Electronic textbooks viable alternative to pricey hard copies?

Yazmin Cruz

Photo Illustration by Sami Eshagi

Business law students will be able to choose between e-books and traditional hardcopy textbooks this semester after the business law department reached an agreement with publishers.

“The department is aware of the burden it is for students to buy textbooks and so we are facing this head-on by implementing electronic textbooks,” said Michael Chaplin, an assistant professor who will be teaching three sections of Business Law II this semester.

The e-books will be available for all core classes including Business Law I and Business Law II and some elective classes, said Chaplin. The agreement reached with publishers will allow students to save money, he added.

Melanie Williams, department chair, who worked on the agreement was contacted for this story but was unavailable. But according to the business law department Web site, the price of e-books for undergraduates will be less than $25 and less than $40 for graduate students. The cost of the traditional hardcopy textbook is approximately $180.

Amy Berger, manager of the Matador Bookstore, said via e-mail correspondence that the business law electronic textbooks will not be sold through the bookstore. Instead, students will be purchasing them directly through the publishers.

But with the recent tuition hikes and textbook prices increasing, the question arises of whether e-books are just another alternative that allows students to temporarily subjugate the monster that is overpriced textbooks.

Junior John Hocson Garcia, president of the Business Law Association, said that he likes having another option but added that many students are not aware about the textbook initiative. Many professors are beginning to e-mail their students to let them know about this option, he said.

“I think it’s great because students get to save money,” Garcia said. “I am buying the chapters I’m going to need for my International Business Law elective from ichapters.com.”

Not all students agree that the textbook initiative is the best solution to overpriced textbooks. Senior June Kwon, a political science major, said that she preferred the traditional hardcopy textbook because she likes to have all chapters in front of her for reference. She said that buying a textbook is an investment but “I think it’s worth it.”

“If you’re a business law major, I would think, it would be better to have all chapters in front of you,” Kwon said. “I mean, I definitely see it being beneficial because of the savings but you have to keep in consideration that there will be some printing and that’s making your savings decrease.”

Students have been forced to print entire chapters because professors do not allow laptops in their classrooms. Chaplin said that he does allow laptops in his classrooms and will allow students to access their textbook. “I don’t know why professors would have such policy,” he said.

Garcia also suggests using the resources the university provides. “You’re already paying for it, why not use the USU to print 20 pages for free,” he said.

The unreliability of technology is also an issue.

Berger said that at least one publisher among the e-book publishers does not offer refunds. And that the bookstore “will not be able to assist students that purchase e-books from the publisher.” She also added that “the bookstore will buy back as many (hardcopy) books as we expect to sell for half of the retail price.”

Garcia said that students tend to run into trouble with technology when they do not know how to use it, but that many times other students can usually teach them.

Just in case students do run into trouble, Chaplin said he has been preparing. “I’ve personally logged in to make sure the chapters I’m using are operating correctly,” he said.

By doing this he is now better prepared to assist students by walking them through the steps of logging in and accessing the material. And in case he is not able to help his students, Chaplin explained that the publishers have representatives who can assist students with questions.

As options are set forth to relieve students with the burden of purchasing expensive textbooks, it is the students who in the end have to weigh the advantages against the disadvantages and decide what to do.

“The student body should focus on the real issue which is expensive textbooks. That’s the bigger issue,” said Kwon.