by Sarah Kosofsky

As libraries shift more and more from print to electronic, it seems that the university textbook market is doing the same.  Instead of selling heavy, cumbersome textbooks, some college campuses and textbook publishers are offering infinitely lighter digital textbooks that can be read on a computer, laptop, tablet, or even mobile phone.  As with all shifts in format, the new digital materials do bear some issues.

Oftentimes, when expensive textbooks are needed for a class, small groups of students will pool their money to buy a single textbook to share amongst themselves.  This is easily done when the required reading is in print, but with electronic textbooks, as Against The Grain points out, things get a bit trickier once access codes get involved; this is the case with some digital textbooks.  If an ereader with the digital textbook is borrowed, the owner of the ereader and the digital textbook may temporary lose access to not only the digital textbook that was needed, but also any other textbooks on the ereader.

What’s also discussed in USA TODAY’s article about digital textbooks is the lack of any resale value that digital textbooks have, as they cannot be resold.  Students, when given the option of buying a new textbook or a cheaper used copy will usually choose the used copy. With digital, not only can a used or otherwise reduced copy not be purchased (legally), but it threatens a whole used-book market.

The transition to digital textbooks might also make campus bookstores more obsolete, or if not obsolete, it may have them looking more and more like campus gift shops.  If digital books are purchased electronically, the bookstore may not be able to continue being the third party in book sale deals, eliminating a huge amount of revenue for a university.

Have you had experience with digital textbooks, either with using them for troubleshooting them?  How do you see digital textbooks changing university campuses?