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A&M works to turn the page on textbooks

Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07

Aggies tired of hauling around backpacks of heavy textbooks should take note. A new proposal making its way through A&M could transform the way textbooks are used at A&M. A program to use e-books rather than their physical equivalents, is drawing attention from administrators and student proponents. Texas A&M University-San Antonio debuted the program two years ago, and its success has A&M considering a plan to implement it throughout the system.

“It gives professors more flexibility in preparing their classes,” said student regent and junior political science major Fernando Trevino. “They can assign more books since students don’t have to buy the whole thing.”

Under the envisioned system, students would have the opportunity to log into a University-wide database and see the books assigned in classes for which they’ve registered. With an environment similar to eLearning , professors could select books or individual chapters that the class requires. The system at San Antonio has advanced functions, such as highlighting and note-taking, which students can save in their version of the books.

“If we can get it going, the program would provide Texas A&M students with more options at a much lower cost,” Trevino said.

Students have the option of viewing the books through the Blackboard website or use mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad to access their books. In response to concerns from students who prefer hard copy, the program also allows students to print out required pages themselves. Printing costs add up to approximately $10-15 per book, according to the TAMU-San Antonio website.

“I spent $460 on books this semester, and these were the cheapest I could find,” said William Arnold, junior construction science major. “I’m on my computer when I take notes anyways, and if I could read my books online it’d be even more cheap and convenient.”

According to the TAMU-San Antonio website, students and the University have already realized savings of 60 percent from moving textbooks online. Were this policy to blanket the entire A&M system, students might save even more.

“A&M has enormous buying power as an institution,” Trevino said. “If the University can make the deal for all 100,000 of its students, we could save as much as $2 million annually.”

The proposed policy will be centered around introductory classes, where hundreds of students all buy the same set of assigned books. Many books, particularly those from upper-level classes, will not be covered under the program, leaving professors free to form their own curricula.  

“Having to stare at a computer screen for the whole day would hurt my eyes,” said Catherine Koola, sophomore psychology major. “But I’d prefer the savings from printing it out than using actual textbooks.”

The success of the San Antonio program means that efforts are in place to increase e-books throughout the A&M system, including the campus in College Station. There is no timetable set for the plan to be considered, let alone implemented. It remains to be seen whether the proposal, begun in earnest last month, can take effect.


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