Digital Text Books vs. Printed Texts

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When I was in school, we spent the first day of each class shuffling to the library where we were checked out a copy of an ancient text book. It smelled of school years gone by, had at least one unidentifiable stain and the names of prior users scribbled in the front. Then, college came, and half of my scholarship cash got spent on $250 books that I read only once.

Gathering text books is a tradition at the start of the school year, but I’m beginning to wonder if my little one will ever experience the “joys” of covering his school texts in homemade paper bag covers.


Today, digital text books are beginning to infiltrate the market. Students from Kindergarten to College are fascinated with mobile devices, including tablets like the iPad, that are ideal for converting text books from smelly old paper weights into interactive, digital wonders. But are digital books the best way to go?

The Pros of Each

Digital books are cool. Why?

– Lightweight: Have you tried on a backpack loaded with books recently? They’re heavy! With digital books, they’re no heavier than an iPad.

-Up-to-Date: With interactive text books being released, publishers are able to update text real time. When an important event or scientific discovery takes place, students don’t have to wait 5 years for the event to be included in their books.

-Multimedia: While some digital texts are still just PDF files of a book, others are beginning to integrate multimedia into the books. How handy is it to click on a photo and get more information?

-Easy to share: Information can be shared between students by e-mail, helping to facilitate study groups that are highly effective.

– Interesting: Reading assignments don’t always spark a major interest in students. However, the ability to “play” with a text on an iPad may just make school texts a little more fun.

– Lots of Information in One Place: Digital books allow students to store all of their books on one lightweight tablet, ensuring that the proper text book is always at hand. And not in the locker, or at home.

Print Books:
Although they may be “old school,” printed text has definite advantages.

– Easy to mark: Let’s face¬† it, marking your place with a post-it, or highlighting important information in a text you’ve purchased is satisfying. Using digital texts may make reference more difficult for some users.

– Resale Value:¬† Re-selling college texts is a huge market. Unfortunately, users wouldn’t be able to recoup the price of purchased digital texts. However, somebody is usually going to be in the market for your biology texts from last year.

– They Don’t Break: Have you ever dropped a text book? Not such a horrible result. However, giving students digital tablets to use leaves a lot of risk for breakage. While rips or stains may occur with normal text, they’re not nearly as expensive to replace as an iPad.

– Less Loss Risk: While losing an expensive text book isn’t fun, it’s more fun than having to replace a $400-$700 tablet.

– Easy on the Eyes: Digital screens can cause strain after long term reading. However, paper books allow users to look at text for longer periods of time.

– Less Initial Investment: Schools with strapped budgets are hard pressed to find the cash to invest in a tablet for every student. Printed texts still provide a cost effective option for getting students the information they need.

What do you think? Would you prefer that your child use texts available in digital format, or are they exposed to too much technology already? All I know is that even if my son’s texts start to come home on an iPad, I’m still going to make him cover it in a paper bag…Because that’s a skill everyone should have.