Electronic Textbooks: Are They Ready for Prime Time?

Last Updated: 05/30/2013

The University of Colorado Boulder participated in an electronic-textbook (e-text) pilot during the fall semester of 2012. The pilot, co-sponsored by Internet2 and EDUCAUSE, examined how nine sections of eight courses with 729 students used McGraw-Hill e-texts. This was done so that the University could better understand the support and pedagogical issues that might be involved with adopting e-texts in the future.

This pilot was run in conjunction with 22 other similar pilots at colleges and universities nationwide. Over 5,000 students participated. The report from the collective pilot are in press with EDUCAUSE and Internet2. The findings of the local study, however, are congruent with the larger study.

The evaluation team for this pilot recommends that the University continue to examine other options for an e-text service, but to also prepare for supporting e-texts in the near term. The landscape of providers of e-texts, and service models for them, is still in flux; and so this is a good time to explore various publishers, platforms, display devices, and intellectual property models for e-texts. As the University explores options, the following should be kept in mind:

  • Any e-text service should privilege lower cost to the students, portability, and ease of reading.

  • Students should be given the option to obtain a color, printed version if they desire.

  • Any e-text service, as with any service, must be accessible to people with visual challenges.

  • Before an e-text service is widely deployed, a plan should be created for using it effectively in teaching, and helping faculty and students to see the advantages of adopting e-texts.

Questions, ideas, or comments may be addressed to the study authors: Caroline Sinkinson, University Libraries; and Mark Werner, OIT.