eTextbooks in Higher Education: Practical Findings to Guide the Industry

Moderated by:
Jade Roth (Barnes & Noble)
Curtiss Barnes (Cengage Learning), Nick Francesco (Rochester Institute of Technology), David McCarthy (Barnes and Noble), Jacob Robinson (Texas A&M University), Susan Stites-Doe (The College of Brockport)
General New York West
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Despite the growth of digital reading for trade books, digital reading has not yet gained acceptance in higher education among students, faculty or administrators. Although 15 percent of higher education textbook content is available digitally, only 1-3 percent of textbook sales are digital. As an industry, we still have not discovered and provided the right set of elements that will enable students, faculty and institutions to embrace the flexibility of digital textbooks for reading, studying and course adoption.

Barnes & Noble has been working with a diverse set of learners and institutions to conduct research about eBook Reader and digital textbook usage in higher education. This summer we conducted illuminating research at four universities: Pennsylvania State University, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Queensborough Community College (NY), and Rochester Institute of Technology. Our on-campus research spanned seven subject areas across 15 classes covering more than 160 students and 11professors. We are continuing our research during the fall semester, adding four new schools to our efforts with the expectation to cover more than 300 students across more than a dozen professors and faculty members. Our research efforts have covered a variety of school types including two year private institutions,four year private institutions, community colleges, research institutions, and Ivy League institutions. This is a strong foundation for practical findings about reading, studying and teaching using content in a digital format.

Through these research efforts, we have gathered large amounts of data and practical insights. We have multiple levels of data available to share with the industry:

  1. Aggregated usage data: Students interact with digital textbooks on a regular basis and by logging those interactions, we can learn more about how often they use the eTextbook and the level of engagement they have with the materials. This data can guide publishers in how they think about digitizing their content for higher education.
  2. Feature usage data: As students interact with the features that become available while using a digital textbook (for example, notes and highlighting, integrated Web search, dual book view), we can learn more about what features are useful to the reading and studying experience. Those are features the industry should jointly focus on providing.
  3. Survey data: Throughout our research efforts, we have surveyed both students and faculty to get their perceptions about reading and studying eTextbooks. These perceptions and experiences will provide rich, practical insights for publishers and other industry participants to guide their efforts forward.
  4. Outcome data: Working with faculty, we are beginning to piece together data to help correlate usage of eTextbooks with outcomes. As an industry, this is a very new area and industry discussion about outcome correlation will be important to driving digital textbook usage forward.

This panel provides faculty feedback (not feedback from the company selling the eTextbooks) and a rich overview of analytical data that participants can apply to their efforts.

Attend this panel to gain helpful insight on what is working and what is not working with digital reading and studying for students and faculty. Learn straight from those on the front line who are experiencing these new products in the classroom and see unprecedented data on how eTextbooks are being purchased and used, what students need when they read/study digitally, and what students perceive about digital reading/studying.

Photo of Jade Roth

Jade Roth

Barnes & Noble

Jade joined Barnes & Noble College Booksellers in 1980 and is responsible for all aspects of textbook management, digital strategy, trade book buying, author promotions and government affairs. Jade’s collegiate retailing experience includes management positions in three college stores as well as multiple home office positions. Jade is an active member of the National Association of College Stores Board of Trustees and has served on the Penn State World Campus Advisory Board. She has spoken at numerous conferences, both regionally and nationally. In her current role, Jade works closely with her colleagues at Barnes & to develop new digital and online solutions expressly designed for Higher Education. Jade has a B.A. from Bennington College.

Photo of Curtiss Barnes

Curtiss Barnes

Cengage Learning

Curtiss Barnes is Vice President of Corporate Development at Cengage Learning. He oversees Cengage Learning’s mergers and acquisitions strategy, business development and partner alliances. Mr. Barnes is focused on identifying ways to accelerate growth and leverage digital media and technology to develop the next generation of learning and research solutions for Cengage Learning and its customers. In addition, he serves on the Board of Directors for the IMS Global Learning Consortium, the education industry’s leading technology interoperability standards organization.

Mr. Barnes has more than 20 years of experience in the education industry and expertise in a broad range of enterprise systems that support the core missions of education. Prior to joining Cengage Learning, he served as Vice President of Industry Product Strategy for Education at Oracle USA. During his time with Oracle, Mr. Barnes was responsible for establishing product strategy and development investment priorities across all of the Company’s application groups, as well as identifying new market opportunities for Education-specific applications.

Earlier in his career, Mr. Barnes held roles in strategy, marketing, business development, product management and sales at large and small enterprises serving the education industry including PeopleSoft, SCT and Campus Pipeline, Inc. Prior to his career in the commercial sector, Mr. Barnes held positions in alumni and corporate relations, development, admissions and executive education at a number of higher education institutions.

Mr. Barnes holds a bachelors degree in economics from Clark University and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Photo of Nick Francesco

Nick Francesco

Rochester Institute of Technology

Nick is the Manager of Technical Services for the E. Philip Saunders College of Business at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Before that, he was the technical manager or technical support for a major bank, a technical training company, and a video training company.

Since 1989, he has been the host of a computer talk show on radio called Sound Bytes. He also hosts a computer Q&A show for Time Warner Cable and a computer Q&A column for Gannett’s Democrat and Chronicle newspaper. He has spoken at many national, regional, and local events, and continues to run Ask Nick!, where members get advice, answers, and humor in approximately equal doses.

Photo of David McCarthy

David McCarthy

Barnes and Noble

David McCarthy is the director of product management for digital education at Barnes & Noble. He joined Barnes & Noble in 1999 and is responsible for defining Barnes & Noble’s digital products for higher education. Specifically, he currently oversees the product and technical development of NOOKstudy, a digital reading solution focused on the needs of college students. The NOOKstudy platform is currently in use by students on over 630 campuses served by Barnes & Noble College Booksellers as well as students in over 3,000 other schools. McCarthy was also involved with the development and launch of Barnes & Noble digital platform in July 2009. Prior to his digital education role, he was responsible for managing the project portfolio for as the director of project management. In this role he managed projects dealing with all aspects of e-commerce, web development, and communities. McCarthy is a graduate of Old Dominion University.

Photo of Jacob Robinson

Jacob Robinson

Texas A&M University

Jacob Robinson is a senior Leadership Studies major from Waco, Texas and a proud member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of 2011. Jacob’s diverse involvement in university activities and service in leadership roles has prepared him for his position as Student Body President. He is a member of The Aggie Men’s Club, Maroon Coats and serves on many university committees. Jacob has been involved in many leadership and service organizations throughout his college career. Upon graduation in December 2011, Jacob plans to go into the field of public service or public relations.

As Student Body President, Jacob’s goal is to elevate the Aggie Experience, and the preservation of the distinct traditions that defines what it means to be an Aggie.

Photo of Susan Stites-Doe

Susan Stites-Doe

The College of Brockport

Susan Stites-Doe has a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior from The University at Buffalo. She has published numerous journal articles and other professional pieces related to her specialty area of Organizational Behavior. After earning tenure and promotion at The College at Brockport she served as the Dean of Graduate Studies, and earned the rank of Professor in the Department of Business Administration and Economics, where she is now teaching on the Business Administration faculty.

Dr. Stites-Doe currently teaches management classes to undergraduates at The College at Brockport. Her current research interests include electronic textbooks and student satisfaction, and the “flip side” of leadership: Followership.

Dr. Stites-Doe currently serves on two international boards of directors: The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Board, and the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) board; both with the Educational Testing Service. She has had a myriad of additional governance and administrative experiences spanning several industries, including financial services and the ferrous foundry industries.

Comments on this page are now closed.


Picture of Curtiss Barnes
Curtiss Barnes
02/16/2011 5:36am EST

I agree with David. Hardware that mimics the existing form factor has a place but misses the real opportunity – to remix content with other instructional aids, tools and assessments to improve the user/learner experience. A book metaphor does not necessarily apply to that context.

The conclusions I’ve drawn from the data I’ve seen about student preference is that the early reader devices and formats missed the pedagogical use cases altogether. As these tools have advanced, the data seem to indicate much greater adoption rates for ebooks and digital solutions (big double-digit increases year over year). It’s still early, but it looks like a sustained trend, finally.

Picture of David McCarthy
David McCarthy
02/15/2011 10:45am EST

Thanks for attending. I think students have a perception of being wedded to print however if you provide a compelling digitial experience many change their minds.

Digital replicas of print books are only a stop gap to true digital content. Kno is creating a device that meets the form factor of the print content. We really need to do the opposite which is fit the content to the form factors of the devices. I read the new york times fine on the web, phone and ipad. No one needed to produce a reader that was 1 foot by 2 feet.

Picture of Kathy Ishizuka
Kathy Ishizuka
02/15/2011 10:12am EST

If students (and faculty, it seems) remain wedded to traditional print formats, what do you think of hardware innovations like the Kno This device, however pricey, delivers full-page textbook content. Thanks for a great session.

Richard Hull
11/16/2010 8:19am EST

While individual users of e-readers are enthusiastic about e-textbooks, this research is needed to compile intelligent criticism of their utility and flaws. Example: the problem of intelligent indexing has not been adequately addressed, nor has the problem of teaching a class with a mixture of e-texts and print texts (“please turn to page 44” mystifies e-readers; so does “please search for the phrase “international trade agreements require stronger commitment to principles” for print text readers.

Once these kinds of problems are identified and addressed, e-texts by virtue of their lesser cost, savings in trees and ink chemicals, and the variety of ways they can and cannot be sold or leased will make them increasingly preferred by a generation used to electronic media.

  • Ingram Content Group
  • Qualcomm
  • codeMantra
  • Impelsys Inc.
  • Aptara
  • Bowker
  • Connotate
  • HP
  • Jouve North America
  • LibreDigital
  • Malloy
  • MarkLogic
  • Random House, Inc.
  • SPi Global
  • Sterling Commerce
  • Baker & Taylor
  • The BookMasters Group
  • Constellation
  • Jacquette Consulting
  • Mashery
  • Silverchair
  • Wolfram
  • Smashwords, Inc.

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