The University of Michigan is considering widely embracing electronic textbooks in the coming years.
But how cost effective will a move toward the 21st century version of the classic textbook be?
U-M librarian Paul Courant estimates that a typical e-book costs between 20 and 30 percent less than its printed counterparts. But he says it's possible to lower costs further.
At a Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs meeting in late November, Courant said that if the university can create partnerships with textbook publishers, the school could possibly negotiate low, bulk prices and make e-books available to students as part of a course fee.
"What will happen if we don’t do anything about it?" Courant asked of soaring textbook costs during the November meeting. "The publishers and the booksellers will get very good at selling to our students. Electronic textbooks... will be somewhat cheaper, in the range of 80 to 70 percent of the cost, rather than a real breakthrough."