Alison Peters

Miami University marketing professor David Rosenthal is already using technology to save his students a trip to the bookstore, and it looks like he may be saving them the walk to class as well.

Rosenthal uses electronic textbooks in his classroom, which are full-length electronic books that can be viewed online, downloaded to personal computers or special reading devices.

“I like to use custom e-books rather than the traditional books because it gives me more flexibility,” Rosenthal said. “This way I don’t have to make my students buy a book that is 600 pages long when I only want them to read a small part of it.”

He has been solely using electronic textbooks for a year now and no longer offers students a hard copy.

This is not surprising to Anne Watters, the associate director of marketing for Broadway Books and Random House Publishing.

“The sales of e-books are definitely growing, and have become more a part of our day-to-day business,” Watters said. “In the same way that we offer some books in large print or audio editions, e-books have become a standard format that we publish in addition to a traditional hardcover or paperback publication.”

The new medium may take students some time to adjust.

Miami junior Kristin Weeks purchased her first online textbook for a class this semester and feels that traditional books are still a lot easier.

“E-books are a great idea in concept; I think in the long run it will help us save so much paper,” Weeks said. “But if all of your classes had books online you’d only have to carry around one book-your computer.”

Sophomore Sarah Stamm believes that traditional books are easier for studying purposes.

“Sometimes reading my online textbooks off my computer screen for a long time hurts my eyes,” Stamm said. ” I’d much rather have a paperback textbook where I can highlight and write side notes. Plus, you can sell your textbook back, so it’s not like you’re just throwing it away. It will be reused.”

Rosenthal is aware of the negative sides of using e-books, and has seen his students experience undependable Internet connections and students having to re-purchase the book if their computer crashes, in addition to the complaints about not being able to sell texts back. However, he feels these risks are outweighed by the flexibility, portability and reduced cost and paper use.

Sophomore Meghan Lepera has worked at the Oxford Copy Shop uptown for three years and feels that the tangibility of paper books is still important to students.

“We have one packet here that costs $104 dollars,” Lepera said. “It’s one of our more expensive packets, but students will still come in and buy it even though they can see it online for free.”

Publishing houses and online bookstores are still developing products to make e-books more tangible, mainly by creating electronic book readers. One new model is the Kindle, 10.2-ounce electronic book reader available on Amazon.com, which will allow users to download their favorite titles from Amazon’s Web site.

Even with the new technology it may still be a while before students are embracing e-books with open arms, however, there is another new technology Miami is currently trying out, which students may soon become familiar with.

Apple launched the iTunesU program as “the campus that never sleeps,” where, similar to the iTunes store, participating colleges and university professors can record their lectures and make them available for students on the online iTunesU site.

Already participating schools are Texas A&M, University of California Berkeley, Stanford University, DePaul University, Yale University and Duke University.

“We have become an iTunes university and are currently piloting the technology in the School of Education and Allied Professions,” Provost Jeffrey Herbst said. “We expect to roll out iTunes University by next spring to the general campus.”

One of the reasons that Miami was interested in iTunesU, a free program, was because it is uses a technology platform students are already comfortable with, while also having the promise to improve the teaching program, according to Herbst.

Herbst feels that online material will continue to become more sophisticated and the university will continue to adapt so Miami students are provided access to the wealth of material on the Internet.

“I hope that online sources will continue to provide Miami students with new and exciting ways to access information,” Herbst said.

Rosenthal is already thinking of ways he could incorporate iTunesU into his courses.

“The marketing department is in the process of creating video lectures for the introduction marketing courses and iTunesU would certainly be a platform we could use to deliver the lectures to students,” Rosenthal said.

As technology is integrated into the classrooms, Rosenthal feels that whether it is books or electronic lectures, the publishers will be the ones competing to get into the classrooms. Regardless of the changes or the format, books will remain an essential in the educational experience.

“Books are the foundation from which we’ve built our curriculum upon,” Rosenthal said. “Miami, I hope, will build a rich value on top of those things. That is where our future is and it depends on us where we go from it.”

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