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E-book popularity, availability rises

Students may soon be able to take a break from hunting for the cheapest textbooks. That is, if they are willing to download their textbooks from the Internet.

After Stephen King’s electronic novels became a success with readers because of their low cost and print-on-demand capability, textbook publishers have slowly been entering the virtual market.

Web sites such as offer digital textbooks for subjects ranging from accounting to psychology. The site allows professors and students to purchase and access the books virtually with the capability to highlight their books, search the text by subject and take practice exams.

About two years ago, Joe Moxley, USF professor of technical writing, began adding electronic textbooks to his list of required reading materials.

“It’s extremely simple for all the features it has,” Moxley said.

Multimedia features such as chat rooms, supplemental notes and search tools make the book a worthy investment on the Internet, Moxley said.

“If the book is straight, linear text it has no value,” Moxley said. “If it’s interactive that’s what makes it worthwhile

According to the Web site, an e-textbook can take anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours to download, depending on the amount of the source the student needs to read.

For some courses students may only need to purchase separate chapters, which allows them to save time and money. However, Moxley said virtual textbooks don’t always benefit the student.

“Sometimes there’s a value lost because you have to go get it from the Internet,” Moxley said.

Digital textbooks that do not include interactive features and only deliver the text to students are formatted for handheld PCs.

Moxley added that students and professors have to consider that e-textbooks can’t be easily brought into the classroom unless they are stored on a laptop.

Other reading materials students may need including novels or reference books are available electronically for college students through . University libraries can subscribe to the service and select eBook titles for students the same way printed titles are selected for library resources.

Monica Metz-Wiseman, coordinator of electronic collections for the USF Library, said USF subscribed to netLibrary about two years ago, and it has become a useful tool for students because there is no charge.

“It is popular among students,” Metz-Wiseman said. “We have people out there using it.”

As more students take advantage of e-textbooks, student bookstores will need to offer the digital textbook software in order to stay in business said Todd Urbansky, manager of The Bookcenter for USF.

“It will be interesting to see how the pricing structures change,” Urbansky said. “I would say it will be another five years.”