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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Students slowly adopting digital textbooks

Casey Garces and Danny Smith use ebooks and actual books to study. Photo by Rebecca Rebholz/[email protected]

This semester at Marquette, there will be an increase in students flashing shiny digital textbooks across campus, abandoning their paper predecessors on the bookstore shelves.

“As with much of higher education, our store is experiencing an increase in digital popularity – driven by our CafeScribe digital textbook platform,” said David Konkol, store manager of Marquette Book Marq, in an email. Book Marq began selling CafeScribe digital textbooks several years ago, Konkol said.

Last year, Book Marq sold a total of only six CafeScribe digital textbooks. This year, the store has already sold 110 — a 1,833 percent increase in digital textbook sales.

The increase is more muted nationally. The New York Times reported in November 2011 that 5 percent of all textbooks purchased in fall 2011 were digital, an increase of 2.1 percent from the preceding spring, according to independent student research group Student Monitor.

The relatively large growth in the digital textbook arena at Marquette has been spurred in part by professors and administrators pushing the university to embrace new technology.

Jon Pray, associate vice provost for educational technology, pointed out that Marquette is currently committed to “incorporate contemporary digital technologies and modes of e-learning into the everyday teaching, research and service of faculty and students, in ways that will stamp a Marquette education as contemporary, global-minded and transformational.”

Pray chairs the Committee of Academic Technology, which has a subcommittee specifically looking into electronic textbooks at Marquette. He predicted the committee will come away with a recommendation encouraging professors to adopt digital books and content where available, but said it will remain up to individual departments to decide.

While Pray is enthusiastic about the future of digital textbooks, currently only about 6 percent of Book Marq’s 2,100 titles are adapted to a digital format, leaving the vast majority of students stuck with traditional paper copies — which doesn’t necessarily make students unhappy.

“I think there’s two or three major sticking points as we move from print to electronic,” Pray said. “First is that tactile experience. People like to hold books, touch their pages and smell that paper – and you don’t get the same experience with a laptop or mobile device.

“Most current (Marquette) students you talk to will prefer a printed book over an electronic text,” he added.

Pray said the traditionally held belief that electronic textbooks save students money has not held up under scrutiny with the dawn of rented textbooks. Further, as publishers look to add interactive and media-rich features to their texts, the customer will have to bear those costs.

Riley Burgess, a junior in the College of Business Administration, said he has used a total of three digital textbooks during his time at Marquette for accounting and finance classes.

“The main reason I used digital textbooks was to save money,” Burgess said. “But I also don’t mind staring at the screen to study.”

Karen Dionesotes, a junior in the College of Health Sciences, was on the other end of the spectrum.

“I don’t like digital textbooks. I’m a more physical learner,” Dionesotes said. “Physically holding the book and turning pages and highlighting helps, I think.”

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