Following a major e-textbook pilot  last year, the California State University System announced  Wednesday that it has cut a deal with Cengage Learning that could give students steep discounts on that publisher's e-textbooks. “Beginning in the fall, students will have the choice to rent digital versions of [Cengage] texts… at a cost savings of 60 percent or more compared with the cost of purchasing the same text as a new printed version,” the Cal State system office said in a release. Students who want to benefit from the discount but still prefer to read ink on paper will be allowed to print out the pages, according to the release.
Importantly to faculty groups, the university does not plan to mandate that professors adopt e-textbooks. Cengage is not requiring that California State promise a certain number of professor adoptions or student purchases as a condition of the discounts, according to Bill Rieders, executive vice president of global strategy and business development for Cengage. (Publishers, perennially undercut by a booming  secondary market for used copies of their printed textbooks, have for years been pushing universities and their constituents to adopt electronic versions that cannot be resold .) For now, the 60-percent discount will only apply to e-texts — not the digital homework tools and other learning applications that Cengage and its fellow publishers see as the future of their products. The company’s hope is that the uptake of Cengage’s digital texts will happen organically as a result of lower prices and better availability, Rieders said. California State is planning a campaign to “increase awareness” of the discounted Cengage e-textbooks on its 23 campuses, according to a system spokesman.