Twenty percent of textbooks will be digital within four years

According to a recent Xplana study, the number of digital textbooks sold within the United States is on the verge of skyrocketing, going from the current 0.5 percent to almost 20 percent by 2014.

Frederic Lardinois of Read Write Web wrote:

“According to Rob Reynolds, who is one of the co-authors of this report and also the director of product design and research for Xplana, this rapid growth will be driven by a number of factors, including the proliferation of tablets and e-readers like the iPad and Kindle, the availability and pricing of e-textbook content and an increasing interest in online learning.”

At the risk of exposing my dinosaur-like tendencies, I’m not sure I’m 100 percent on board with this. From a more superficial perspective, e-textbooks will do away with the common practice of highlighting important information and writing notes in the margins, and, more importantly, will wipe out the used textbook market, which makes zero dollars for publishers but is often a saving grace for cash-strapped students (especially when the used books come pre-highlighted and with important stuff written in the margins).

Then again, who am I kidding? I haven’t bought a textbook since 2008 (and I bought it used), and I wrote my last university exam last month and aced it.

I also wonder what this might mean for the variety of invaluable journalism books (of which I have bought, and reference often). The Canadian Press Stylebook and Caps and Spelling are both available online, for a not-so-small subscription fee, but I wonder how much play this option gets. I may be part of that “new generation,” but I still enjoy flipping through my style and reference books, making notes in them and dog-earring important pages. While it would be useful to be able to access that information on my iPhone, an e-copy couldn’t replace my old-school books.

But then, like I said, I’m done with school. What do I know? I want to know what you all think. Would you prefer e-textbooks to lugging around their heavier predecessors?