All of these institutions put a high priority on accessibility, Waggener said. These are pilots precisely because issues like accessibility need to be worked out. The transition to e-textbooks presents the same challenges as those when universities moved to Google or Microsoft for email and other services. Those companies had to make their products more accessible, but at first had limited understanding of what that entailed.

"As more things move to digital content, and it's interactive digital content, what are accommodations that are going to be necessary?" Waggener asked. "No platform, publisher or product is 100 percent where we want them to be. So the more tight the relationship is with all of these providers in providing them regular feedback in a coordinated way, the more likely it is that we can move that industry forward faster to be fully accommodating."

Future plans

As issues such as accessibility continue to be worked out, Internet2 and EDUCAUSE plan to continue these pilots in spring 2013. For those pilots, multiple platforms and publishers will participate, giving higher education institutions more options to explore.

Waggener encourages other universities to get in the e-textbook game.

"Universities should not sit on the sidelines and wait for this to become resolved because resolution is not going to be an absolute; it's going to be a continuum, and we all need to have a stake in the game to influence the outcomes," Waggener said. "What is it right now? Really quite a bit of creative chaos. And I think that's a place where educational institutions normally thrive."

This article was originally published by the Center for Digital Education.

Tanya Roscorla  |  Managing Editor, CDE

Tanya Roscorla covers ed tech behind the scenes and on the legislative agenda. Likes: Culinary experiments, travel adventures, beautiful landscapes.