Cost-cutting digital books popular

By By Arthur Raymond

By Arthur Raymond

In the realm of escalating textbook prices, some students are turning to electronic texts as a cost-effective way to prepare for class and stretch their education dollars.

But even though digital textbook options are growing on the Web, they represent a relatively small portion of total textbook sales.

At the University Bookstore, e-book sales have quadrupled in the last two years, but only about 120 e-book versions of texts were sold during the 2007 Spring Semester, said Shane Girton, associate director of the U Bookstore.

During a typical semester, the U Bookstore sells around 86,000 textbooks, he said.

Although not as popular or readily available as normal textbooks, e-books normally have a lower price tag.

“Pricing on e-books is typically about 60 percent of the (cost of) new-textbook print editions,” Girton said.

At the U Bookstore, a pre-calculus textbook commonly used in math courses costs about $144 for a new copy and used copies run at about $110. But as an e-book, the textbook is available for $83.

Girton said this text is a good example of the range of savings students can expect when opting for an e-book text.

Of approximately 600 college textbooks available in e-book format, about 60 match up with texts used in U classes during any given semester, Girton said.

Holly Fletcher, textbook manager at the U Bookstore, said that the pre-calculus text and a book popular in math 1010 classes are two of the best-selling e-books at the U Bookstore.

The anthropology department and the health sciences have usually been two areas that offer more textbooks with e-book options, Fletcher said.

Girton said he expects that more e-book versions of texts will become available as the relatively new technology becomes more commonplace and familiar to instructors.

E-books available at the U Bookstore are for sale by the publisher of the print text.

The online company Freeload Press Inc. is taking a new approach to reduce the cost of a digital textbook to nothing.

Although none of the texts offered are currently an option for U classes, Freeload Press offers free downloads of college texts.

Freeload’s compensation comes from revenue from advertisements placed in each e-book.

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Lennie Mahler

E-books are a cost-effective alternative when shopping for textbooks.