Digital textbook option expands; other cost-saving possibilities eyed

The number of titles and courses in which they’ve available are up and the prices are down for digital textbooks at BGSU.

In addition, a campus committee is exploring other cost-saving alternatives for students in regard to course materials. Among the possibilities are textbook rentals and iChapters, which students may purchase one at a time.

A year ago, the University Bookstore was among 10 nationwide to offer downloadable digital texts to students in a pilot program created by MBS Textbook Exchange in partnership with a group of major textbook publishers.

In the fall 2005 Universal Digital Textbook program, 19 different titles were offered in 20 BGSU courses, affording students a chance to save up to one-third of the new book price.

As the 2006-07 academic year begins, the numbers have risen to 47 titles in 53 courses, in business, education, philosophy, biology, geology and journalism, among other areas. And the savings is now up to 40 percent, meaning a $100 book in print can be had for $60 in digital form.

“We’re not looking to replace print books,” but “it doesn’t hurt to have another option,” said Holly Amos, course materials assistant at the University Bookstore.

Stored in a laptop rather than a book bag, digital texts are easier on the back as well as the wallet. They’re available to students as cards, similar to electronic gift cards and phone service cards. Students present a card to a bookstore cashier, who activates it by swiping it at the register. The textbook can then be downloaded and accessed via software that allows document searching and printing, highlighting, note-taking and other features.

Amos and bookstore Director Jeff Nelson are members of the Textbook Subcommittee of Faculty Senate’s Committee for Professional Affairs. Dr. Christine Myers, a visiting assistant professor of history, is chairing the group, which began meeting last spring semester and this fall plans to survey students about their ideas for textbook alternatives.

Myers said many campuses in the University of Wisconsin system—including the Whitewater and Platteville campuses, where she has taught previously—have a form of textbook rental program, primarily for students in survey classes whose subject matter isn’t in their major. The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point has had such a program since its inception in 1894, she noted.

Some universities have what they call textbook libraries, which loan out texts for a semester and collect fees for books that are returned late, she added.

Myers said the iChapter alternative may be desirable not only in terms of saving students money, but also from the perspective of faculty members who don’t always want to use an entire textbook.

Another possibility, she said, might be custom-made, password-accessible online texts now available from various publishers.

The six-member subcommittee chaired by Myers also includes Dr. David Albrecht, accounting and management information systems; Sara Bushong, University Libraries, and Dr. Philip Weinsier, applied sciences, BGSU Firelands. Myers invited anyone interested in joining the panel to contact her at 2-8643 or

August 28, 2006