Josh Hannah, joshp.hannah@gmail.com

In an economy that has seen only downfall in the last five years, college is becoming increasingly expensive. There is an increasing trend of not being able to pay for school rather than not being able to succeed in school. If tuition costs $7,605 a year and textbooks cost $1,137 a year, the average student is spending 13 percent of their total college costs on textbooks and materials, according to www.collegeboard.com.

While it is unlikely accredited four-year institutions will lower tuition fees, it is very feasible to lower the cost of textbooks. The college textbook business is very lucrative. According to The Montreal Gazette, the major companies, which include Pearson and McGraw-Hill, earn $4.5 billion, but the era of eBooks is here, and the academic community as a whole needs to embrace it.

California has enacted a law that will be effective in 2020. It makes any individual or company selling textbooks to the University of California, California State University or private colleges to make textbooks available electronically, according to www.vcstar.com. Leave it to California to pave the way for “green” laws. But there are many more advantages to eBooks than just being “green.”

They are more affordable. An experiment, conducted by Digital Trends, showed in the long run purchasing books on the Amazon Kindle or iPad can save money compared to buying new books in an on-campus bookstore, according to www.kltv.com.

They have better portability. Students with more than three textbooks in their bag might experience up to 20 pounds or more of weight exerted on their backs. With the Kindle (1.1 pounds) or the iPad (1.5 pounds), the student can store upwards of thousands of titles.

They are green. There is no tangible garbage when using eBooks or downloadable books, unless you print out the receipts from your purchase.

This is not to say there aren’t some downfalls.

Although money can be saved through eBooks, it would take six semesters, according to the study, to pay off the device used to download the titles from Kindle for the iPad, according to www.kltv.com.

Availability is limited. Of the 15 titles used in the experiment, only four were able to be purchased from the Kindle or iPad.

Used books have advantages. If a student wishes to buy used editions of books, the price may be lower than the eBook cost, not to mention the student can sell these books back to the bookstore, sometimes receiving an even greater return.

Students have trouble referencing the material. While eBooks allow for highlighting and margin notes, there aren’t page numbers and it is difficult to flip through the material.

We can review the downfalls and note one major factor that hasn’t been discussed: the technology is fairly recent and hasn’t had a chance to really catch on. Digital textbooks only make up 3 percent of the total textbook sales market, but are expected to be up to 10 to15 percent by 2012 as more titles are made available, according to The New York Times.

Compare it to DVD sales. When the DVD was first introduced, it was expensive, relatively speaking, and there were scarce titles. Now, after the technology has been around for a while and the format has become the commonplace for recorded entertainment, titles have become numerous and the cost has been reduced greatly.

With an increase in prevalence and popularity, the titles are accessible and cost will grow and decrease respectively, creating a cost-friendly textbook market for students and parents alike.

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