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E-books find a growing market with college students

– Lugging around textbooks, a laptop and dozens of notebooks packed with notes from lectures simply isn’t the college life most students lead anymore.

With the growing popularity of e-books, iPads and other technology-friendly learning devices, higher-education students are finding new ways to take notes, listen to lectures and practice skills that otherwise consumed hours in the classroom, local college instructors said.

At Ivy Tech and IPFW, more students each year are turning to electronic books for their studies. Ivy Tech students return to class Monday, and IPFW students will begin fall courses Aug. 26.

Tova Wiegand-Green, dean of Ivy Tech’s School of Health Sciences, said some people might be surprised at how much college students can accomplish without ever cracking the spine of a book.

“Almost all of our textbooks are available as an e-book or the traditional paper book and that’s pretty much true across the college,” she said.

Although Wiegand-Green said she has seen more and more students carrying iPads or tablets to class, only about 10 percent use only e-books for class.

“Most use a combination of e-books and paper textbooks, … and most of those tend to be younger students,” she said.

But once word begins to spread and students learn about all of the additional programs available, Wiegand-Green said she expects more students will make the switch.

The School of Health Sciences was the first of Ivy Tech’s regional schools to have access to iPads. In the fall of 2011, the college issued iPads to all full-time faculty.

Although the college is in the process of becoming fully integrated, the interest is spreading quickly, Wiegand-Green said.

“We’ve had to expand wireless capabilities in our buildings to make it available in more places and at a higher bandwidth; … it’s been a process of continuous expansion,” she said.

New connections

At both Ivy Tech and IPFW, students can opt to use a program called includED to find their textbooks in e-book form or to order paper textbooks so they’ll be available on the first day of class.

IncludED isn’t restricted to a specific tablet or learning device but rather works with all platforms so students can quickly access the books they need for class, said Elio DiStaola, director of campus relations for Follett Higher Education Group, the company that created includED.

The program works by providing students access to both print and digital materials from any publisher.

Students connect to includED and use their course catalog to figure out what materials they need for their classes, DiStaola said.

IPFW was part of the inaugural launch of the program a year and a half ago, DiStaola said.

Since then, includED has greatly expanded.

“The first year we reached about 40 students and in the spring, that number blew up to about 3,800,” he said.

This fall, officials with includED expect about 5,200 students at IPFW to begin using the program. DiStaola said the company is continuously expanding their book selection to make sure students can access the subjects they need.

Samantha Birk, associate director for instructional technologies at IPFW, said includED has played an important role in helping to get faculty on board with the shift toward e-books.

“The faculty can choose the materials they want, and there’s lots of flexibility,” Birk said. “We’re continuing to improve this and as we do, more faculty want to join includED.”

Part of the growth in popularity of e-learning is the way textbook companies have altered their books to fit students’ needs, Wiegand-Green said.

“Maybe two or three years ago, we saw books that were just a PDF version of exactly what the book looked like,” she said.

But not anymore, she added.

“Now students can click on a picture and it will give them information about the picture and then have links embedded in the text,” she said.

Instructors and professors also have iPads with electronic versions of their books downloaded, Wiegand-Green said.

“Teachers doing their lecture through PowerPoint and writing on the board is kind of going away because of all of these great interactive tools that come with the textbooks,” she said.

Some teachers have gone above and beyond to research apps to benefit students.

Wiegand-Green described a class that uses an app to teach students to listen for a heart murmur and another that teaches medical vocabulary using memorization games.

“There are really neat apps, like one that our therapeutic massage program students use that helps them identify where the muscles are and where they should press to release the muscle,” she said.

Saving money

The other reason for the growth of e-books available on these devices is obvious, Birk said – it saves students money.

“On average, students are saving about 40 to 60 percent right now,” Birk said.

For students who enroll in an introductory communication class, an unused paper textbook costs $92.

But the same book in an electronic version runs $45.

And the savings are even greater with books for math or science courses, where unused textbooks can cost up to $201 and e-books cost half of that figure.

Those more expensive books are commonly used for more than one course, but students will save money by buying e-books compared with the money they might get if they try to sell the book back two years later, Birk said.

“The savings vary, but they are saving money,” she said.

Although it’s difficult to say how those savings might change in the future, students will more likely save money by making the switch to e-books than by sticking to paper textbooks that quickly become outdated and cannot be returned to the school bookstore, she said.

“We’re living in more and more of a digital world,” Birk said. “Things are changing and having students be able to interact with these devices is part of their future.”