(TNS) -- Indiana University Kelley School of Business clinical associate professor David Rubinstein wants his students to have their books available, all the time.

That’s one reason he became an early adopter of IU’s e-text initiative several years ago and said goodbye to big, heavy textbooks.

“I think this is the way of the future,” he said. “I’ve gotten accustomed to it, and I feel really modern.”

Through the initiative, Rubinstein has required business students in numerous classes to sign up for the e-texts, which are available through IU’s online learning management system.

His courses are among 350 at IU that use the e-text, which currently serves 24,313 students.

Over the past five years, an increasing number of IU instructors have moved toward the digital texts, which come at a price of about 35 percent or below the retail cost of each book, plus a fee to use the university’s e-reader, a software application that can be accessed by students using any device connected to the Internet.

It’s different than getting an e-book through Amazon. Indiana University has a partnership with 21 publishers that makes their books available specifically through the IU e-reader. It piloted the program in 2009.

Rubinstein’s Z302 leadership course uses the book, “Managing Organizational Behavior: What Great Managers Know and Do,” by Timothy Baldwin, Bill Bommer and Robert Rubin, published by McGraw Hill. The book retails for more than $100, but Rubinstein’s students get it for about a third of the cost.

According to IU assistant vice president of learning technologies Stacy Morrone, the program has saved students close to $8 million since its inception.

“Cost savings are important, but the potential for learning is also really important,” said Morrone.

Morrone admitted that most students usually don't pay the retail price for books, anyway. A quick Google search for Rubinstein’s business book brings up options to rent online for less than $30. Book costs can also vary widely by major.

Jackie Kennedy-Fletcher, director of the IU office of financial aid, said IU’s estimates in general put student textbook spending at an average of $1,230 per year, in accordance with the College Board Trends in Pricing.

So a different benefit, according to Morrone, is the potential to increase learning. The e-reader allows professors to annotate or highlight sections of text and engage with students.

“When instructors are engaging with students in the e-text, students reported that they read more, annotate more and view themselves as learning more,” she said.

But Rubinstein said that’s not the biggest highlight for his class.

“I would mark my copy so they could see what was important,” he said, “but I gave up on that because that would be the only thing they read.”

Now his students read at their own pace, without Rubinstein’s markings. He also no longer puts a course book on reserve at the library, which he said was a frustrating last-resort for students whose books would get lost or stolen — something he said used to happen at least one per semester.

“To me, it’s been a godsend.”

©2015 the Herald-Times (Bloomington, Ind.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.