IMO: Textbooks or E-books? Let the Battle Begin

by Val McGinnis

textbook or e-books? We live in a world that is constantly being changed by the next innovative idea or piece of technology.  The iPod changed the music industry and Netflix eradicated the local video store. Today, more music listeners own downloaded music than actual CD’s. There is no question that electronics are changing many age old concepts, so could the same thing happen to something as old as the book?

Let’s face it, the last notable change in the history of the published word was when Gutenburg devised a working method for the printing press. It’s been pretty smooth sailing since then, but is the idea of electronic books (or e-books) threatening to rock the boat? A poll conducted by the National Association of College Stores showed that 76% of students across the United States were opposed to purchasing e-books over traditional textbooks.  

Surprised? Many are under the impression that today's college students crave the newest and fastest form of technology. To be fair, students have given society good reason to believe this. When there's a new model of a smart phone released, college students are among the first in line to update. The same concept can also be applied to music devices, navigational tools, and other tech gadgets. So why the opposition to textbooks?

Well, for starters there is a significant difference between the way one listens to music, or watches a movie, and the manner in which one studies. The first thing that I learned in my education courses is that there are three primary methods of learners: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners.  

A well rounded class is one that touches on all three of these types of learning. Studies show that students engages most positively in these three learning styles while doing things like taking notes, highlighting a text or engaging in discussion about the text. Students have been trained since kindergarten to learn from a textbook, and college is not an ideal time to learn a new method of comprehension.

But Can E-Books Really Cut Down Textbook Costs?

Theoretically, the e-book could cut the cost of course text by more than 70%, which is incredibly tempting for many students, however, students are already finding more and more ways to cut costs. For example, students can buy books online for half the cost, or used in a bookstore for a discount.  They rent books or check them out from the library. You can even share a book with a roommate, something that not possible with an e-book. Also, many students enjoy selling back the books they no longer need for the wholesale value of the book.

Then, there's the problem of access. Not ever student owns the technology necessary to effectively use an e-book.  Again, only 8% of students own something like a Kindle, and downloading something to a computer ties you to your desk…not to mention the screen. Some e-books allow you the option of printing them off, but how fair is it to require someone who learns best from highlighting to use their own money and ink to do so?  Also, many of my classmates have found that some e-books even expire, allowing you access for as long as the course runs but not after. This is detrimental to someone who wants to keep their books for future use.

E-books may be coming whether we want them or not—and more and more it seems students, like me, would rather they not.

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The views expressed in this "In My Opinion (IMO)" post represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of everyone associated with Smart College Visit, Inc. What's your opinion on this topic? We'd love to hear from you. Please post a comment below or on our wall at SmartCollgeVisit/Facebook.