Textbook costs continue to rise each year, resulting in an increasingly expensive burden for students to carry at the beginning of semesters because publishers can increase prices on a whim, and textbooks are required in most classes. University Dean of Libraries Paul Courant has expressed interest in beginning a new push toward e-books on campus to help lower high book costs for students. With the option of e-books, not only would textbook prices drop by an estimated half, but the University would play a lead role in a digital technology transformation.

College students at public universities on average spend more than $1,000 on textbooks annually, according to the College Board Advocacy and Policy Center. This is an incredible amount of money to spend on books for classes at a time when tuition and housing continue to make higher education inaccessible. Courant said he believes that by enacting a program similar to Indiana University’s e-book program, the University will be able to integrate e-books in the future, significantly lowering book costs for students.

Indiana University began an e-book pilot program in 2009, and it has been successful. More than half of IU’s student body now prefers e-books to regular textbooks, and support continues to grow as more students and professors adopt e-books for their classes. Though IU requires professors to make e-book versions of the texts available, the University of Michigan should first implement it as an option for students and not make it mandatory.

By implementing an optional e-book program on campus, book prices would drop dramatically for students. The University of Michigan is a large university consisting of three campuses and therefore has the buying power to influence big publishers to make prices as low as possible, and make a majority of texts accessible online. Students could stick to traditional textbooks or move forward to the cheaper e-book alternative.

The Internet is the largest educational resource for the current generation. By working with publishers to increase web accessibility, the University has the chance to play an important role in the growing transformation of digital technology. The University has already become an educational leader by working with Google to create a digital library, and it should remain a digital pioneer by implementing an e-book program.

In addition to cutting costs and paving the way toward a more digitally advanced education, e-books also help save paper and resources that are used in the manufacturing of thousands of traditional textbooks each year. It’s an obvious point — e-books are a more environmentally friendly option for a university that values environmental conservation.

Conventional textbook prices are at an all time high, and the trend will continue as publishers gain market power and up the costs of textbooks. By switching to an e-book program to allow students the option of digital texts, students will be freed of a significant expense. The University should implement an optional e-book program as it moves toward a more technologically advanced future.

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