E-readers are palm-sized electronic devices that can offer newspapers, magazines and books as digital content. While they can be convenient for the recreational reader, e-books may be a boon to students as well.
The e-reader market exploded when Amazon introduced its Kindle and Kindle 2. Sony, Barnes & Noble and other companies have also introduced their own e-reader devices. While the mainstay of e-reader revenue is generated from downloaded fiction and nonfiction books, e-book reader companies are realizing the benefits of offering digital versions of textbooks as well. Amazon has already contracted with three textbook companies to offer digital editions. This could mark the move from cumbersome textbooks to compact information.
Many professors already instruct their students to go online for information, to read blogs or download digital content from Web sites capable of staying current in today's increasingly fast news cycle. Soon they may be instructing them to purchase the latest editions of textbooks delivered right to an e-reader device.
There are several advantages to having textbook material available for e-readers. The first, and most obvious, is the weight issue. The average college student takes 5 classes per semester. That can equal 5 or more textbooks to purchase, each weighing several pounds. A student has the potential to be carrying 50 pounds on his or her back at any given time, and that can lead to injury. In comparison, most e-readers weigh just a few ounces and can hold a thousand books or more, depending on file size. A student can carry all of the required textbooks right in a back pocket.
The next advantage is cost. While e-readers require an up-front cost of roughly $300, some textbooks can cost as much. Although the cost of textbook material delivered to an e-reader is still unknown, and likely based on the individual publisher, it may be more affordable than on-campus book store prices. Also, should a traditional textbook be lost, a student has to repurchase it. Many e-readers feature back-up ability, where a previously purchased book can be retrieved free from a database or storage device.
Convenience is another factor for e-books. Students simply browse wirelessly for their desired reading and download it in mere minutes. This is certainly more time-efficient than waiting on long lines at the campus bookstore or waiting for books to be delivered through the mail from online sources.
E-readers have the potential to be successful for school use, but they need to have the support of professors behind them. For a device like e-readers to garner broad acceptance, institutions may need to make the devices part of the school's requirements. This is similar to many schools requiring all students own a laptop. Students who are unable to afford an e-reader may be subsidized for the device or be able to use student loans to pay for them.
E-readers can be advantageous in the classroom and students can also use them for their own personal purposes.