By Helen Gregg
Just in time for back-to-college, Barnes & Noble announced today the August 2010 release of NOOKstudy, a free software application designed to help students use and manage all of their electronic resources and study aids. Despite the name, the application is for computers -– no Nook required.
The new NOOKstudy will allow students to organize their class materials, notes, and e-textbooks (available from Barnes & Noble for up to 40% off) on their computers. Designed with input from students, the application allows users to have more than one book or source open at once, to take notes and to tag certain passages to make them easier to find later. NOOKstudy includes in-software access to Google and Dictionary.com for reference, and allows users to zoom in on full-color diagrams and search through all the materials linked to the application. NOOKstudy is currently available at several schools, including the University of Rochester and Penn State, and will be available everywhere in time for the 2010 fall term.
The NOOKstudy seems to be a response to the mixed feelings about e-readers (and by extension, e-textbooks) from many students and educators. The Wall Street Journal explains students’ reservations about using electronic textbooks, citing a high initial cost of the device, surprisingly high prices of e-textbooks, format compatibility issues, and the lack of multimedia capabilities of dedicated devices. Additionally, e-textbooks cannot be shared with classmates or sold back to college book stores at the end of the year.
Beyond specific complaints, students simply may not want to read electronically — in the Student PIRG study, 70% of college students said they would prefer print to digital texts.
By keeping the e-textbooks on students’ computers, NOOKstudy seems to be addressing these complaints of high initial cost (most students already have a computer) and multimedia functionality. The application also has its advantages over printed textbooks and notes, allowing students to make their highlighted passages and notes searchable. Whether the application is successful, then, will most likely come down to students’ preferences, and what form of media they’d rather have in front of them during all-night study sessions.