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Textbooks and Technology

OSU’S in-state tuition costs for a year run just under $10,000 while the average cost for an incoming freshman’s textbooks is around $1500. Think about that for a minute: for every dollar it costs to go to OSU, it costs an additional 15 cents on the dollar just to purchase textbooks. To put that number in perspective, the US government, which is supposedly drowning in debt, borrows roughly 40 cents for every dollar it spends.

To be blunt, textbooks are expensive, and growing more pricey by the year. They’re also potentially hazardous to your health. If the average college student takes 5 or 6 classes a semester and has 1 or 2 books per class, at about 5 pounds a book, that’s anywhere from 25 to 60 pounds of just books. Your backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 20% of your body weight, so a person who weighs 150 pounds should only be carrying about 30 pounds in his or her backpack. Otherwise, serious back injuries can result. Not to mention, a lot of paper goes into producing all of these textbooks. About 30 textbooks are made from a single tree (depending on the sizes of the textbooks and the tree, of course).

Even at the high school level, all of these problems regarding textbooks are becoming issues to some degree, and attitudes about keeping books in print are changing. Today there are a variety of options for electronic textbooks. Academy has already been developing its technological resources for a number of years and has an impressive foundation to work with. Currently, Academy’s inventory includes 650 computers and 80 iPads, and a projector or SMARTboard in every academic classroom. That’s pretty impressive.

But what about specific advances in the area of electronics to books, especially textbooks? Well, the school currently has a subscription to Ebrary, an online resource that has over 50,000 books in its database. As students, you can “check out” any of these books for free, just like a traditional library, but there are infinite copies. So if your entire class needs a certain book, you can all simultaneously borrow that book from Ebrary. If that’s not enough, when you borrow these books, you get the full texts. And you can take notes and make annotations about certain passages as you read while all of that information is stored online. Though textbooks are not as common yet, thanks to disputes among the big textbook publishers, the amount of books available through Ebrary is growing daily. It’s just a matter of time until you can get all of your textbooks online. All of a sudden, that 30+ pound load of books has been turned into a single 8-pound laptop.

The rapid rise of ebook readers (Think Kindle, Nook. and even the iPad.) have also made electronic texts a much more attractive option. An average ebook reader weighs less than a pound and costs $200-300. An individual college textbook costs upwards of $100. While the upfront cost is significant, in the long run these devices save a great deal of money. The Kindle 2 has a 2-gigabyte hard drive, which can hold hundreds of books (If you do actually fill your Kindle to capacity, you won’t have to worry.) Amazon keeps a record of all the books you’ve purchased, so you don’t have to buy it again if you remove it and then want to add it back to your Kindle. These devices also can adjust the size of the text and brightness of the screen to make reading easier.

Bottom line: You’re spending less money on textbooks you don’t even really want to read and  lessening your chances of having back surgery at a later age (another massive sinkhole of money, at about $8,000-10,000 per lower back surgeries)! Applying technology to textbooks is a win for everyone.

Written by Andy Li’13. Photo by Elliot Nick’14


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