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Digital market growing for college textbooks

By Mary Richards | Posted - Aug. 3, 2011 at 10:20 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Imagine studying calculus on your kindle or looking up interactive biology experiments on your e-reader. The digital textbook market is growing for college textbooks.

The price of college textbooks continues to increase. Shane Gerton should know. He's the associate director of the University of Utah campus store.

"Based on the average, they outpace inflation by almost double every year," he said.

The National Association of College Stores did a study showing students paid $667 on average on required course materials last year. But Gerton says renting a digital textbook can mean a 40 percent savings over a physical book.

The U now offers 250 titles a semester. BYU and Westminster have programs, too. Amazon is offering textbooks to rent for the kindle. And a company called Inkling is trying to bring them to the i-pad.

"You can do word searches, you can highlight, you can take notes in the margin, you can do voice playback on a lot of them," said Gerton.

But there are drawbacks. You have to be online to access them, some have limited printing, and some are only available for 90 or 180 days.

Gerton suggests prioritizing classes. If you will need a book for reference throughout the year or longer, you should buy it. If you need it only for a short time, rent it.

But he says publishers are reluctant to add new titles.

"All they really own is the content in those textbooks, so they are reluctant sometimes to give up a lot of control on that content being accessed," he explained.


Mary Richards

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