Local book suppliers not worried about new digital book options

Student Blair Robbins uses her iPad in a microeconomics class Jan. 26.

Apple has recently announced an upgrade to its downloading platform to include iTunes U, a large online library of free education content available on the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

This app also allows Apple to release cheaper digital textbooks from education publishers such as Pearson and McGraw-Hill.

While Apple is offering its own solution to expensive textbooks, some book suppliers are not worried about the possible effects of future sales. Online versions of textbooks are still less popular than the physical copy, said Laura Holden Irvine, manager of College Book Supply.

“I have had several students who have bought the e-book wanting the physical copy,” Irvine said. “They just didn’t like reading it on the screen. I think the tech-savvy students will really want (Apple’s e-books) and then find out they don’t like it.”

Irvine mentioned she does not believe the cheaper price of the digital books will play a role in their popularity.

“People are old school and will want the book in their hand,” she said.

The on campus book store has already been providing textbooks via CafeScribe’s e-reader, which is available for any computer’s operating system.

“Apple’s announcement reinforces what we already know and has been part of our core strategy,” said Elio DiStaola, director of public and campus relations. “Course materials continue to evolve toward digital-at various speeds on both discipline and levels of education.”

He ensures that the Follett Higher Education Group will be able to provide information access competitively against Apple.

Some UNA students find the digital format unfavorable.

“”Personally, I do not care for the digital textbooks,” said Jonathan King, physics major at UNA. “There are a few reasons. For one, they cost almost as much as a book that you can actually hold in your hand. Secondly, I have always been a person to have to actually have the book in front of me”

King explains that the digital textbooks he has for his iPad are not convenient because it is difficult to navigate back and forth between pages in order to finish class work problems.

Some UNA professionals think it is too early for the digital textbooks to be successful in the college book field.

Jeremy Britten, web communications manager for UNA, does not foresee digital textbooks becoming prominent any time soon.

“I think it will eventually,” he said. “I don’t see it happening within a year. I would say within five years students will be using some sort of tablet for their books.”

While the time for tablets being used in the classroom as textbooks may not have arrived just yet, Apple will also provide free online college courses to help students and educators via its iTunes U app.