Shakespeare and the ebook

Today I was doing a presentation on Mapping Shakespeare for the Florida Virtual School. The whole design of their virtual conference for students was very interesting, but it got me to thinking about the books that the students were reading. On my own campus I have seen students walking around with books such as the collected works of Shakespeare. When I have been able to talk to them, I ask if they were using extra material in the text, like summaries or expert commentaries. So far every time the answer has been "no". In investigating the cost of such a book, I have often found it approaching the $100 mark. While I understand many students who have to get that book, looking for a version they can sell back, unless they plan to be Shakespeare scholars, but I don't understand why they ever buy it.

I know that instructors are often unaware of digital options for text, and that students are usually more aware. But with the current cost of books in college averaging about $1000 a year, I'm often amazed that more students are not using the free options that ebooks can bring to such classes. With that I wonder that more students are buying their own ebook reader to use with such books. It wouldn't take many books for classic lit classes to quickly add up to the cost of an ebook device. As the new Kindle with ads is supposed to cost about $114, then it would only require the equivalent of about 18 standard paperbacks (public domain/free) to recoup the cost of the device, and any hardback compilation would be recouped at about two such books.

Sites such as Project Gutenberg ( and the Electronic Text Center at the University of Virgina Library ( have all the works of Shakespeare available for the clicking.