Dear cash strapped university heads,
My name is James Foley, I’m in my third year of study in the University of Limerick and I have a confession to make. In my three years here, I’ve only bought two books. I think that needs to be put into perspective a bit. Three years, 2 semesters a year, 6 modules a semester, that’s a total of 36 modules, each of which have had recommended texts and further reading advised by the lecturer. Why is it then, that over the duration of my college life I’ve bought roughly only 5% of the books my lecturers have thought it necessary for me to read in order to pass my modules?
Have you taken a trip to the campus book shop lately? Practically every book costs well over 50 euro, with the majority coming closed to 100 euro. Now I understand that you might argue 100 euro is a small cost for furthering my education, but 100 euro could be the difference between some people being able to afford to attend college at all. 100 euro times 6, added to accommodation, food, travel etc is a lot, and 100 for a book I will probably never look at again once this module has been completed is nonsense.
These things are hundreds of pages long, my room is the size of matchbox, do the math.
I study Media and Technology, a rapidly changing field. Given the typical period of time it takes publishers to ship a new edition of a book, our texts are out of date before they even reach the selves of the bookstore. Why would I invest in knowledge that, barring the realm of one end of semester exam, is useless to me afterwards?
There are a dozen other reasons, the availability of information online, how paper simply doesn’t fit into a modern students workflow, the fact that fewer people actually read these days etc, but the above three are the ones I feel effect college students the most and have a direct impact on their decision making process when it comes time to buy textbooks.
How does one overcome these problems?
It’s actually a very simple, very elegant, and most important in these times, a very cost effective solution.
Embrace the digital age in a manner unprecedented in any college set up across the globe. Be at the forefront for once, not the trailing edge.
Upon enrollment, make it compulsory that each and every student purchases an eBook reader, Amazon’s kindle DX would be the perfect choice at the moment (Amazon would be salivating at the thought of 2 thousand plus new customers from every Irish University each september).
Liquidate the on campus bookstores. No more physical copies of books, no point in having that leech on college funds anymore.
Add literature costs as an extension to the recurring registration charges for each student. This will ensure that each and every student will have the texts available to them necessary for the modules ahead, parents/guardians will be safe in the knowledge their money will be spent on books and not on socializing and finally, it will be a guaranteed revenue stream for the University each year.
From then on, every student in your educational establishments will have every piece of knowledge relevant to their course of study available to them on a device no bigger than an a4 refill pad. The latest editions of textbooks will be on their devices the moment they become available, lecturers will be able to build lecture plans safe in the knowledge that each and every student in their class will have the text he/she is referring to, lecturers can highlight important pieces of text, make notes, type addendum’s etc and push them out to each students device instantly.
Finally, for students, my original three points, cost, bulk and relevance are addressed as well. The price of an eBook is typically half of the traditional book, seeing as there is no publishing, distribution and mark up from the final store. A student can store thousands of textbooks on one device, a device less than half an inch thick and finally, the most up to date versions of the book are pushed out automatically as new revisions are created..
Whether or not Irish Universities embrace this technology, it will take over soon enough. I’ve ordered my own kindle recently, and will never set foot in a traditional book store again. It wont be long until every other college student is doing the same. You sit at an incredibly important crossroads, one path leading into the future of education, the other, a path of old thought, clinging onto stagnating ideas that will be overtaken and forgotten. Take note of the vinyl/tape/cd/mp3 revolution and look at what happened to the players in that industry that hung onto the old standard. You have the opportunity to usher in a new age of learning, to help craft the second wave of highly educated, tech savvy Irish graduates, don’t pass it by.