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The following piece was written by Macmillan Learning Communications Intern Samra Karamustafic. Samra (@samrak) is a Journalism major at Cleveland State University and aspires to work as an editor in book publishing.
2020 has undeniably been a year of change and adjustment for us all, especially when it comes to education. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, school desks and whiteboards have been swapped out for kitchen tables and Chromebook screens, and raised hands have turned into simply unmuting oneself on a Zoom call.
With such drastic changes in the typical school setting come changes in the types of learning materials that are being put to use, too. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, out of 3000 colleges, approximately 10% are fully online. It comes as no surprise, then, that the digital textbook market is projected to experience a major boost in revenue between the years 2020 and 2027.
Digital textbooks, or e-books, have been introduced into many schools' learning curriculums as early as 2009. Since then, educators, students, and school administrators alike have seen the benefits that e-books have to offer that their print counterparts lack. For starters, students can enjoy immediate access to the book once they purchase it or are granted access to it by their school’s administrator. This comes in handy for college students who need access to their books before the semester begins because it diminishes the need to worry about any potential shipping complications.
At the start of this year's fall semester, many bookstores ran into an overload of shipment delays due to COVID-19. This left many college students anxious and questioning whether or not they would receive their necessary materials in time. With digital textbooks, the second the buyer clicks that "complete purchase” button, they've got the entire book at their fingertips in minutes.
Many e-books also offer additional features that can be incredibly beneficial for students and educators alike. Take our Achieve platform as an example: students can receive access to not just their e-books, but to helpful videos and personalized quizzes that can help them tackle the topics they are struggling with as well. This provides an immersive experience for the student and it gives teachers greater insight into what topics their students are struggling with, which allows them to devote class time to go over these topics.
Students can enjoy the portability of digital textbooks in addition to the convenience of immediate access and engagement. Gone are the days of lugging textbooks from class to class. With e-books, students can access all of their books from one spot: their computer! Parents can benefit from the portability, too; with e-books, they can rest assured knowing that they won't have to worry about hearing the 4 dreaded words from their child: "I lost my textbook."
Even though there has been a significant push toward digital textbooks, that doesn’t mean that schools and colleges have turned their backs on printed textbooks. Before the start of this school year, many schools gave students the option of attending in-person classes or going virtual; those who chose virtual learning had a few days before the first day of school to come and pick up the required textbooks that they could use at home. Many college students still went ahead and ordered print materials for this upcoming semester as well, and those that live on campus still have the option of visiting their campus library to borrow a textbook. However, COVID-19 has altered and slowed the process of borrowing textbooks. Inside Higher Ed found that many libraries across the country are quarantining returned items for 72 hours before making them available to borrow again, to ensure that no traces of the virus are on the materials before they go to another individual.
Although digital textbooks have been making their way into a growing number of schools over the last decade, the massive shift into online learning for a majority of the nation this year may have been the final push they needed. What does this mean for old-school print textbooks - will they phase out slowly, or continue existing alongside e-books? It seems that we will have to wait and see, but for now, students and teachers can tailor their materials to fit their needs - whether that's with a digital or a printed textbook.