As technology changes, higher education changes with it. Part of that change is seen in the way students access their textbooks, with more and more required texts coming in electronic forms.
The University of Oregon Duck Store started a new business partnership this fall to make textbooks more available online, eliminating the need for heavy books and introducing a new partnership with RedShelf to bring eBooks to the Duck Store.
Alex Lyons, the Duck Store’s cChief iInformation oOfficer, said the store successfully launched its eBooks, selling over 700 of them fall term. It is continuing to expand the program as it works with RedShelf.
“On average, 20 percent of titles have eBook options,” Lyons said. “Savings for eBooks range depending on the titles, but can be up to 15 percent for the digital purchase.”
Students won’t have to buy the titles for eBooks if they don’t want to. They can rent them for 90 or 180 days or buy the book outright, Lyons said.
Having electronic forms of textbooks gives students another option when buying their term’s books. Lyons said that so far, the Duck Store has sold around 170 titles for winter term.
Freshman cinema studies major Nathan Awbrey said that besides price, the accessibility of an eBook would factor into whether he would buy it.
“I think that I would prefer the online cheaper one, as long as it’s easily accessible,” Awbrey said. “If I found out you have to put in a bunch of codes everytime you want to access it, then maybe not.”
Along with eBooks, UO is working to introduce more resources on an online platform.
Chuck Triplett, who helps to oversee the university’s initiatives, says that the UO is working with both the Duck Store and the Knight Library to expand the use of online resources and eBooks.
Open educational resources are open-license texts that don’t come with an access code, which is a large part of some textbooks’ expenses. The Knight Library is currently searching for a librarian that focuses on OERs to help students access these free online resources, Triplett says.
“The challenge we’ve had is around developing these materials,” Triplett said. “Part of the challenge is where do they live? When you have to have access to them and they have to be available for others to build on or to download, how do they make these things available?”
Triplett says that students’ ability to access textbooks online and through the library not only gives them more access, but it also can make textbooks more affordable.
Sophomore journalism major Maddie Adkins says that paying too much for a textbook isn’t worth it and usually googles the title of the text to see if she can find it online instead of renting or buying it.
“It’s something I never budget for, so it’s always that nasty surprise,” Adkins said. ”You think about tuition and rent and food and all of those things, but I never think about books so it’s usually just an annoyance.”
Triplett says that professors play a role by choosing more affordable textbooks for their classes.
“There may be a course where a faculty member isn’t even using a textbook. They’re creating their own materials or they’re allowing you to draw from internet resources,” Triplett said. “When faculty members are assigning texts, please be conscientious of the cost, and hopefully that would yield better usage or at least more thoughtful approaches.”
For both Triplett and Lyons, a large part of their work is raising awareness about these new approaches to textbooks, whether they’re eBooks or OERs.
“It’s being thoughtful about college affordability across the board, to which a textbook is a big component,” Triplett said. “I would want to know that a faculty member which has the right and the responsibility to choose their curriculum and all the materials that support it is being cognizant of the fact that there is an impact on students.”
Zack Demars contributed reporting to this article.