E-textbook programs: Who’s in charge?

One decision to be made in launching or expanding an e-textbook program is whether the office managing it should be on the business or the academic side.

Here are two options. 

Campus store

Since the retail manager negotiates the costs of digital course materials anyway, many institutions choose this administration model. Cornell University houses its e-textbook program in The Cornell Store.

Link to main story: Colleges drive digital textbooks

For any book that has a digital version, the store lists five separate prices on an electronic shelf label, to represent the cost of a new, used, new rented, used rented and electronic book.

The store also educates faculty on the benefits of using e-textbooks. A pilot project provides both e-textbooks and  homework supplements and includes a free two-week trial of materials.

“Hopefully it will spur more faculty coming to us rather than us going to them,” says Chris Cave, assistant director of retail operations.

Academic department

When an e-textbook initiative is the vision of a particular academic college, its leaders may continue to oversee the program once it’s established.

At Texas A&M University-San Antonio, the digital textbook program is run by the College of Business; Tracy Hurley, dean of the College of Business, launched the program in 2010. The college prioritized the program because business textbooks tend to be among the most expensive of any discipline.

“About 99 percent of our books are e-books simply because the costs were so high,” Hurley says. By comparison, half of the books in the College of Education and 25 percent of books in the College of Arts and Sciences are digital.

Sherrie Negrea, a Ithaca, New York-based writer, is a frequently contributor to UB.


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