CANADA: Virtual textbooks transforming education

The sound of students flipping through textbook pages may soon be a thing of the past, writes David Wylie for Canwest News Service. Instead, university and college students may be using their index fingers to silently scroll through virtual textbooks they've downloaded to their iPhone or iPod Touch. More than 7,000 post-secondary textbooks from 12 large publishers can now be downloaded though CourseSmart LLC for about half the cost of printed versions.

The textbooks cover courses offered in Canada and the United States. "Textbooks right now are very much a print business, but more and more students are aware that they have a choice," said Frank Lyman, executive vice-president of CourseSmart. "I don't think it's the end of the print textbook business. But for a lot of students out there, this is a better way to learn and study, and it's a better fit for their lifestyle. It really is taking off very broadly."

CourseSmart, created in 2007 by a handful of publishers, already has hundreds of thousands of users throughout North America. Students subscribe to the service, paying a fee to access digital textbooks through their laptops and cell phones. With the addition of the free iTunes app, which went live last weekend, CourseSmart subscribers can now also use their portable Apple touch-screen devices.
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