Moving Beyond the Textbook Part 2: Are E-books a Solution?

Traditional textbooks are tools that don’t allow for much innovation. Recently, we blogged about why textbooks are broken, but this week we’re exploring if e-textbooks, also just called e-books, are a solution to the archaic textbook model.

While e-books seem to have all the bells and whistles that would make them the obvious alternative to textbooks—digital format, cheaper prices—are they really the best solution for education?

Are E-books the Solution?

Why E-books Work…

One of the biggest arguments against textbooks is the high cost of learning materials, both the actual book itself and sometimes digital homework lock-ins. With many e-books, students have greater opportunities to save money on the course materials they need. Some estimates say e-books are 52% cheaper than physical books.

Aside from cheaper prices, e-books also offer a matter of convenience traditional textbooks do not. Most e-books can be accessed through one or more different devices: laptops, tablets, e-readers, or smartphones. Reading what’s needed for class on a smaller device rather than lugging around a bag full of textbooks is certainly a more convenient—and much lighter—alternative.


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… And How They Can Improve

So e-books are cheaper and easier to access than textbooks. What’s stopping all students from jumping on board? Library e-book provider eBrary conducted a massive survey in 2011 to find out how and why students are or are not using e-books. The survey found,

The vast majority of students would choose electronic over print if it were available and if better tools along with fewer restrictions were offered.

The words fewer restrictions and better tools really jumped out at us.

Many of the restrictions to e-book adoption come from a lack of titles available for students. Not every book they need is available in digital format—yet. Many companies, including ours, are working hard to develop titles that student can use for class and studies. Recent figures show that e-books only account for 9% of textbook purchases, but keep in mind this medium is still relatively new compared to traditional textbooks. Adoption rates aren’t expected to be sky-high yet.

Most importantly, many e-books aren’t giving students the best tools to study. A recent report from e-book pilot programs at several universities shows that students find e-textbooks clumsy and hard to navigate. Some education technology companies, like Kno and Inkling, are trying to create a solution with interactive features.

Getting All Students On-Board

Right now, 50% of students are comfortable using e-books. How do we make it so all students are comfortable using them? By creating adaptive platforms that enhance their learning experiences.

To successfully convert students to digital learning platforms, edtech innovators need to integrate tools that improve the learning experience to make it more efficient, more fun, and more social. At Boundless, we’re doing just that.

We’ve created a learning platform that will make students question why they ever used textbooks. Boundless has intuitive highlighting and note-taking features to give students quick tools to study. The platform also collects all of a student’s notes and highlights in one central place so they can review what they found most important.

Can a traditional textbook do that?

Photo by Flickr user antonioxalonso


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