In the not too distant future, instead of lugging 30 pounds of textbooks up Mount Oread for a day of class, students may just take along their tablet computer.
E-textbooks are already a reality for students at the Kansas University School of Nursing at the Medical Center campus in Kansas City, Kan.
And Apple recently unveiled a new series of software programs capable of incorporating interactive and video elements into textbooks, according to The Associated Press. But how the new e-books will get in front of students remains to be seen.
At the nursing school, however, faculty and administrators have found a way.
“We’re very much on the front end of this,” said Nelda Godfrey, associate dean for undergraduate programs at the school.
Undergraduate nursing students spend their freshman and sophomore years completing a pre-nursing curriculum before applying to nursing school to complete their junior and senior years of school.
The school now requires all of its third-year students to purchase textbooks electronically, Godfrey said.
The school reached an agreement with the Dutch publishing company Elsevier to provide the e-textbooks to students.
Students can access the books on a desktop or laptop computer, an iPhone or an iPad. The books were bought in bulk so students could see significant savings, she said.
The financial aid office on the Lawrence campus estimates an $850-per-year cost for books, Godfrey said. At the KU Medical Center campus, that estimated cost is $1,800, she said.
The third-year nursing students typically paid about $900 for two years’ worth of e-textbooks, Godfrey said. While some professors may require students to purchase one or two extra or updated versions of books in the fourth year, Godfrey estimated the e-textbooks would account for 95 percent of the textbooks the students needed for their two years of nursing school.
Natalie Mildfelt is a junior at the KU nursing school from Overland Park. She’s in the first group of students trying the new e-textbook program.
“Originally I was a little apprehensive about it,” she said, having never used electronic textbooks in the past. “I’m not the most tech-savvy person.”
The cost was also a little shocking up front, but with the added savings later, she said she’s been generally pleased with the results so far.
After an initial download, Internet access is no longer necessary to retrieve the books. The students own the books after purchasing them.
Mildfelt said she also enjoys some of the features available on e-textbooks, including one that lets the instructor highlight text that is then seen by all the students.
Godfrey said some instructors will use this feature to highlight material students don’t need to read, for example.
Also, Mildfelt said she can make it so she can view the highlighted material from her friends, as well as highlight text herself.
While getting used to something new is always a challenge, Mildfelt said she’d recommend the e-textbooks to others. And Godfrey said the school plans to keep the program going for the next semester.
On the Lawrence campus, some students have tried out e-textbooks, too. Bob Apprill, a 28-year-old sophomore in KU’s School of Engineering, bought an iPad with the intention of using it to buy cheaper e-textbooks for the fall semester.
Though he wanted to buy the books, most of the books he needed came with a limited license, so the cost has been almost like renting the books so far, or similar to buying used and selling it back, he said.
But, still, the cost savings over buying books new will have more than paid for the iPad itself by this semester, Apprill said.
He said he’d prefer a system like the nursing school’s and has found a number of advantages for e-textbooks. He said he likes being able to search the entire text for a word or phrase and not being limited to what’s been categorized in the index.
“I’d much rather use e-textbooks,” he said. “They’re very user-friendly.”