Putting the Tech in E-texts

Love it or hate it, e-texts are now a part of AU life.

E-texts (short for electronic textbooks) are the 21st century of textbooks: digital, downloadable versions of printed, hardcopy textbooks.  The shift toward e-texts was announced in 2002 as part of AU’s commitment to become “a fully online university”, and, so far, e-texts have saturated 24% of undergrad courses: 177 courses out of a total of 730, to be exact (yes, I counted).

Publishers market e-texts as costing 40% to 50% less than a printed textbook, saving trees, and providing an interactive learning experience that printed textbooks simply cannot, such as search and note-taking functions, and easy access to embedded media.  Students, on the other hand, have expressed frustration with e-texts, complaining about the lack of choice and the loss of resale value.  While there are options to buy a hardcopy directly from the publisher or print the entire e-text, these are both at extra cost to the student.

But I am not here to discuss the merits for or against the usage of e-texts (for which there are many).  I am here because, after 18 (!) years of distance education studies, I am faced with a brand-new undertaking:

I am about to embark on my very first e-text course.

So, now what?

I peer toward my 10+ year old laptop, currently collecting dust in the corner and unable to hold a charge.  Not reliable.  I turn towards the iMac in my living room, well…  at least that’s what I called the room before my toddler declared it a playroom.  Stuck studying in a playroom? Not effective.  Last, I look down at my beloved smartphone and suddenly my eyes feel strained.

Did I just kink my neck?

E-texts are designed to be viewed on electronic devices such as a computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.  Am I technologically ready for this? Should I invest in a laptop, or a tablet? Do I sit in front of my iMac for hours on end, or strain my eyes on my smartphone? Feeling a bit lost on this newly digitized campus, I posed the question to my fellow students:

What do you prefer reading your e-texts on?

34 AU students responded to my plea, and the results are in: while many respondents said that a laptop or PC was necessary for typing assignments, an overwhelming 61% said they prefer reading e-texts on a tablet.  While screen size and difficulties with typing were discussed, the overall convenience of a tablet had won them over, plus it’s said to be the next best thing to holding a book.

With that, it looks like I’ll be checking out the Apple on Campus Program or putting my Amazon Prime Student membership to good use soon!

And for the record, I have tested my e-text on both my PC and smartphone, and I quite like the ability to take notes directly from the e-text and print out compiled notes when I’m done, which makes for a fantastic time-saving study aid.

Bring on the e-text!

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