As costs for college continue to go up, the University of Phoenix is one of several schools offering electronic textbooks to keep student expenses down.

"Right now, we're saving a lot of trees," said Darris Howe, vice president of the University of Phoenix and director of Utah's five locations. He said although the e-books might take a while to get used to, they are already proving to be popular with students young and old.

Faculty and instructors have had to make an adjustment to using the electronic versions of textbooks, which are provided by the same publishers as the hard copies once were, but teachers are finding the experience more enriching, due to access to a complete online library of tools.

"We're delivering information in a modality that students want," Howe said.

The electronic versions boast greater portability for students, rather than having to lug around a heavy backpack or a trunk full of books.

"It saves me so much time, and my back doesn't hurt anymore, so that's good," said Karina Sargsian, an MBA student at the University of Phoenix in Murray.

The 24-year-old said she was skeptical of the new method at first, because she had done well with "old-school" textbooks while earning her bachelor's degree at the University of Utah, and she was afraid of hurting her eyes with increased computer use. But being able to "access reading assignments anywhere in the world" made the extra efforts worthwhile. She can study while waiting for an oil change or at the doctor's office.

Search features and hyperlinks to glossary terms make the books easier to use when working on research papers and other documents, rather than having to scan entire pages, looking for what's needed, said Cory Mortensen. Other features, such as options to change font size and type, switch between chapters or pages and read at any pace, make the e-books cooperative for various reading levels.

Mortensen, who is working toward a master's in counseling at the University of Phoenix, said the flexibility and convenience of being able to access his textbooks anywhere "actually makes me study more."

"I can just download a chapter here and there," he said.

Even without their laptops, students can reach their books from anywhere Internet access is available. For one price, $95 per class, students also have access to the entire library of e-books and other online resources offered at the university. Traditionally, students pay upward of $300-$500 each semester for 20-30 pounds of books they end up lugging around all season.

E-books are easier to keep up to date as information changes, "therefore allowing our students to keep a competitive edge on the market," Howe said. Other benefits include eliminating bookstore lines and waiting for textbooks, which sometimes could take weeks to come in.

The new addition to the curriculum, Howe said, "has made education almost 24-7. A lot of learning takes place outside of the classroom, and students and their professors are communicating all the time. It's a much better academic product."