block, it is important to understand why they appeared. In the first installment, Why College Textbooks Are Expensive, we discussed that the college textbook industry has turned into a legalized $13.7 billion-dollar (circa 2013) monopoly with exorbitant depreciation rates and absolutely insane profit margins. However, you know what they say – “a picture can speak a thousand words” – so this meme sums it up best:

In an attempt to break free from the shackles of mass profiteering at the expense of the one group that really can’t afford it, enter E-textbooks. In theory, it sounds like a great idea and like a lot of other print mediums – it seems that the cycle seems logical to now enter the college textbook space.

So, has it been as successful as it was pegged to be?

Ultimately it comes down to two things:
1) Is it truly a lesser expensive option?
2) Does it enhance or detract from the learning experience?

Is it truly a lesser expensive option?

Let’s take a real life example to see what the numbers say for these two comparisons.

Campbell Biology 10th edition (ISBN: 9780321775658)
Used print edition: $102.49
E-text book: $107.35
Net Savings: ($-4.86)

Human Anatomy and Physiology Textbook 9th edition (ISBN: 9780321743268)
Used print edition: $15.99
E-text book: $123.67
Net Savings: ($-107.68)

Does it enhance or detract from the learning experience?

Image from Giphy

This is a bit more subjective – hence it depends at the beginning of this article. In February 2015, the Huffington Post explored this topic a little more in depth. Some of their findings were actually quite interesting…especially since some of it was from the perspective of a 20-something millennials at American University. They also reiterated some of the findings that Naomi S. Baron, an American University linguist who studies digital communication (Words On Screen), found during her study of e-textbooks vs. print by asking survey participants what they liked least about print textbooks. Guess what the response was? “It takes me longer because I read more carefully.” Hmmm…that sounds like that’s a good thing! She also found that many times when using digital devices, readers tend to “skim” instead of actually reading and therefore comprehension is affected.

Baron also sites in her research that readers spend a little more than one minute on web pages, and only 16 percent of people read word-by-word. However, the most telling find via her research was that she found only 1% of “hard-copy” readers were likely to multitask while reading versus an astonishing 90% of “e-readers”.

Are print college textbooks on their deathbed?

Image from Giphy

No – absolutely not. Some things – such as learning – have always been a more tactile process for a reason. Research is currently showing (at least for now) there are no added comprehension benefits to having electronic versions of text and in fact – may actually be more harmful to the learning process. With Pew Studies showing the highest print readership rates are among those ages 18 to 29, and the same age group is still using public libraries in large numbers (Huffington Post).  It’s safe to say the print college textbook is not going anywhere anytime soon.

So in the meantime, take advantage of a new way that’s more about making textbooks readily accessible and more importantly, affordable by visiting LiberWave – where you can “Make Money and Make Friends.” It is one of the first of it’s kind – proximity based peer-to-peer text book selling app…pretty much the Uber of college textbooks.

Download it now and trade in those weekly Ramen noodle nights for some delish Torchy’s Tacos!


Image from Giphy



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