U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-WA, is sponsoring a bill that could lower the cost of college textbooks, but some studies suggest that millennials prefer the printed word.
Federal legislation proposed last month could help bring down the cost of college textbooks by making electronic textbooks more widely available. But will college students want them?
The bipartisan E-BOOK Act, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) and Richard Hanna (R-NY), would provide $20 million to create 10 pilot programs at public institutions throughout the country. The pilots, run by the U.S. Department of Education, would increase access to digital course materials, expand the availability of e-readers and tablets for low-income students, and encourage professors to use new technologies in class.
Washington’s community college system has used a similar system for several years now. The Open Course Library project is a collection of electronic textbooks and other curriculum materials for the most commonly taken community-college classes — like psychology, biology and precalculus. The materials are freely available and open to anyone, not just students in this state.
College students spend, on average, about $1,000 per year on textbooks. The new federal program “will help spur innovation in our colleges and incentivize the adoption of new learning technologies, which will both improve instruction and save students money,” DelBene said in a statement.
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But while e-books might be cheaper, some studies have suggested –– surprisingly — that millennials actually prefer reading the printed word over the digital one.
In the book “Words on Screen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World,” American University linguist Naomi S. Baron argues that readers of digital texts tend to skim rather than absorb the material, and as a result, comprehension suffers. Her studies show that millennials prefer print over pixels.
Perhaps ironically, Baron’s book is available in hardcover and as a Kindle e-book. The Kindle version is cheaper.