An Inkling of Hope For Students

One thing that I hate as a college student is a textbook: the annoying lines to buy one, the cost to own one, the paperwork to rent one, the weight in my book bag and the sheer bulk that takes up my limited dorm space. Why aren’t these things digital already?

Natalia Rachlin of The New York Times is wondering the same exact thing: “While autobiographies and murder mysteries, romance novels and self-help books have enjoyed a smooth transition from print to pixels, the college textbook has met resistance in its digital form1.”

What is the resistance exactly?

Fifty-five percent of students (according to the Pearson Foundation) still seem to prefer print textbooks over digital, which is very interesting since the convenience of going paperless means students’ backs aren’t sore at night. I understand how it might be easier to study with a print textbook because you can write notes on the pages and flip back and forth through them, but most (if not all) eReaders and tablet devices allow you to bookmark pages and write notes on them. Many devices even come with a built-in dictionary. Isn’t that convenient? I’m sure there are at least ten words in that game theory mathematics book that students (and Russell Crowe) don’t know or understand.

Okay, so the devices are available. I’m aware that sometimes PDF versions (the most common format for textbooks) aren’t always the easiest to maneuver when it comes to highlighting things or writing down notes. That’s where Inkling comes in—a company that has developed an app that helps publishers create digital versions of their textbooks for the iPad.

Natalia Rachlin says, “Inkling seeks to resolve the basic issues that many students have found problematic on PDF versions of textbooks, like the difficulty of highlighting and note-taking. The company’s textbooks also use audio, video and interactive features like quizzes and note-sharing tools to create content that Mr. MacInnis calls ‘light years better than what you can get in print.’”

Inkling plans to have more than 100 textbooks on sale by autumn at 20% less expensive than print edition. They also sell their textbooks at $2.99 a chapter…

…which brings me to cost. PDF versions not utilizing the Inkling service can be up to 60 percent cheaper. There are also services that allow you to rent e-textbooks.

One such service is Cengage Brain, which allows you to rent textbooks for 6 months (a little more than a semester), a year, two years, or buy e-chapters for $3.99 each. It’s a pretty good deal considering textbooks are revised every so often, so a 2-year-old textbook is pretty much useless.

The fact of the matter is that you have options, which seems to be the theme of the week. Stop breaking your back for your education and try out an Inkling e-textbook in the Fall 2011 semester and save a couple hundred. You’ll thank me.

You could be saving between 20%-60% in text books. But how much are you paying on avg per semester right now?

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