By Elysia Gruber
Reprinted from Stanford Daily
(Copyright 2003 Stanford Daily)
With the price of traditional college texts rising, Graduate Business School Prof. Paul Romer and Paul Krugman of Princeton University have come up with a new, cheaper model for studying that combines an online learning component.
While many textbooks are already accompanied by software and online supplements, the new model will offer the entire version of the text online at a greatly reduced price.
"I have long argued that technology should help professors get more effort out of students," Romer said. "By creating a fully integrated textbook technology solution that creates incentives for students to keep up and complete assignments, we can help students get the most out of both the book and the technology."
Romer and Krugman plan to begin selling their product next year at half the price of traditional textbooks.
The cheaper price is one of the main purposes behind the new model as the U.S. college textbook industry has turned into a $3.9 billion a year industry, with individual textbooks selling for more than $120 each.
Romer and Krugman are collaborating on an introductory college text titled "Economics" that will be sold as an 800-page hardback book for a price of around $100. However, the full version of the text will also be offered online for just $60.
The actual text is being written by Krugman and his wife, Princeton economist Robin Wells, while the online version will include teaching software and lessons developed by Romer and Aplia Inc., his educational software company. Aplia products are currently used in about 400 colleges and 65,000 students around the nation. Romer initially created Aplia's technology to help him teach economics to students at Stanford.
Education Prof. Decker Walker, who teaches information technology in the classroom, is supportive of this new model for an online textbook.
"It sounds promising, since the cost of textbooks has risen so fast recently," Walker said. "And the interactive capabilities of electronic media can add a lot that can be helpful in learning. For instance, students don't have to look up answers to exercises in the back of the book. They can have instant access to a glossary of terms and can call up calculators, graphing programs, maps and other tools with a click."
As college textbooks prices climb, many students have refused to purchase books or buy them online through foreign Web sites with cheaper prices. Romer and Krugman hope their new model will be more affordable and encourage students to use textbooks.
Sophomore Yfa Kretzschmar also believes this new model will work well for students.
"The cost of textbooks has become unreasonable, and this would be a good way to bring the price down," Kretzschmar said. "Also, not only would it cost less, but you could access it wherever you are so you don't have to carry it around."
In the online version, assignments will be integrated so that professors can tell whether or not their students are reading it, and the software will automatically grade many of the assignments.
However, some students, such as sophomore Erica Hanson, do not like the idea of an online textbook.
"I would rather pay full price than have it online because I want to be able to carry the book around with me and be able to highlight it," Hanson said. "It's more convenient to have all the information you need for a class put together in one book. Price doesn't matter."