College textbooks can break the bank -- and your back.
But nursing students at Elgin Community College can now budget less for their materials and put away those rolling backpacks stuffed with heavy texts, thanks to a pilot program offering first- and second-semester students access to digital versions of all of their books.
"The biggest complaint we hear is the high price of books," said Kelly Strossner, the college's bookshop director. "It is not something we control. It depends on the books the faculty want to use, and the publishers set the price. We want to provide as many options as possible from used, new and rental and electronically, also."
The volume of books required for the nursing program made it a logical choice for introducing e-books across the discipline, Strossner said. While other local community colleges also sell electronic versions of textbooks, ECC is the first to offer the e-texts for an entire program, Strossner said.
The price for textbooks for two semesters in 2011 was $1,595.52. Those books also weighed 68½ pounds. When nursing students begin classes in the fall, the electronic option will cost just more than $1,000. Plus, the books will only weigh as much as a laptop or tablet, which could be as light as three-quarters of a pound.
For those who would prefer the hard copy, the bookstore is also offering traditional textbooks at a reduced price from 2011.
Although the college has been offering e-books since 2005, Strossner said, sales of the electronic books have not taken off. In the first year, no e-books were sold. Last year, just 35 copies were purchased, Strossner said. But improved quality and function should see more students make the switch.
"E-books used to be just PDFs of a book, there were no discounts and there was no real appeal to them," Strossner said. "Now, there are multimedia features and study tools, so students can see the value and that it will improve their studies."
Instead of taking a textbook off the shelf, nursing students will now purchase a slim package that contains an online link and downloading instructions. The books can be read on a tablet, laptop or desktop computer.
If there's any downside, it's that, unlike traditional textbooks, students can't recover some of their textbook costs because e-books cannot be resold.