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Indianapolis Star: IU saves students about $8 million with electronic textbooks

Article features input from Anastasia Morrone, IU associate vice president for learning technologies

(This article originally appeared in the Indianapolis Starhttp://iute.ch/1NZQmGS)

By Kris Turner

The days of toting heavy textbooks are gone for some Indiana University students, who have opted into the school’s digital learning program.

Started in 2012, the IU program has saved students about $8 million by making electronic textbooks available. Students are able to access their texts, which run about $35, via the Internet from mobile devices to computers. Users can highlight, take notes in and share the electronic text.

"Students have been complaining for a long time about the high cost of textbooks," said Anastasia Morrone, associate vice president for learning technologies at IU. "Really, it does give you pause why a book has to cost $300."

Professors also can add their notes to a text, alerting students to important passages.

This semester, about 25 percent of the more than 100,000 students across the Indiana University network are using electronic textbooks, Morrone said. Since the program began, the number of students using an eText has increased each semester. IU has contracts with 21 publishers, she said.

After students purchase their e-books, they’re able to access them throughout their entire tenure at the university.

Max Huffman, an IU law professor, said the electronic texts are about 40 percent cheaper than the cover price of printed books, which run about $180.

He said the interactive qualities of the electronic books make them handy.

"It’s like an Apple e-book or a Kindle book," Huffman said. "It looks like a PDF, but it’s more interactive and engaging on the screen. The basic reading is no different than any other book in that respect."

There are other advantages to having a class use a digital book, Huffman said.

"I like one thing about it much better, and that is I like that all the students have the book," he said. "You frequently deal with students who are using the last edition."

Huffman said many students still like physical copies of their texts, so they’ll print chapters and bring them along to class. Traditional books still have a strong foothold in the college marketplace, he said.

"A lot of students still like print. The idea that the current college generation is all electronic is a myth," he said. "Students like having something in their hands."

Two of Jessi Hilger’s three law school classes use electronic books. Hilger said she was initially resistant to purchasing a digital text but soon was won over.

"It’s a lot cheaper than a traditional textbook," she said. "I work full time, and I go to school at night, so I usually have to carry around books that are five-plus pounds."

Call Star reporter Kris Turner at (317) 444-6047. Follow him on Twitter: @krisnturner.