With the recent launch of two new iPad applications developed for the use of electronic textbooks, Apple may help ease the sore backs of students lugging heavy books around campus.
Despite the increasing usage of electronic devices for reading nationwide, students, a University professor and a local bookstore employee say they don’t anticipate that the apps will lead to a decline in the purchase of paper textbooks in Ann Arbor.
Last Thursday, Apple released iBook Author and iBooks 2. The iBook Author app allows authors and publishers to write and design their own textbooks at no cost. iBooks 2 improves on its predecessor, iBooks 1, by including the ability to highlight and annotate text, tap on words for definitions and make digital flashcards from personal notes.
During the announcement of the release of the apps last week, Apple said that high-school level textbooks would be priced at $14.99 or less, while pricing on college-level e-textbooks remains undetermined.
Apple has already contracted several large publishers, including Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Dorling Kindersley, to produce e-textbooks.
Helene Neu, director of the University’s elementary French program, said she is skeptical about student receptiveness toward the new apps.
A recent CTools survey suggested that students wouldn’t be particularly interested in using e-textbooks. In the survey, 80 percent of respondents cited “on paper” as their preferred method of reading documents — an overwhelming majority compared to 11 percent of those who chose “computer screen,” 5 percent who prefer a tablet computer, 3 percent who prefer an e-reader and 1 percent who answered “other.”
Bryn Hauk, a specialist at Michigan Book and Supply, said despite the influx in use of electronic devices for reading, he does not view e-textbooks as a threat to the sale of paper textbooks.
“(E-textbooks) could have the potential to impact sales,” Hauk said. “But with (our) new rental program, I think we’ll still have the ability to sell a lot of books.”
However, Hauk said being able to save money on books by purchasing them digitally is beneficial to students.
“If it saves students money, I think it’s great, and bookstores can always adapt,” she said.
Hauk noted that e-textbooks lack some of the advantages that paper textbooks have, particularly that students can’t re-sell books.
“Students can’t sell back electronic copies, so that’s something they could be concerned about,” Hauk said.
LSA sophomore Bayan Founas said she would rather purchase a textbook than use an app, because she is more inclined to read a physical copy of a book rather than an electronic copy.
“I personally prefer books on paper, for that more authentic feel,” Founas said. “It’s also more uncomfortable reading from a lit screen.”
LSA Freshman Yohei Kanehara said though he would be interested in the apps, he would only purchase them for certain classes.
“I’d probably get a real textbook for classes involving more note-taking and to highlight text, like in (general chemistry),” Kanehara said. “But I would get an electronic textbook for something I’m just reading.”
Like Founas, LSA sophomore Jeff Duncan said he is not particularly interested in using the new technology, since many professors post their readings on CTools or programs like Wiki, that provide free access to written works.
“In some of my classes my teacher has a Wiki set up — I would prefer that across the board,” Duncan said.