Can e-readers reduce the cost of textbooks for students?

What’s our most commonly asked question in the beginning of the semester? “Does the library have these books? I need them for my class…”

In addition to the cost of tuition, students find themselves shelling out hundreds of dollars on course-required textbooks. This semester the library is excited to collaborate with Eastern’s Department of Nursing on a project that may make the purchasing of textbooks cheaper for students.  The solution? E-readers.

Mark Puterbaugh, our Information Services Librarian, applied for a Small Project Award from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine: Middle Atlantic Region, and he was happy to learn that his project received the necessary funding.  The project’s goal is to “evaluate electronic reading devices as a potential replacement for textbooks used by students…”. Specifically, Mark is working with current Eastern students enrolled in the nursing and allied healthcare program. The aim is to discover if e-readers and electronic textbooks reduce the cost of nursing textbooks.

The genesis of this project began with a conversation between Mark and Professor Mary Boylston of Eastern’s Department of Nursing. The textbook under examination was on the topic of nursing informatics. They found a paperback copy of it for sale at the cost of $69. Then they investigated the cost of an electronic version of the text. To purchase the book in electronic format would realize an approximate 20% savings over the paper version. Mark and Professor Boylston were on to something…

One approved grant application later, the library was able to purchase an Amazon Kindle, a Barnes & Noble Nook, a Kobo (Borders), and a Velocity Micro Cruz Reader. For the next four months, nursing students will provide input on their experiences with the readers by completing a 10 to 15 questionnaire.  Once the questionnaires are collected and analyzed, Mark plans on writing a paper that summarizes his findings and addresses possible avenues. One potential future application may be to implement e-textbooks and e-readers as a type of reserves collection. I’ll be sure to write a follow-up post on Mark’s findings and the project’s overall effects.

Want to learn more? You can contact Mark at

Categories: Projects, Technology

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