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Faculty executive committee explores e-book option

As more advanced technology changes the way students read and learn, UNC faculty are exploring how to take advantage.

The faculty executive committee set plans Monday to create a panel for discussing e-books in order to better understand the opportunity they present.

Jean DeSaix, senior lecturer in biology, said the panel would include a representative from Student Stores, a representative from the library, a publisher and at least one student.

Anne Whisnant, deputy secretary of the faculty, said the panel would take place at the Faculty Council’s next meeting on March 16. She said it would help educate faculty on the issues facing e-book users on campus, such as wireless connectivity.

“There was a convergence of interest in e-books in particular,” DeSaix said, adding that the University Libraries and the Center for Faculty Excellence have collected data on the subject.

Luke Swindler, coordinator for general collections at the University Libraries, said the library sent out a survey in January about e-book use.

The libraries received more than 700 responses from faculty, graduate students and undergraduates and are still analyzing that data, he said.

After sending out the survey, the libraries also invited small focus groups to answer questions about their e-book use, Swindler said. Many participants were confused about how to locate and access the e-books available through the libraries’ online catalog.

“Where publishers are on e-books, it’s like the Wild West,” Swindler said. “There are no standards, and so they vary.”

Swindler said many students in the focus groups disliked e-books because typically they are rented from the publisher for a semester, and after a semester the student loses access to the book.

Students also disliked e-books that were digitized versions of print text, preferring e-books that offer interactivity, such as built-in annotation or immediate feedback on test questions, he said.

Faculty have also expressed concern that not all classrooms have wireless connectivity, which would impact e-book use, he said.

Kelly Hanner, textbook department manager for Student Stores, said e-books have been available at Student Stores since 2008.

Hanner said when Student Stores receives faculty textbook orders, it offers faculty the chance to approve an e-book format for their textbook if it exists. She said faculty approve the e-book option about half of the time.

Hanner said e-books make up less than 1 percent of all course material sales.

“Students at this time don’t seem to be comfortable using e-books,” she said.

DeSaix said she hopes that the panel will result in more options for students.

“I’m all about giving students choice.”

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