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CourseSmart, an e-textbook provider that claims to have 90% of all core higher ed textbooks in its catalog, has released its iPad app. The app itself is free, and is similar to the company's offerings that are already available on your iPhone or your laptop. New features include stickies for note-taking and a thumbnail navigation. Students can opt to either download a textbook or access it via the cloud.

I'm interested to watch the school textbook market unfold this academic year. Will students embrace e-textbooks? CourseSmart, along with Barnes & Noble's NOOKStudy and others, want to offer a gateway for the student dollar -- and it's quite a dollar to chase. According to a recent New York Times article, we spend between $8 and $15 billion a year on textbooks.

The NYT article interviews Scott McNealy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, whose latest project is Curriiki, a "curriculum wiki" to develop and distribute educational materials online for free. As more information like this becomes available, as students piece together their own open coursebooks/courseware, how will the traditional publishers (which isn't just the print folks, frankly) react?

College students this fall will have an option of open-source textbooks, electronic textbooks, and textbooks-for-rent (from sites like Chegg). Or, of course, they can head to the university bookstore to buy something in print.

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Audrey Watters


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