The high cost of textbooks is making some professors think outside the box. Rather than require students to purchase copies of books that are freely available online in their entirety — think Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, or de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America — some professors are embracing eBooks.
While instructors may want the ease of being able to refer to a page number during discussions, or may want students to read the additional material that is in the version of the book he or she has, there are ways to work around these problems. Some instructors, for instance, have begun allowing students to use the online version of the book, or a cheaper version than what is listed in the syllabus, and then asking the class to number the paragraphs in each chapter so that, in class discussions, they can refer to chapter and paragraph instead of page numbers. (Obviously, some works are already bifurcated by acts, scenes, stanzas, etc.) Additional materials, such as introductory essays, can be scanned and placed in MyCourses (subject to copyright laws) for those students who did not purchase the same version of the book the professor has.
Some instructors actually find eBooks useful in other ways. Programs such as Diigo allow you to add an electronic post-it note to a web-based document, allowing students to comment on specific lines of text and respond to questions posted by the professor. Keep an eye out for new apps like this that add value to using eBooks in the classroom. Saving money for students will be just a bonus!
Some free eBook providers: