Trouble with using tablets as textbooks

“I’m really just looking at it to read books and share pictures I guess and maybe textbooks, hopefully textbooks,” said second-year business student Klara Raic about her motivation to buy an expensive, but increasingly popular piece of technology: the tablet.

Raic bought the Lenovo a1 tablet during boxing week sales for $200. While she hopes to use her new tablet for storing photographs and portable internet access, like many other students who have purchased tablets and eReaders, Raic was motivated by hopes of saving money on textbooks.

“This semester I don’t have any more textbooks that I can buy online … but in the future I would definitely continue using it and putting my books on here,” explained Raic.

While tablets and eReaders undoubtedly offer an advantage for avoiding the lines on campus to buy new and second-hand books — typically ranging from $200-$500 — are they worth the investment?

Raic thinks so. “I’m thinking of just getting the online code and using this as my textbook and not spending the extra $120 dollars on the textbook itself … which is half of the price of this [tablet].” The second year explained her theory that after buying one or two eTextbooks online instead of in print, the cost of the tablet is made up in money saved.

While eTextbooks save money in the short term, Laurier’s Bookstore manager of academic material Mike Zybala pointed out that eTextbooks are usually a rental service, through which students miss out on resale value of the book.

“We’re seeing that bit of divide because general book reading is definitely moving in the ebook direction, where the traditional textbook is more in that access code, so it’s a short term access … you do not own that ebook,” Zybala explained that students do not save as much money with eTextbooks as they would expect. offers first year AN101 Cultural Anthropology for $44.98 compared to the Bookstore’s price of $108.75, but the eTextbook can only be rented for 180 days.

“You’re not able to sell that material back to the store at the end of the semester so that’s really where the biggest difference is,” he said.

When asked which she would buy from if books from SIFE’s secondhand book fair and an eTextbook resource were priced the same, second -year student Vanessa Frey agreed that there is an advantage to buying print books. “SIFE, resale value, you can still sell it back for thirty bucks.”

But with the iPad 3 rumoured to be released in upcoming months, tablet popularity is increasing despite the fact that eTextbooks do not save as much money as students expect.

“We’ve definitely seen some strong sales through the tablet … there’s definitely a lot more interest in a tablet than the traditional desktop,” Zybala told The Cord about the success of the Bookstore’s tablets.

“On a personal level, yeah I wouldn’t mind a tablet for convenience of everything, for Internet access, for being able to access email … I think they’re becoming a bit more of a useful tool that can be used in multiple aspects,” said
Zybala, who bought the Kobo eReader last year.

Despite the trouble with tablets saving students money on textbooks, Zybala predicts that like Raic, students will continue to use the multipurpose eTextbooks because of convenience and the Bookstore will need to adapt in order to survive.

“It will definitely have an impact on our business,” Zybala said about how the Bookstore is preparing to makes changes.

“So the portability of it that [tablet] is the convenience, I think it has its place and I still think that the printed book will have its place as well, I think in general it’s all about choice.”

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