The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday January 24th

iPad could pave way for more e-textbooks

E-book sales at UNC slow so far

At just a half-inch thick and 1.5 pounds, Apple’s newly unveiled iPad weighs a lot less than the standard biology textbook.

With the technology to display and interact with digital textbooks, the iPad could surpass the ranks of other digital textbook readers, such as Amazon’s Kindle.

The announcement, which may have trumped the anticipation of President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address, was heralded by Apple CEO Steve Jobs as revolutionary.

The iPad launch was coupled with the announcement of Apple’s new online bookstore, known as iBooks. Books sold through iBooks would be accessible on the iPad.

All of this could mean a bigger push for the now-fledgling electronic textbook industry.

CourseSmart, which produces digital versions of textbooks produced by many of the top textbook publishers in the U.S. and works with UNC, already has an application that allows students to access their electronic textbooks on their iPhone, said CourseSmart spokeswoman Gabrielle Zucker.

“They can literally hold their textbooks in their hand,” she said.

Because the iPad will operate with the same technology as the iPhone, CourseSmart textbooks should be easily accessible from the iPad, she said.

CourseSmart’s sales increased 400 percent in the last year, and it has more than 8,700 textbooks in its digital library, Zucker said.

UNC offered several hundred digital textbooks from CourseSmart in Fall 2009, but less than five percent of students bought them, said John Jones, director of UNC Student Stores.

Using digital textbooks has regularly been suggested as a way to bring down textbook prices.

Digital textbooks cost an average of 50 percent less than standard textbooks, Zucker said. Combined with the cost of the iPad — the least expensive model will sell for $499 — they could be cost-effective.

UNC sophomore John Danello said that because he already has an iPhone and laptop, the iPad seems unnecessary for him at this time.

“It’s a couple years before I would be interested in using something like that. It’s nice to have the physical pages,” he said.

But he acknowledged that for college students, digital textbooks could ultimately draw them to the iPad.

“It’s certainly possible that it could become the new textbook of college students.”

Contact the State & National Editor at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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