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Source: Roger McHaney, 785-532-7479, mchaney@k-state.edu;
and Jeff Levin, 785-320-2666, jalevin@varneys.com
Web site: http://www.k-state.edu/media/mediaguide/bios/mchaneybio.html
News release prepared by: Nellie Ryan, 785-532-6415, media@k-state.edu

Friday, Nov. 6, 2009

K-STATE PROFESSOR DISCUSSES THE EMERGENCE OF THE DIGITAL TEXTBOOK INDUSTRY

MANHATTAN -- A Kansas State University professor who recently published his first digital textbook thinks the days of students shelling out hundreds of dollars on textbooks each semester and lugging around heavy, book-filled backpacks could be over soon -- if the emerging digital textbook industry has its way.

"The wave of e-books is just beginning," said Roger McHaney, professor and interim head of the K-State department of management. "This is an experimental time. I think a lot of professors are kind of sitting back to see what will happen. I'm excited just to try it out and get in on the front of the wave."

McHaney's book, "Understanding Computer Simulation," was released in early October. The textbook updates and revises an out-of-print textbook he had published years ago. Now, through Bookboon.com, the online branch of Ventus Publishing, the book has been brought back to life.

McHaney said that at BookBoon.com, students can download textbooks in PDF format for free. The company makes money by selling advertising space in the textbooks. Not just any type of company has the option to buy these ads; BookBoon.com only sells to companies that are relevant to the students' futures -- companies that are looking to recruit college students in the textbook's particular area of study. The ads are hot-linked on the Web so students can click on them and be directed to the company's Web site.

"I'm surprised at how many companies are jumping into it," McHaney said. "They have people knocking at their doors to get ads in these books. It is a win-win for companies, though, because they are targeting the right group of students and getting their name out there."

The popularity of electronic books, or e-books, has increased because of products like the Kindle book reader, McHaney said.

"I think in the future that e-readers are going to be the norm for students," he said. "The big problem with them right now is the mainstream ones like Kindle don't do a great job of allowing high-quality graphics to be shown -- but they are working on fixing that. Kindle has a textbook e-reader coming out that is going to be bigger and allow for high-resolution color graphics. Eventually, the will even have embedded videos."

Students choosing digital textbooks have the option of printing them so they can have a hard copy as well. Compared to buying the hardback version, the cost of printing the book is extremely affordable, according to McHaney. Because of this printing option, many bookstores are now in the process of setting up printing stations that will charge students a minimal price to come to the store to print off their book rather than using up their own personal ink and paper.

Varney's Book Store in Manhattan is already adapting to the new wave of digital textbooks. It now offers on-demand printing services to print any kind of e-book. The store also offers Jumpbooks, which are digital alternatives to textbooks. A student interested in purchasing a Jumpbook can simply go to Varney's, buy a tag and obtain a receipt, which includes an access code. The student uses this access code to download the book online. It can be an economical solution for students as e-books are generally about half the price of hardcover textbooks, according to Jeff Levin, co-owner of Varney's.

"The digital textbook industry is definitely growing," Levin said. "A few years ago, students were soft-wired. Today's new students, I call them hard-wired because technology has been such an important part of their whole lives.

"Each year the expectations for electronic-based learning grows," Levin said. "If I were to ignore it, it would be an overwhelming threat to our business. By embracing it and finding our niche we will find new ways to serve the K-State community."

Levin said that during this semester's textbook buy-back period, Varney's will have computers and staff on hand to educate students on how the process of buying and printing e-books works. For the spring 2010 semester, students will have several options for purchasing course materials.

"Digital works for some but not for all, so of course we will still have hardcover textbooks available," Levin said. "We are going to provide for students in any way we can."