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Discounted digital books to help Cal State students save money

September 1, 2010 |  7:36 am

Students at five Cal State University campuses will be able to save hundreds of dollars on books under a pilot project that will allow them to view course materials on their computers, iPads, iPhones and other electronic devices.

The program is a collaboration between the university and five major textbook publishers, which are providing a 65% discount for the digital texts.

The e-books will be available in 32 courses, including American government, communications, math, management and finance at Cal State campuses in Dominguez Hills, Fullerton, Long Beach, San Bernardino and San Francisco.

"The digital licensing program is the result of the CSU looking at how we deliver education and identifying ways we can be innovative in creating a better learning environment at a lower cost,” said Cal State Chancellor Charles B. Reed.

An entire class will be able to use the e-books, allowing all students to have the same academic resources. Students can sign up for the e-book class or the same class using printed texts. An estimated 4,000 students are expected to enroll in classes using the digital texts.

Their savings could be significant. A printed calculus textbook that costs $235 would be available in a digital version for $94 for the entire semester. On average, a student pays more than $800 a year for texts, said Gerard L. Hanley, senior director of Cal State’s Academic Technology Services.

Students also will be able to print out the entire book at no extra cost, but only 10 pages at any one time. Publishers participating in the program are Bedford, Freeman & Worth, Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and John Wiley & Sons.

Florence Newberger, a math professor at Cal State Long Beach, already was using an online homework system for students in her business calculus class and said adding the digital version of the textbook made sense.

"It really facilitates things that I’m already doing," Newberger said.  "One of the things that’s important in mathematics is to be able to show why you’re doing what you’re doing, and one of the ways we can do that is to focus their attention on short, directed reading assignments.

"With an online book, we can have them set it up so there are links to the different pages they need," she added.

University officials said they plan to expand the program to more courses and additional schools in the 23-campus system in the spring after surveying students and faculty on its effectiveness.

-- Carla Rivera