The cover of a digital book (Photo by Nathan Brown)

Digital textbooks are becoming more popular and more readily available to college students around the country. But if many of these textbooks are free, how can the publishers that produce them stay in business if they are basically giving away digital versions of these books?

A company called Bookboon.com has come up with a new solution– including ads in their digital textbooks. This is according to a recent post on the CampusTechnology.com website.

For example, several of the pages included in the 52-page business textbook titled Strategic Management contain ads for master’s degree programs and job recruitment websites.

In order to access the textbooks, the website requires students to register for an account. They can then download their textbooks free of charge in PDF format, which is accessible on a variety of devices, in addition to regular desktop and laptop computers.

The ads contained within the digital textbooks are not randomly placed. They are targeted toward students who would likely be reading certain books. For instance, if a journalism student downloads and reads a journalism textbook, he or she will likely find relevant ads that relate to journalism, such as news organizations that are recruiting recent college graduates or are offering internship opportunities.

Thomas Buus Madsen, the chief operating officer of Bookboon.com, told CampusTechnology.com that he has a vision to change how students get their textbooks – and, more importantly, to help them save money by offering as many free titles as possible.

“We know the current pricing of textbooks is discouraging students from purchasing the mandatory reading, but we are changing that,” he told the website. “Our mission is to make it possible for students to go through university without having to spend a single dollar on textbooks, and we are already making a difference for many students.”

Bookboon.com currently offers about 800 free textbooks in a digital format.

Many college professors are fully aware of the website and similar services. Larry Walther, the department head at Utah State University’s School of Business, has published several of his own textbooks through Bookboon.com to help his students save a little money.

“If they prefer having a hard copy, they can just print it out,” he told CampusTechnlogy.com. He also said that many accounting courses, which he primarily teaches, require textbooks that typically cost about $200 apiece. Because of this, Walther is a firm believer in digital textbooks and the practice of including ads in them. “This is one of the ways technology will lower the cost of educational materials.”