An Opening For eBooks In Academia?

Text_booksInteresting article from MSNBC that prompted some thinking about the future of eBooks in education. Seems a relatively new company, Freeload Press, is working to distribute textbooks free, by using advertising to offset the costs. We’ve heard many calls from students and The Student Tablet PC to have text books available in eBook format. Both cost and the weight factor play into those calls. We’ve also heard that concerns over copyright are a big factor, and goodness knows we don’t have anything close to an acceptable rights management system. 

Freeload Press’s plan is to distribute eBooks as PDFs, and according to the article they can be printed out. Intriguing there is no mention of them being read on a computer as a PDF, but take that as a sign of ignorance of the reporter (the term eBook doesn’t appear in the article once) as the FreeLoad Press site mentions the product as eBooks. At the present they have a limited selection of titles available and they are mostly for business courses. I find this quote interesting:


Current customers “are primarily business instructors, so they understand there’s a quid pro quo here,” Doran said. “When we walk over to the social sciences and humanities, I expect there will be more push back.”

The context there is that the instructors are the real customers, which raises an interesting array of issues. The article also contains some interesting info about the textbook publishing field that I was unaware of and is well worth a read. But here’s a question. Would you opt for a free eBook with advertising, or prefer to pay for a textbook? I find it hard to imagine that given the choice, the majority of students wouldn’t opt for the ad-based free choice. But that’s me. Wonder what Tracy Hooten thinks? What do you think?