E-textbooks are generally cheaper than physical textbooks, so I tend to pick them when I feel the price of the physical book is too high. Since starting college, I have used ebooks in my classes. I anticipated buying ebooks for my classes.
When I visited colleges, we were advised that it was in our best interests to have an ereader to access our e-textbooks. I have been thankful to have an ereader for personal reading and reading for school. There are some things that I was not warned about with e-textbooks, so I want you to be prepared for what you may experience with ebooks in college.
1. My e-textbooks are only on the publisher’s website.
I have found the occasional, traditional textbook available as a Kindle ebook and many versions of classics as ebooks. One of my ebooks was available through a website and app that worked with our bookstore. Most of my e-textbooks are available only on the publisher’s website. The ebook version of the textbook usually gets forced on us when the instructor or the department has decided that the publisher has good homework and online exercises.
My major problem with having to access the textbook only through the publisher’s website is that I cannot access the book without an Internet connection. Besides this being an issue for completing homework on the website, I need to be able to read and access my book at any time at home or in the classroom. This may come down to the usual arguments about physical books vs. ebooks, but the fact is that you pay more for having a physical and an ebook than only the ebook. It would be nice if I could access the homework on the publisher’s website without an ebook, but I have never seen that as an option.
Note to self: Academic publishing is lucrative for the publisher and the bookstore.
2. That ebook is not yours forever.
When you purchase an ebook from the bookstore or through the publisher’s website (usually for access to homework), you do not get to have that ebook forever. My campus bookstore says that you are “buying” an ebook, which implies to me that I would have it forever if I wanted. What “buying” actually means is that I get to access my textbook through a special website that says I only have access to it until the end of the semester. I see the same when I have to access the book through the publisher’s website. They should call it a rental.
The hardest example I have of this is that I bought an accounting ebook for a class, but I purchased the lifetime access. I found out a week into the course that I would be unable to access the textbook unless I was in the course. Maybe I only know how to access the textbook through the course, but I did not see a link to it on any other page.
Moral: Get your e-textbooks from Amazon when possible because it gives you the option to rent or buy.
3. Sometimes it’s your instructor’s fault that you can’t access your ebook.
Some of the publisher websites will not allow you to access your e-textbook unless your instructor has opened a course section on the site. As a student, you usually find out about this in the first or second week of class. A classmate in calculus complained to the instructor that he could not access his textbook without the instructor opening a course on the publisher’s website. Since then, I have heard of similar cases where our instructor chose not to make us do online homework through the publisher’s website.
4. Ebooks don’t always have page numbers.
Ebooks are not always paginated. I find this most often with books in the public domain, but I know plenty where I have paid $12 or more for not having page numbers.
I find that this is a problem for me as an English major because I need to keep up with the reading and because we must cite our sources. It can be hard to figure out what needs to be read when you do not have page numbers to reference. I have seldom received only chapter numbers as a guide, so I have to put more work in to figure out where to stop. Citations are the next issue. Most of my professors want only page numbers in citations, so “Location 2085 of 3040” does not work. I need to have an actual page or paragraph number. (Let’s be honest: it’s too hard to keep track of paragraph numbers in an ebook.) This makes everything much harder.
This is not only a problem with Kindle ebooks. One of the many courses I have taken that require us to go to the publisher’s website to access the ebook did not paginate the ebook. The closest we got to page numbers was specific sections that were presented in webpage format.
I hope that this was helpful to anyone attending or planning to attend college.
Have you had to use ebooks for your classes? What have you learned from using e-textbooks?