One Rockville, Ill., based college is launching a tablet pilot program this semester, and they've adopted a novel goal. Rather than buy and lend the hardware, they're going to rent tablets to students.
The tablet pilot at Augustana College will be focused on the Kindle Fire. Students in David Crowe's Shakespeare course will be able to rent the KF for $35 per semester. They'll also have to buy the digital textbooks, and that will set them back by about $18 for the bundle. The print versions of the books cost about $40.
At first glance this doesn't seem like such a good deal. I would likely be able to beat the $18 digital cost by carefully buying my paper textbooks. Also, a rent l fee of $35 a semester is $280 over 4 years. That's a little much, considering that the KF retails for $200. On the other hand, these are college students we're talking bout here. What are the chances that the tablet will survive 4 years? (Judging based on my teenaged brother, almost none.)
But one part that I particularly like are the book chosen by the professor. He picked an ebook of the collected works of Shakespeare that only cost a buck. That may be more than the free copies on Project Gutenberg, but it is far less than the $80 that his son had to pay for a print copy.
Cheap textbooks are near and dear to my heart this semester, and I wish that one of my professors had followed David's lead. I've posted before that I'm taking class on SF literature. Two of the required books in that class are SF anthologies. I looked over the copyright page, and around half of the stories in each book are in the public domain. That is important because with a small amount of effort someone could assemble their own collection from the pd titles and teach from that. I would do it, but I'm not a college professor. I don't have the credentials (just the skills).
I've always thought that English departments should be the leading adopters of digital textbooks. A significant number of English Lit classes could be taught entirely from pd sources, and that could potentially reduce the cost to the student - most of whom will sell the textbook when the class is over anyway.
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