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E-Textbooks are broken

The Spring semester is already in full swing, and I opted for e-textbooks over the traditional print version for a few reasons. The first reason is many times they are price lower than the rented version, and I can write and annotate them as much as I want. Secondly I can have them with me at all times, without carrying an extra 20 pounds around. The big players like Chegg and Amazon don’t always carry all the books you need, nor are they always the lowest priced. I rented my e-textbooks through Amazon after having issues finding the version I wanted through Chegg. On top of that Amazon is a trusted seller that already had all my account information.

The problems I ran into is mainly with DRM, which we all hate and would rather do without. The rented textbooks don’t work with the Windows 8 Kindle app, but instead you have to download another “Kindle for PC” app that lives alongside you Windows 8 Kindle app. I am not able to use the cloud Kindle Reader either which was disappointing because I have a Chromebook that doesn’t run desktop apps. So I whipped out my Nexus 7 to read my textbooks on, but I ran into another problem. I had too many devices active on my Amazon account. This meant deregistering my iPhone, which I didn’t mind too much because the text was too small to read but still a hassle.

Now I’ve used Chegg once before, and I ran into a few problems but they were mainly UI issues. The main issue with the e-textbooks is they aren’t optimized for a mobile¬†screen. They look great on my desktop and the tablet in some ways, but they could do so much more with the screens. If Chegg or Amazon could talk these textbook companies into using all the technology they have at their fingertips young students could have interactive textbooks that made learning fun and gave them the resources beyond the textbook.

What I’m saying is embed videos, link to archives, and those key terms of each chapter could be easily found and researched. Amazon has X-Ray which attempts to do some of these things, but the tools are still limited to certain textbooks that aren’t normally used in a classroom. Chegg offers math help in the textbooks, but it cost extra on top of the already high prices of textbooks.

The e-textbooks shouldn’t cost almost as much as the print version, and I should be able to use them on all my devices. I understand they want to protect their content, but I want to read my book on my laptop, tablet, and phone sometimes. They should be aware that I’m not the ones stealing the books. I don’t have three tablets active with the same book or two phones with it. I ma be a fringe case and ranting but these textbooks could do more and the companies are sticking to an old publishing method that works because the students have no choice but to buy these books.

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