I have to say, for all of college's wonderful attributes, buying textbooks is one of my (and I'm positive others') most hated tasks. You have little choice but to buy them. If you forget to buy them used online (this is the best option right now), then you have to buy them at the bookstore. Oh, the dreaded bookstore. Under different circumstances, I like the bookstore. I can buy a school mug for my tea, a sweatshirt for pride, and other fun stuff. But walking down the textbook aisles...I do not look forward to that.
Meandering down each aisle, looking for the first letter of the class name, students rummage around until they find their class textbooks. Finding their class, they stop in front of the books, and then their hearts sink and their shoulders slump when they see the price. This is only the beginning. Textbooks are heavy. They're expensive. They're hard to sell back. And publishers make sure to always print a new edition so you can never buy last year's edition. Priya Ganapati for Wired magazine:
"Yet print still rules, with over 99 percent of the textbook market. But with the rise of tablets and e-readers, software developers and textbook publishers are making yet another effort to take textbooks digital."
In our digital world, tech companies are trying to find an alternative to these big cumbersome, seemingly out-of-date textbooks.
"The most complicated form in print media is the textbook,'" Josh Koppel of ScrollMotion explained to me. 'You have a 1,000-page math text with 10,000 more pages of homework assignments. You’ve got the graphic side, the text side, notation, assessment, remediation. And we need to make this all live well digitally without being subtractive.' "
Reported Elizabeth Weil for the New York Times. Companies like Inkling are attempting to come up with applications and products that address the many issues of replacing a paper textbook with a digital one. NPR reported that various universities experimented with the Kindle and students were...let's say less than pleased. The Kindle was slow, there wasn't a quick alternative to highlighting and making notes, and it lacked the interaction of a textbook. Lynn Neary for NPR reported:
"The result, according to Montgomery-Amo, is that his students didn't understand the material as well as they did when using a traditional textbook."
The product that might successfully change the game is the iPad, but the for all of technologies efforts, success lies in the hands of students.
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