Beginning fall 2004, Pearson Education, part of the international media company Pearson, will launch ‘WebBooks,’ a brand new Web site made especially for college students to purchase online versions of their textbooks for approximately 50 percent less than the hard copy.
Pearson Education has brands such as Pearson Prentice Hall, Pearson Longman, Pearson Addison Wesley, Pearson Allyn & Bacon and Pearson Benjamin Cummings.
SafariX Textbooks Online developed ‘WebBooks’ from an existing platform for digital book delivery that was launched approximately three years ago through Safari Books Online LLC, a joint venture between Pearson Technology Group and the California-based O’Reilly Media Group.
The Web site, SafariX.com, allows customers to subscribe to one or more books of their choice. The subscription will last for six months for a one-semester book.
According to Wendy Speigel, senior vice president of communications for Pearson Education, features that users can expect to see on the Web site include a search tool where users can search for a particular word throughout the text and a navigation tool to search for particular themes throughout the book.
Users will also be allowed to bookmark certain pages for future reference as well as add electronic notes to each page.
One issue that Pearson Education claims to have already tackled is the issue of course instructors having to change their syllabus to coincide with the page numbers of the text.
‘Instructors will not have to change the page numbers on their syllabi since the page numbers are already going to be the exact same online as they would be in the real book,’ Speigel said.
Users can select textbooks by title, author or ISBN number.
Once the book is selected, the user has the option to purchase it and then read it so long as they have access to the Internet.
‘Students will be allowed to print sections of the book to bring to class or study from,’ Spiegel said. The entire book cannot be downloaded or printed.
When asked about copyright issues, Spiegel was confident that multiple users of the same book for one price would affect the company’s business.
‘Copyright laws prohibit whole reproduction of SafariX WebBooks or their print equivalent,’ Spiegel said. ‘If a student chose to violate the copyright law, then quite frankly it would be easier to copy the printed version of the book.’
One way the company will crack down on multiple students trying to use the same book is prohibition of concurrent access.
‘SafariX will not allow concurrent access by the same password-protected account from different computers,’ Spiegel said. ‘This approach lessens the incentive and opportunity for sharing access.’
In other words, multiple users cannot use the same username and password on different computers.
Features that make WebBooks unique include its browser accessibility from any computer with Internet access and its search, notetaking and bookmark capabilities.
One student said that she would be interested in using the Web site for certain textbooks that she had to purchase.
‘The biology books I would probably want to take with me for easy access in the library since I don’t have a laptop,’ said Vinitha Reddy, a third-year biological sciences major. ‘But for smaller books that I use when I’m at home, yeah, there’s a possibility.’
According to Spiegel, there are no current competitors in the field of electronic textbooks for college students. She is also unaware of companies that are against the idea of publishing online texts.
It is unknown whether the introduction of online texts will effect the businesses of college bookstores.
UCI Bookstore Director Daniel J. Dooros is confident that this is a positive thing for students.
‘Once a publisher or two make a move towards digital delivery of textbooks many publishers may be forced to lower the cost of conventional textbooks cost charged to bookstores and in turn the savings will be passed on to students,’ Dooros said.