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Affordable and ‘green’ eBooks may be problematic for classes

Global warming and climate change are major issues in the 2008 election as well as on the University of Miami campus – which is why some professors and students are turning to eBooks.

An eBook is a digital textbook that has the same content of a hardcopy textbook that can be downloaded through a Web site or accessed electronically using a password.

Anita Cava, associate professor of business law, offered her students the choice of either purchasing a hardcopy textbook or an eBook.

“I felt that it was a cost-effective option for the students, and also I am all for reducing use of paper,” she said.

Because eBooks do not have the material costs associated with hardcopy textbooks, they are 25 to 50 percent cheaper, said Gary Spearow, director of the university’s bookstore.

After pre-paying for an eBook at the bookstore, customers are provided with an activation code that can be used on a Web site to access and print their eBook.

However, Digital Rights Management, an access-control technology used by publishers and copyright holders such as Microsoft, may interfere with widespread utilization of eBooks.

According to eBook retailer William McKenna, eBooks that are downloaded to a computer by a student can only by accessed by the computer that is registered with eBooks. The purpose of this rule is to limit someone from downloading eBooks for every student in their class. This also means a student cannot access their eBook from places on campus such as the library if they do not have their personal computer.

This problem can be avoided if students read their eBooks on Web sites, but only a limited number of eBooks are available this way, and this also relies on Internet service, which is not always dependable.

McKenna said that problems can occur when a computer crashes or if someone can’t access a wireless connection

Ann Olazabal, professor of business law, said some of her students were disappointed with eBooks or professors who did not thoroughly read the DRM software licensing agreement and instructions that indicate limitations on the printing of eBooks. Some eBook publishers only allow printing once a day.

Ronald Salinas, a UM alumnus, reported that when he tried to print the pages of an eBook for the second time in one day, the publisher did not allow it.

“It was a hassle that just wasn’t needed,” Salinas said.

“The concept [of eBooks] is terrific but execution is problematic,” Cava said, who was using eBooks in her executive MBA program last December when her students were caught in the middle of a university computer system upgrade. Because of internal computer inconsistencies, students were unable to download their eBooks.

“I do think the possibility of using e-textbooks is enormous,” she said. “However, with any new endeavor there are kinks that need to be worked out.”

Ivette Figueroa may be contacted at ifigueroa@umiami.edu.

The price of books

Below is a sample of comparative prices of textbooks for the Spring 2008 semester:

Name of Book / Regular Price / Used Price / eBook price:

Tonal Harmony by Kostka:
92.25 / 69.25 / 36.50

Intro to Flight by Anderson:
179.75 / 135.00 / 77.60

Mechanics of Materials by Beers:
176.25 / 132.25 / 76.10

Understanding Human Sexuality by Hyde:
127.75 / 96.00 / 55.30

April 21, 2008

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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