I have been following the digital textbook world for some time. As an avid e-book fan, I can see the tremendous benefits that digital versions of textbooks can provide students. These benefits include ease-of-use, advanced capabilities like search, and possibly financial benefits, too. The word this week that digital textbook renter CourseSmart released a free iPhone (s aapl) app to access textbooks has me thinking about e-textbooks in earnest. I am wondering how practical a little screen would be for accessing big textbooks.
Most textbooks have big pages chock-full of text and graphics, and this doesn’t often transition well to the small screen. I can see laptops with larger screens providing a decent reading experience, but the tiny iPhone screen not so much. Maybe our friends at TheAppleBlog have the right idea — the iPhone app is a good forum for searching e-textbooks for those bits of information. That could easily make the iPhone app worth the price of admission — free.
I do like that the CourseSmart folks allow the iPhone app to access textbooks online, even if astudent elects to get the downloaded version of the book. That gives the best of both worlds for iPhone owners.
I see that CourseSmart textbook subscriptions usually come in two flavors, 180- or 360-day lengths. I guess students better not flunk the first time through the courses.