Digital textbook choices expand with new interactive platform

By Lorena Carmona

Daily Nebraskan, U. Nebraska via UWIRE

Digital textbooks have become more than just a PDF version of the real thing. A new platform, CafeScribe, offers students an easier and more effective way of using digital textbooks.

“We did a rebuild from the ground up,” said Elio DiStaola, director of public and campus relations for Follett Higher Education Group.

DiStaola said Follett realized more can be done to serve students better.

The new features include the ability to move seamlessly between devices, unique social note-sharing, better study tools, online and offline access and the amount of titles available.

He said that his favorite feature is the snap summary, which takes all the highlights and notes that a person has in the digital textbook and by clicking one button forms an outline and a study guide, he said.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has been offering digital textbooks for the several years, said Derek Schuckman, store director of the University Bookstore.

He said students can save 40 to 60 percent with CafeScribe digital textbooks, and renting textbooks through Follett’s Rent-A-Text program can save students 50 percent or more off the cost of new books. Schuckman said used books can save students approximately 25 percent off the original cost.

“We believe in giving students many options so they can choose what’s best for them to be successful in the classroom,” he said.

In an informal poll, 14 percent of students preferred digital textbooks, while the remaining 86 percent favored traditional textbooks.

Narges Attaie, a senior journalism major, said she prefers the use of traditional textbooks instead of digital.

“If I’m paying for something, I want the real material in my hands,” she said. Attaie was also concerned with the battery life of reading devices.

Alyc Beasley, a freshman anthropology major, chose traditional textbooks for a few different reasons.

“It’s easier for me to actually do reading assignments if I have a tangible object in my hands,” she said. “It feels more natural for me.”

Beasley said reading a computer screen makes her eyes tired and said her head starts to hurt 10 times faster than when reading a book with a cover and pages.

The small percentage that favored digital instead of traditional had a similar reasoning.

Adrienne Elmquist, a sophomore nutrition and health sciences major, said she favors digital because it is more convenient and saves money. She also likes that her backpack weighs less.

“The one downfall is that I don’t get the feeling of flipping the pages,” she said.

Anne Johnson, a freshman international studies major, said she sees a benefit from CafeScribe and the features it offers. Having the ability to highlight the digital textbook is useful, she said.

Schuckman said he understands that students are not going to be ready for change right away.

“Some students may not be comfortable with digital texts yet and we understand that, which is why we offer the ‘Try Now, Buy Later’ program,” Schuckman said. The program offers a free three-day trial for most of the CafeScribe titles. Students will get the opportunity to test the functions and features CafeScribe books have to offer. After three days, if students choose to not purchase the books, access is revoked, he said.

“We want to become a collection of choices for the students,” DiStaola said.

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