It began with the music industry transitioning into digital technology. After discovering the significant impact of portable music, observers have been taking steps to digitize textbooks and eventually terminate print textbooks.

E-books will provide hyperlinking and multimedia functions. With hyperlinking, a student can click on a word within the text, linking to a website to reinforce the meaning of the concept.

Multimedia functions can provide a link to a video website such as YouTube, or it can provide its own video clip on the page. Students will also be able to search for keywords within the textbook to find meanings quicker. 

Currently, digital books offered at UTSA can be accessed using CafeScribe, a delivery platform that allows faculty to interact with students using the digital textbook and allows students to share notes and discuss the content with other students online.

“This can really enhance the student’s learning experience. Our platform, CafeScribe, marries the benefits of social networks with the value of electronic textbooks.

“Imagine the same content, pagination, with richer sharing tools, in-book notes, all aggregated by a single click,” Director of the UTSA bookstore John Palmer said.

Cost reductions for students and portability will also benefit students.                                “For students, digital textbooks can be a cost-saving option for their course materials. From the bookstore perspective, we’re looking to provide as many affordable options to the students we serve, whether recommended or required by faculty,” Palmer said.

Junior criminal justice major Cynthia Anderson agreed that digital textbooks could save students money.

“Well, they’re cheaper, which is my motivating factor. You can rent them for a specific time and it costs a lot less than actually buying a book,” Anderson said.

E-textbooks also allow students to download multiple books at a time and store them on their computer or mobile device.

“It also makes my bag much lighter,” Anderson said.

Though it was a quick transition for the music industry, shifts to e-textbooks may take longer because students are more cautious with their book purchases.

“It is likely that the traditional print book will be around for some time. The printed book still provides a level of intimacy and portability that is preferred by many students,” Palmer said.

Assistant Professor Seok Kang agreed that print books would not be eliminated completely.

“E-book is not going to completely replace paper books. The use of e-books does not mean the extinction of print books,” Kang said. “I would call it supplementary displacement because e-books will offer advantages, and because of those advantages many people will prefer e-books.”

One of the major reasons people prefer print books is that they have a tangible object to hold in front of them and they can physically turn the pages.

“I didn’t always like my e-reader because I wanted the experience of opening the book and turning the pages,” Anderson said. “It’s like I was missing something.”  This problem is insignificant because she found a way around it.

“But then I alleviated that part because I got a case for it that opens like a book,” Anderson said.

Other problems that arise with digital textbooks are the readers’ short attention span and the technical support e-textbooks require.

“Paper book readers can read more in detail than when they read e-books, Kang said. “Reading textbooks directly is more effective reading than e-book reading.”

Although problems exist with digital textbooks, Kang believes these are problems to which students can adapt.

“The trend is changing; more students will get used to reading books online, but their reading style will be different, Kang said. “It’ll be more search-based. It’ll be more practical, and students will get used to multi-tasking.”

Digital textbooks are gradually becoming popular with students, so only a minor impact has been made in the textbook market. For this reason, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, discussion is taking place between some companies and college leaders to require students to buy e-textbooks from colleges.

Students would be required to pay a course-materials fee, which would buy e-books for all the courses in the student which are enrolled. The goal of this fee for e-books is to reduce overall costs to students. The e-book broker, Courseload, is conducting tests at a handful of colleges to determine the effects of the incorporation of e-textbooks in students’ tuition.

The future of print textbooks is not definite, but students’ use of e-books is likely to increase.

“The days of e-book will come soon, very very soon,” Kang said.

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