One eccentric time-traveling scientist from a famous 1980’s movie franchise once said that in the future, people would not need roads. Could the same be said about traditional textbooks? Though the journey of digital textbooks (eTexts) began decades ago, it is just getting started. Today’s typical learner is mobile, so she has to travel light. She expects to accomplish every task with the handy rectangular digital gadget in her pocket. After all, she can talk to her friends 2,000 miles away, shoot video and instantly post it on social media, and she can manage her bank account with just a few flicks of her finger. And she expects to read course material and complete course assignments on her little device while she waits at the dentist’s office.
Advantages of eTexts
This is where eTexts have advantages over traditional textbooks. eTexts offer hyperlinks to videos that demonstrate difficult concepts. They also provide a digital discussion space for learners using the same text. Besides 3-D images and audiobook options, eTexts can accommodate the visually impaired by enlarging texts and images and transposing colored images into black and white for the colorblind. eTexts offer the latest in innovative learning. To paraphrase the white-haired scientist from the movie about a bell tower, if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it with style.
The typical learner is also on a tight budget. Cost is usually the biggest factor when choosing between an eText and a traditional textbook. If the cost of eTexts remains lower than traditional textbooks, then most students will prefer purchasing them. Even though eTexts offer inventive ways to learn, the typical learner may opt for a traditional textbook if it means she will still have money to pay rent.
Many publishers recognized that learners would happily choose eTexts over traditional textbooks a few years ago, so they reduced the price of eTexts. They found that the magic price point for an eText is $40. Most students don’t flinch at a $40 price tag.
Though the future of eTexts looks promising, there are ways to make it brighter. If eTexts and textbook supplements remain affordable, learners will choose those over traditional textbooks. And since eTexts and supplements are easier to update, publishers don’t have to sacrifice context quality. It seems that eTexts just might be our ride into the future.