Are E-Textbooks for You?


If you’ve been using a tablet or phone to read books, you may be surprised to learn that you’re a bit of a controversial figure. A debate has long raged about the merits of ebooks versus traditional paper books. For all the attention ebooks receive, physical book sales still far exceed digital. While you may think it’s nostalgia that continues to drive print sales, in fact, 52% of digital sales are to people over forty-five.

So how does this debate between ebooks and print books carry over into academia? E-textbooks are a new and growing sector of textbook sales. Many publishers are trying to offer value-added features to their e-textbooks like video and interactive content to enhance the learning experience. Still, for all the bells and whistles of ebooks, some people still prefer to read paper copies of their books.

The question is, does the decision to e-textbook or not rest solely on personal preference? Perhaps not.

Many textbooks are not available in digital versions. Whether because demand has been low, or simply because no one has bothered to digitize them yet, there are a great many textbooks which are only available the traditional way. So if you envisioned an academic career free of heavy textbooks, you may be living in a future that does not yet exist.

Conversely, some texts are only available in digital formats. Whether an online class with a curriculum totally digitized or simply a professor with a digital preference, you may have no choice but to go the digital route for your textbooks.

While hard and fast scientific studies are thin on the ground, many people feel that print books allow the reader to concentrate and connect better with the material they’re reading. A paper book doesn’t offer you easy access to Instagram or your Facebook feed like most e-readers and tablets do, so there may be something to that.

However, e-textbooks are not without their advantages. When you’re working on homework or writing a paper, the ability to immediately search for and find a particular fact or passage in a textbook can be fantastic. Not only that, but you don’t need to have a separate device or book to look up terms in a dictionary or encyclopedia. Most e-readers have those features integrated and available at the touch of a finger. That’s a spectacular study advantage. E-textbooks can also be bought and downloaded almost immediately saving waits in long bookstore lines or for the arrival of the postman. If you’re worried that there’s no resale value with ebooks, many e-textbooks can also be easily rented online as well, saving money and the hassle of resale and return.

So, which is better? Print or e-textbooks? Well, apart from situations where your teacher decides for you, it really comes down to which works better for you personally. Try out classic textbooks for one class and digital for another and determine which is best for yourself!