Thursday, July 18, 2019

Electronic textbook sales low across BC

March 20, 2013 by Karla Karcioglu, reprinted from The Omega, TRU

Despite saving students money and conveniently helping them avoid back problems, it seems electronic textbooks aren’t gaining popularity on BC campuses.

Glenn Read, Thompson Rivers University’s bookstore manager, says etexts, which have been offered for four years, are consistently less than one percent of total textbook sales.

“It’s not caught on,” says Read.

The numbers are the same at Capilano University, says Brian Ball, bookstore manager, with etexts accounting for less than one percent of total sales.

Ryan Hirowatari, manager of the University of BC’s bookstore, says etext sales are 1.5 percent of total sales.

And at Simon Fraser University, etext sales are about 6.5 percent, according to Carrie Harfman, bookstore supervisor.

“Considering we have 28,000 students, yes, it’s very low,” says Harfman.

Though there’s no way to say for sure why etexts aren’t very popular for postsecondary students, several theories are out there.

“When digital came out, there were certain restrictions that didn’t lend itself to a semester,” says Read. “Some etexts had a time frame, like 180 days. So sometimes it didn’t last the entire semester and when it came down to crunch time when preparing for exams, you no longer had access to it or you’d have to pay more to acquire it again. It wasn’t really designed well, in my opinion, for the benefit of our students.”

Harfman has a different theory. “The reason why etexts are not taking off as fast in Canada, compared to the US, is because of the cost benefit and the conversion of Canadian content,” she says.

Ball says interest in etexts is rising, but access is still difficult. “Right now there is not enough comfort for students to try digital books,” he says.

“Our bookstore is posting links to digital books, which helps get students the right book,” says Ball. “It can be confusing, as the publisher often has quite a few different versions of the same material. Some come with study aids, some don’t, some have quiz components, et cetera.”

Tiesha Collins-Newton, a first-year bachelor of science student at TRU, purchased one etext and says she wouldn’t do it again. She says despite the convenience of being able to fit it on her iPad, the etext was slow and difficult to work with.

Peter Schmalz, a first-year tourism management student at TRU, also purchased one etext. He says it was a fraction of the price and came quickly.

Ball says etexts will slowly become more popular as more students try it successfully and the word spreads. He’s expecting etext sales to reach 10 to 20 percent in a few years.

Read, however, isn’t certain whether etexts will become more popular in the future.

“Maybe that will change as the next generation comes along that has been accustomed to a tablet versus a traditional book,” he says. “I’m not sure. Time will tell.”

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